What to Do When Your Parent is an Addict

Addiction Treatment – What to Do When Your Parent is an Addict

Drug and alcohol addiction is not an isolated problem. Data from the National Institute on Drug Abuse showed that over 23 million people met the requirements for substance use disorder in 2009. As a child or teenager, you may want to know what to do when your parent is an addict. A situation like that can cause many difficult feelings in a child because of the possible mood swings, violence and fears that they may be taken away from their parents.

What to do when your parent is an addict can be as simple as reaching out to someone or talking to them about the problem, but the situation is often more complex due to the nature of addiction.

Addiction is a Disease

One of the first things that need to be understood about addiction is that it is a disease like any other common disease. Just like when your parents get sick and look for a doctor for help, addiction is much the same. However, unlike most diseases, the addict usually does not want to stop their substance abuse because they have become dependent on it.

Addiction can actually alter the way a person’s brain works making it difficult to interact with the individual like you normally would. They may want to stop their substance abuse, but withdrawal symptoms, cravings and psychological problems prevent them from following through on their own.

Ultimately, what to do when your parent is an addict is to find professional assistance so that they can manage and recover from their addiction. Once they receive treatment, how to support an addict in recovery then becomes your focus as a child.

How to Help an Addict without Enabling Them

You may have heard the term “enabling” or “enabler” before, but what does it mean? Enabling an addict refers to what a child, spouse or friend does that in a way makes it okay or allows the addict to continue with their addiction. It is not that the enabler wants to help them abuse drugs – they have the right intentions, but their actions end up delaying the consequences that the addicts have to face.

An enabler usually acts out of embarrassment, shame or fear in order to protect the addict and themselves from the negative outcomes and consequences of the addict’s behavior.

How to help an addict without enabling is by first yourself admitting that there is a problem so that you can begin to express the pain, grief and hurt that may have welled up inside of you. Creating boundaries in your relationship with your parents can help to be in a position to offer them support and love to help them get better. It can also help you to forgive them for their disease.

To deal with the negative emotions caused by that addiction, it is important to find help for yourself too. Support groups designed for the family of addicts can put you in an environment where you can discuss your issues with people who have gone through the same situation.

Another aspect of what to do when your parent is an addict is waiting for them to be a sober state of mind before making them aware of how you feel.

How to support an addict in recovery as a child starts with learning what you can about their addiction. This can help you to understand why they did what they did and how it was not your fault. Support and love without enabling their behavior is the best way to help your parent through recovery.

If you or a loved one needs help with abuse and/or treatment, please call the WhiteSands Treatment at (877) 855-3470. Our addiction specialists can assess your recovery needs and help you get the addiction treatment that provides the best chance for your long-term recovery.

About the Author

is a proud alumni member of WhiteSands Treatment. After living a life of chaos, destruction and constant let downs, Mark was able to make a complete turnaround that sparked a new way of life. He is serious about his recovery along with helping others. At WhiteSands Treatment, we offer support to you in your homes or when you are out living in your daily lives.