Few things can shape a human being more than the relationship between parent and child. While we are young, our parents are everything to us. They are caretakers, teachers, role models, and providers. We look up to them to understand the world and to understand how to behave. Unfortunately, the power of this bond can have negative consequences. Growing up with a parent who has a substance use disorder (SUD) can be harmful and possibly traumatic for a child.
Since children look to their parents’ behavior as a model for their own, this can lead to them picking up bad habits. Research has shown that children of parents with SUD are more than twice as likely to develop an alcohol or drug problem by young adulthood. Even if this person sees how damaging addiction was to their parents, they have been conditioned from a young age to see the behavior as the norm. Overcoming this conditioning can be challenging.
Additionally, if this young person does end up with SUD, it may be harder to quit. If you grew up with people abusing alcohol or drugs who never sought help, you may feel a sense of guilt or shame in seeking help. These family members may even go as far as to discourage their children from seeking help because that would imply they should as well.
Many people find great pride in becoming a first-generation college student because it has the potential to uplift future generations of their family. One similar situation that does not get enough recognition is being the first to seek help for SUD. This brave person can break the cycle of addiction and bring hope to future generations who can take from their example. It may also help those around them overcome their fears and seek treatment.
College is certainly a worthy accomplishment, but overcoming addiction is even more important. Too many lives are cut short or lose potential because of this disorder.
It is also worth noting that although many young people develop a SUD related to their parents’ addiction, just as many end up overcoming these risk factors. Even if SUD is avoided, however, there can still be negative consequences of growing up in this environment.
Impact on Mental Health
This same study on families affected by substance use also shows that children of parents with SUD have a higher chance of psychological issues. These issues include anxiety, depression, oppositional behavior, conduct problems, and aggressiveness. Lower self-esteem and social competence have also been recorded.
Consistency and attentive care are important to receive from our parents, and substance use can often make this difficult. Many people who grow up around addiction feel like their loved one is two different individuals. When they are sober, they can be attentive, loving, and a competent parent. While drunk or high, however, this same caring parent can drastically change — possibly into a person who is distant, overly emotional, or worse.
The uncertainty that a relationship like this causes can bring forth anxiety, sadness, and resentment.
The mental health issues posed by relation to an addicted parent can also be affected by various life stressors. Every family goes through difficult times, whether they are financial problems, health problems, or relationship problems. These problems can be exacerbated by substance use disorder. SUD makes these problems worse either by preventing them from being properly addressed or by creating them itself.
Seeking treatment is so important because it not only helps one person, it can save families a lot of pain and heartache.
The Road to Healing
When someone experiences difficult times, their families often feel it through their empathy and love. Tools like family therapy have increased rates of success in those getting treatment for SUD. The support of family members can be a powerful tool, giving the motivation to change.
Family therapy can also teach supporters tools to aid recovery and set boundaries that help everyone thrive. Setting boundaries can be important for improving family dynamics and stopping behaviors that cause discord or may lead to cravings for those in recovery. This form of therapy is also a good place to have conversations that may repair family bonds damaged by SUD.
At times, even if someone loves a family member, trauma has been created and they need to distance themselves. Boundaries are vital in situations like this. These boundaries may include avoiding certain topics or behaviors that resurface negative emotions. It may mean physically distancing ourselves from a person who is causing emotional harm.
Family therapy is a valuable tool, although some people need to focus on their healing first. For those suffering from trauma and SUD, Seeking Safety is a program that can help. Seeking Safety focuses on the here and now rather than revisiting painful memories. The goal of this program is to give patients the therapy and tools needed to heal in the present while not dealing with the past until they are ready.
Once someone is ready to confront past trauma, psychotherapy can be a valuable tool.
Substance use disorder can strain family relationships and possibly pass the cycle of addiction onto others. Although not all people who grow up around addiction end up with addiction themselves, the chance is significantly higher. Just because others around us are not seeking treatment does not mean that we should not seek it ourselves. We may be a positive example for others, including our family members, that they can follow to a brighter future. If you or a loved one is suffering from substance use disorder, Everlast Recovery Centers is ready and willing to help. We offer proven treatment plans and various complementary therapies designed to meet your specific needs. These therapies include family therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, a Seeking Safety program, and more. Located in southern California, our comfortable facilities and caring staff are here to help you take the first step to recovery. Call (866) 338-6925 today to learn more.