Parents Who Are Addicts – How To Help

Perhaps you know someone who has a destructive drinking or drug habit who has children. Or perhaps you know a young son or daughter whose parent’s drinking and drug use are a nightmare for the kid. If you are a parent yourself or if you have simply observed your own parents you know the maternal and paternal instinct to protect a child is very powerful. So you might think “why does he or she keep using drugs when it is harming that child?”

Addiction is a powerful disease. The harm an addicted parent can do to a child can be a powerful motivator to help them choose a clean and sober life. But ultimately, every addict has to choose to get clean for themselves. You simply cannot do it for someone else. And children are by no means a magic cure for addiction. Addicted parents have to choose recovery for their own sake. And by definition, an addict needs help. But here’s good news; you can help.

women holding head, crying in bed

It’s not fun being an addicted parent. It is a disease, not a choice.

Our Philosophy: Addiction Is A Medical Condition

Many people who study addiction have come to the conclusion that this devastating condition is accurately viewed and treated as a disease. It is not a moral failing that you can scold someone out of. It is more like, for instance, depression. A depressed parent generally cannot simply choose not to be depressed and triumph over depression through force of will. Skilled clinical intervention and guidance are usually required.

Similarly, an addicted parent cannot simply choose to stop using. According to the common definition, “addiction” involves being unable to control one’s harmful relationship with a substance. By definition, an addict needs help to get clean. It’s possible to have a problem with drugs and alcohol that doesn’t reach the level of clinical addiction. A person may be a “problem drinker” or a “problem drug user.” A person with this relationship with drugs or alcohol can quit on their own. But many if not most people who have children and a harmful relationship with drugs or alcohol and beyond this stage.

Dry Drunks and “Dry and High” Drug Users

Addiction evolves into something more complex and harmful than just being drunk or high, which can be plenty harmful in themselves. Addicts turn to substances (or activities, like gambling) to fill a gap. They need to cope with stress or trauma or feelings of inadequacy. The substance becomes their coping mechanism for everything. The need to protect the relationship with the substance becomes overwhelming, and they develop habits of denial, secrecy, and dishonesty. This is not so much a moral failing as a natural, inevitable aspect of addiction.

Even if someone is able, through sheer force of will, to resist the call of drugs or alcohol for a while, if they are addicted, they are very likely to fall back into using if they don’t get proper treatment. This is because simply turning away from the substance does not fix all the unhealthy habits of thinking. Abstaining does not replace the broken mechanisms that normal people use to cope with the basic difficulties of life. When someone quits drinking but doesn’t relearn basic coping skills, we call this being a “dry drunk.” They may not be smashed, but they can’t process their emotions properly either.

Reconfiguring Neural Pathways

Over time, addiction creates neural change. Our normal capacity to recognize, process, and react appropriately to emotions effectively atrophies and is replaced with a powerful urge to seek refuge in substance abuse. This is why simply staying clean is not enough. An addict still needs to relearn (or learn for the first time in the case of people who grew up with addicted parents) basic coping skills for processing emotion and stress.

That’s where an experience clinical therapist is very helpful. At Seasons Bali, addicts learn the skills of emotional sobriety in education sessions, group therapy and one on one therapy. They learn how to recognize the emotional triggers that drive addiction and how to develop normal coping skills for processing and reaction to emotions. We use evidence-based practices like cognitive behavioral therapy to help addicts learn and grow healthy neural pathways.

family sitting on a couch two parents with kids in between

Family therapy can help put the bottle away

Addiction: A Family Disease

Sometimes the immediate solution might seem to be intervening to separate the child from the parent. Counter-intuitively, this is rarely the case. Children rarely want to be separated from their parents. Unless there is an immediate physical danger to the child, evidenced-based child welfare research conducted by Anne E. Casey Foundation and others strongly suggests that allowing the child to say with the parent and rally resources to assist the parent in getting clean is the best course of action.

But addicted parents often are the children of addicted parents, so it is very important to make every possible effort to break the cycle. Ultimately, the effort that counts the most has to come from the addict themselves. To get clean, an addict has to want to get clean for their own sake. It is hard work, but it is very worth it. It’s also a challenge that by definition, an addict cannot overcome alone. Where addiction is an intergenerational problem, the difficult task of getting clean and staying clean may be easier with family therapy. Seasons Bali offers a family therapy program for addicts whose parents have also had problems with drugs or alcohol.

Children need help too. Even as adults, and even if they have never used drugs or alcohol, people with addicted parents can have problems coping in life. They lack the resources to cope with emotions and stress because they have not had good role models. There are programs to address this problem, such as Adult Children of Alcoholics.

Help is on the horizon. Reach out!

Don’t Hesitate. You Know There is a Problem. Help Someone Save Themselves Today

If you know a child with a parent suffering from addiction, or an addicted parent, you can help. They must make the choice for themselves, but you can help guide them to that choice. We can show you ways to help someone make the decisions to go to rehab. We are also here to talk to you personally. Please call one of our experts today at (toll-free Australia) 1800 288 348 +61 398045757 or email us at and we will call you.


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