Growing Up With Parents Struggling With An Addiction
It’s hard to ignore the impact that your childhood can have on the rest of your life. The way we think, feel and behave is heavily influenced by the experiences we have during that period of time. Living with a parent who is dealing with an addiction can be difficult and complicated. For starters, the child is forced to mature quickly and learn to take care of themselves and maybe even other family members. They lack appropriate role models and are also more likely to be exposed to crime than their peers. Research has shown that children of adults who abused alcohol or drugs were not only more likely to develop addictions themselves but also to show a number of behavioural and emotional problems, for example they might have low self esteem and be at a higher risk for developing anxiety and depression.
If you grew up with a parent who was dealing with an addiction, here are some of the subtle ways in which it might have impacted you.
You might find it difficult to maintain intimate relationships.
Regardless of whether it is a romantic relationship or a friendship, you might find it difficult to trust the other person completely or to be vulnerable in front of them. You could fear that they might not accept you for who you are or might not meet your needs (emotional or otherwise) in a way that you deem satisfactory.
You might feel the need to constantly be in control.
Growing up with a parent dealing with an addiction can create a number of uncertainties and insecurities. As you mature, you might find that the only way to deal with this is to try being in control of every situation yourself. While that may not always be a problem, it could become one when this need extends to situations which you genuinely have no control over, such as other people’s problems or emotions.
You could be struggling to grapple with a number of difficult emotions.
Anger, guilt, sadness, fear, panic - these are just a few of the emotions you might be struggling to deal with. You might feel anger due to the fact that your parent was never there for you or not around for the important moments. You could also end up believing that their addiction was somehow your fault and feel guilty. Sadness naturally stems from not being able to have a healthy, satisfying relationship with them.
Although there are repercussions of growing up with a parent dealing with an addiction, there are steps you can take to move past it. Here’s what you can try.
1. Address the self-blame.
It’s important to remind yourself that you did the best you could with the resources you had. Blaming yourself for everything that has gone wrong will only lead to more emotional distress and will hardly help the situation. Remember that you could not have controlled your parent’s decisions or choices and the only person whom you do have control over is yourself.
2. Be kinder to yourself.
After acknowledging the limited control you had over your past, give yourself the time to heal from the years of pain. Take time out to engage in activities that you enjoy, avoid overworking yourself and try to be around people who make you feel comfortable and at peace.
3. Recognise signs of codependency within yourself.
Codependency might manifest as providing emotional support and care to one’s partner even beyond reasonable limits. Since you are so used to care-taking behaviour at home, this might extend to your relationships and friendships as well. While being a caring friend or partner is a good thing, completely losing yourself in another person is unhealthy and can prove destructive in the long run.
4. Consider joining a support group.
A support group is a great place to find people who are dealing with similar issues as you. You can share your fears and concerns, and feel accepted and supported. An excellent example of a support group like this is Al-Anon which is especially for those concerned about someone with a drinking problem.
5. Seek help from a professional.
Speaking to an objective, experienced expert can help you come to terms with the years of difficulties. While it doesn’t erase the past, speaking to a therapist can help you acknowledge the impact your parent’s addiction has had on you and together, you can work towards dealing with it and healing from the pain it might have caused.
If you would like to talk about the difficulties you’ve had growing up, please reach out to us. An InnerHour therapist can help.
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