For Families of Addicts


Forgiving addicted parentsParents are supposed to provide their children with a source of support, strength, and unconditional love. Unfortunately, the parent-child relationship can be severely strained by the burden of addiction.

Find a Way to Confront Your Feelings

Parental addiction is more common than one might expect. Studies estimate that more than 28 million people in the United States have a parent who is addicted to alcohol or drugs.

Children with parents who suffer from substance abuse face a number of struggles in their early years. For example:

  • Looking after parents when they are drunk or intoxicated
  • Caring for younger siblings in a parent-like role
  • Cooking, cleaning, and performing other tasks associated with running a household
  • Having a lack of support to succeed in school
  • Enduring emotional neglect
  • Suffering physical abuse
  • Worrying about family finances, including the risk of hunger and homelessness
  • Being fearful that someone will find out about a parent’s addiction and separate the family
  • Feeling socially isolated from peers due to problems at home

Growing up with an addicted parent leaves a child with unresolved emotional issues, including feelings of resentment, fear, anxiety, bitterness, mistrust, and depression. To heal, you need to find a way to confront the trauma you’ve suffered and acknowledge how it has affected you.

Speaking to a counselor can help you process childhood trauma, as can attending a support group such as Al-Anon. Writing in a journal or expressing yourself through art and music can also help you explore your feelings about your childhood in a safe environment..

Separate Your Parent from the Addiction

To let go of past hurts, you must be able to separate your parent from his or her addiction. Substance abuse is a chronic illness with a biological basis. Once addiction takes hold, it’s very difficult to get your life back on track without professional intervention.

Recognizing that your parent wasn’t fully in control of his or her actions due to the influence of alcohol or drugs might mean brainstorming a list of happy memories to focus on. Remembering times when your parent wasn’t actively using can help remind you of your mother or father’s love.

Acknowledge that Parenting Is Difficult

Unfortunately, there is no rule book for parenting. Even the most well-intentioned parents with access to a strong support system can make terrible mistakes. If you’re harboring resentment towards your addicted parent, it might be helpful to acknowledge that no parent is perfect. All anyone can do is try to make the best of the given circumstances.

Acknowledging that no parent is perfect may include exploring the factors in your parent’s past that contributed to his or her addiction. Since substance abuse often runs in families, he or she may have grown up with an addicted parent. Depression, anxiety, or other mental health issues may also have played a role. While this doesn’t excuse bad behavior, it does help provide you with a better understanding of the challenges your parent was facing during your childhood.

Realize Forgiveness Is for Your Own Benefit

You might feel as though your addicted parent doesn’t deserve your forgiveness if he or she hasn’t specifically expressed remorse for past actions. While this is understandable, it’s important to realize that forgiveness is primarily for your benefit.

Holding on to resentment from the past affects your current relationships with friends, family, and coworkers. It makes you angry, scared, and afraid to move forward. Letting go makes it possible for you to move forward.

Imagine you have $86,400 in your bank account. If you discovered that someone stole $10 from you, would you spend the remaining $86,390 in hopes of seeking revenge? Would you risk being left with nothing instead of accepting the loss and moving on?

There are 86,400 seconds in every day. Letting go of the negative aspects of your past gives you time to focus on the blessings you do have.

Focus on Controlling Your Future

The past has already happened. For better or worse, previous events are out of your control. However, you have the power to decide how your future will unfold. You can either hold on to wounds from the past or decide to make a fresh start. The choice is yours alone.

If you’re struggling with substance abuse issues yourself, you can break the cycle of addiction by asking for help. Addiction may have a biological basis, but genetics aren’t destiny. Substance abuse can be treated with a medically assisted detox followed by a combination of individual and group therapy. Seeking treatment can help you build a better life for yourself and your loved ones.

By Dana Hinders

To learn more about our programs, please visit our website.

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family

A lasting recovery requires you to replace harmful habits with healthy alternatives. Family-friendly recreation lets you stay on track with your sobriety while making special memories with the people you care about the most.

Although it’s always a good idea to chat with your family to see what activities are of interest, here are some suggestions to help you start planning your next adventure.


Plant a Garden
Planting a garden is a wonderful family project if you enjoy being outside and working with your hands. Watering, weeding, and harvesting teaches responsibility to kids of all ages. There is also evidence that growing your own food promotes healthier eating habits for the whole family.

If you don’t have the luxury of a big backyard, don’t automatically write off the idea of planting a garden. A small container garden can be placed on your porch or sidewalk. You might not be able to grow all the food your family needs, but you can grow fresh herbs, carrots, onions, and tomatoes with relatively little space.

Take Up Geocaching
Geocaching is the modern-day version of a treasure hunt. Participants use a GPS receiver and other navigational techniques to search for containers known as geocaches that are hidden all over the world. The geocaches contain logs that document the activities of past participants and tiny trinkets for trading.  

In addition to finding geocaches, your family can also try creating and hiding your own geocaches. Picking out trinkets to fill the box and choosing a special hiding place is a great activity for children who are too young to actively participate in the act of finding a geocache. Visit the Geocaching 101 website to learn more.

Be a Tourist in Your Hometown
Traveling to far away locations is certainly exciting, but planning a trip can be time consuming and expensive. As an alternative, why not explore some of the destinations in your community that you’ve previously overlooked?

Zoos, aquariums, museums, art galleries, historical sites, and local landmarks are excellent places to visit for the entire family. If you’re on a tight budget, look for attractions that offer free or reduced-price admission on select days.

Go Camping
Spending time in nature and getting away from electronic distractions offers the chance to reconnect with the people you care about in a more meaningful way. You don’t even have to travel far, since you’ll experience many of the benefits of camping even if you’re simply pitching a tent in the backyard.

Younger children will love to make s’mores, collect fireflies in a jar, or skip rocks along the river. Older children can tell ghost stories, plan a scavenger hunt, or see how many constellations they can find. Photographing the beautiful scenery or playing outdoor games such as cornhole and horseshoes are also great options.

Plan a Game Night
A weekly family game night is sure to provide plenty of special memories. Scrabble, Monopoly, and Yahtzee are classic games that can be enjoyed by players of all ages, but there are plenty of newer board games to consider as well. If you’re not sure what types of games your family might enjoy, see if your local public library has titles to borrow. Many libraries now offer board games, puzzles, and movies to check out in addition to books and magazines.

Add a little extra element of fun to your family game night by purchasing a thrift store trophy that you can award to the winner. Kids love having tangible evidence of their victory, especially when it’s the first time they’ve managed to win against a parent or older sibling.

Have a Movie Marathon
A movie marathon is the perfect chance to share your favorite classic films with your children or to enjoy a series such as Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, or Harry Potter together. With today’s plethora of streaming services, almost any movie you want is available with just a few clicks.

Create a cozy atmosphere by encouraging everyone to change into their pajamas and covering the living room floor with pillows and blankets. Break out the popcorn, soda, and candy, then get ready to enjoy some quality family bonding time.

Volunteer
There’s no greater joy in life than helping others. Volunteering lets you give back to your community, make new friends, and build new skills.

Here are some volunteer ideas that are appropriate for the whole family:

  • Help build a home through Habitat for Humanity.
  • Care for pets at a local animal shelter.
  • Prepare and distribute care packages for the homeless.
  • Organize a canned food drive.
  • Clean up a local park.
  • Help elderly neighbors with yard work.

By Dana Hinders

To learn more about our programs, please visit our website.

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What is a functioning alcoholic?Alcoholism can take many forms. While some people end up on the streets or incarcerated as a consequence of their addiction, many others continue to lead outwardly successful lives while struggling with their inner demons.

About High Functioning Alcoholism

Someone with high functioning alcoholism is able to hold down a job, socialize with friends, and maintain intimate personal relationships while demonstrating a pattern of dysfunctional drinking behavior. High functioning alcoholics still suffer from an addiction, but it’s harder to see evidence of the problem unless you’re looking very closely.

A functioning alcoholic may be able to hide the signs of a drinking problem by restricting drinking only to certain times or in certain situations. However, many functioning alcoholics are successful in hiding the signs of their addiction because they have someone in their life who is unconsciously encouraging or enabling the addiction by allowing them to avoid the consequences of their behavior. For example, this person may loan them money when they’ve overspent on alcohol or make excuses on their behalf when they’re too hungover to go to work or attend a social engagement.

High functioning alcoholics are more common than you might expect. Studies estimate that nearly 20 percent  of alcoholics meet these criteria. Of these functioning alcoholics, about 1 in 3 have a multigenerational family history of substance abuse.

High functioning alcoholics are often intelligent, hardworking, and educated people who are actively involved in the community. They may be your coworker, your next-door neighbor, or your best friend.

Problems Associated with High Functioning Alcoholism

Alcoholism is a progressive disease. Over time, tolerance to alcohol increases. This leads to increased consumption, eventually to the point where a high functioning alcoholic starts to experience the adverse lifestyle consequences we all traditionally associate with alcoholism.

In cases where a high functioning alcoholic works in a professional role responsible for the safety and welfare of others, the consequences of substance abuse could be disastrous. For example:

  • A doctor could make a mistake that harms a patient.
  • A lawyer’s mistake could land his client in jail.
  • A CEO’s poor business decisions could put the entire company in jeopardy.

It’s also worth pointing out that even someone who drinks excessively while maintaining the outward trappings of a successful life is still causing a great deal of physical damage. Some of the many health problems associated with alcoholism include:

  • High blood pressure
  • Stroke
  • Obesity
  • Liver disease
  • Pancreatitis
  • Mouth, throat, liver, breast, and/or colorectal cancer
  • Cognitive impairment
  • Gout
  • Seizures
  • Anemia
  • Depression
  • Nerve damage

Signs of a High Functioning Alcoholic

Traditionally, substance abuse disorders are defined by having alcohol-related problems with your personal relationships, career, finances, and/or the law. However, identifying a high functioning alcoholic requires taking a closer look at drinking-related behaviors.

Signs a person may need substance abuse treatment include:

  • Engaging in binge drinking, defined as four or more drinks in a two-hour period for women or five or more drinks in a two-hour period for men
  • Relying on alcohol to feel powerful, confident, and in control
  • Drinking to handle mental health issues such as anxiety and depression
  • Drinking alone
  • Drinking in the mornings
  • Frequently finding yourself drinking more than you intended to
  • Experiencing cravings for alcohol
  • Saying things you didn’t mean while you were drinking
  • Having trouble remembering the details of what happens when you were drinking
  • Being secretive or defensive about alcohol use

Dealing with Denial

Denial is the most common challenge associated with getting a high functioning alcoholic to seek treatment. These individuals honestly believe their alcohol use is under control. Since they’re not unemployed or in trouble with the law, they don’t feel they meet the same standard as the alcoholics portrayed in popular culture. In many cases, they think only someone who has hit “rock bottom” meets the criteria for alcoholism.

Staging an intervention is one tactic that may be effective in getting a high functioning alcoholic to seek treatment. An intervention is a structured meeting where friends and family present their concerns to the person who is abusing alcohol or drugs, offer treatment options, and state the consequences for refusing treatment. For example, a wife may share that she is worried about her husband’s alcohol-related health problems and concerned that the children have noticed their father is absent from social events when he’s been drinking. As a consequence, she might state that she wants a separation if her husband doesn’t seek treatment.

Interventions are not 100 percent effective, but a well-planned intervention using the services of a licensed counselor, social worker, psychiatrist, or psychologist could be just the push your loved one needs to get help.

By Dana Hinders

To learn more about our programs, please visit our website.

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