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Help a parent with an addiction

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How to help a parent with an alcohol problem or addiction

Having a parent who is either quite clearly in the grip of addiction or who you believe may have a problem is a very difficult position to be in.

Be assured there is a lot of help out there for you and them. There is no need to be alone or to be ashamed.

Addiction is something that can affect anyone, it is not anyone’s fault and is a far more widespread issue than many people realise.

Alcohol dependency is estimated to affect one in every 100 people and four out of five of people dependent on alcohol are not in treatment.* Substance abuse is also common and affects people from all walks of life.

In this post we’ll cover:

  • How to deal with an addicted mum or dad when you are an adult
  • Support for the child of an addict or alcoholic
  • When your parent or step-parent is in denial about their drinking, drug use or gambling
  • Signs your mum or dad has an addiction
  • The impact of a mother or father’s addiction on children
  • How to access treatment for a parent with drug, addiction or alcohol issues
  • Organising private rehab for your mother or father
  • Organisations that support families dealing with addiction
  • What to do if your parent has an addiction issue

How to deal with an addicted mum or dad when you are an adult

Dealing with an addicted parent, step-parent or carer doesn’t become straightforward just because you are grown-up yourself.

If you are living with an alcoholic parent it creates different challenges to those when you are not living with them, but does not necessarily lessen the worry and damage.

The impact of alcoholism, drug dependency – either to illicit substances or prescription drugs and other addictive behaviours, such as gambling, cause tremendous harm, hurt and worry whatever the living situation.

If your mother or father is living alone you no doubt have worries about them having a health crisis whilst you are not there, being unable to pay bills and so on.

Seeking professional support for you and them is vital.

Support for the child of an addict or alcoholic

It’s likely the toll of your parent’s addiction has been heavy on you and you deserve support to maintain your wellbeing.

There are several support groups specifically focused on providing strength, advice and friendship to the loved ones of those dealing with alcoholism and addiction (listed below).

However much you may feel let down or betrayed by the behaviour of your mum or dad, they are not choosing to be addicted to a certain behaviour and it is most likely causing them a great deal of guilt and pain. They need help too.

Child watching parents having an alcoholic drink

When your parent or step-parent is in denial about their drinking, drug use or gambling

Addiction is very often characterised by denial, secrecy and shame.

A parent or step mum or dad who is addicted often does not want to admit it even to themselves. They are probably least likely to want to admit it to their children, who there’s a natural inclination for them to protect and nurture.

That desire to ignore or hide the problem often leads to further harm due to dishonesty as they try to hide or continue what they are doing. They may also attempt to blame others for their behaviour, which can be hurtful and damaging to relationships.

Mounting a staged intervention is one way to challenge their denial. An intervention involves the people closest to your mum or dad gathering to explain the impact their behaviour is having on those they care about. Helping an alcoholic or addict is achieved by acting, wherever possible, in a loving way and avoiding accusations and blame.

It is vital to take steps to ensure your parent does not feel isolated or victimised during an intervention, or indeed, in any conversation about their behaviour. If your parent feels that way they are likely to become defensive and unlikely to accept help. Professional help can be sought to mount a successful intervention.

An intervention should only be attempted if you feel certain your parent will not become violent or if measures have been taken to ensure the safety of everyone involved.

Call today for free & confidential advice on 08000029010 (International: +44 161 674 9049)

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Signs your mum or dad has an addiction

The following signs that someone has an addiction issue may not be present in every person who does need help, but you may spot some of them.

  1. You or others worry about their behaviour (their drinking, drug taking or gambling).
  2. They have withdrawal symptoms such as shaking, sweating and vomiting when they have a period without drink or drugs.
  3. Your parent displays guilt or remorse about their drinking, drug use or addictive behaviour, such as gambling.
  4. Your parent is preoccupied with the behaviour that is an issue, such as drinking or gambling, and talk a lot about it or conversely, they are very secretive about it.
  5. They indulge in drink, drugs or their addictive behaviour, such as gambling, regularly or heavily.
  6. Your parent neglects other responsibilities or lets people down due to their addictive behaviour – this may be failing to attend events, appointments or work or failing to pay bills, for example.

Child in headphones ignoring parents drinking wine

The difficulty with spotting addiction is that ‘addiction’ and alcoholism do not present themselves, in the same way, every time.

The signs and symptoms of alcoholism for one person may be different from the next – some alcohol dependent people can go for long periods without drink but then binge drink to excess. This NHS test can help to solidify an opinion on whether someone’s drinking is harmful.

Functioning alcoholics’ can hold down jobs and appear to live normal lives for many years whilst being dependent on drink. The same is true of people who may be gambling, taking drugs or exhibiting some other behaviour in a destructive way.

The impact of a mother or father’s addiction on children

The addiction of a parent can and often does have a deep impact on a child whether they are a grown-up child or still under 18.

Growing up in a household with someone who has an addiction can be especially damaging and lead to all sorts of issues with mental ill health, guilt, fear, self-esteem problems, confidence issues and risks of harm and neglect.

If you are a child living with a parent who has an addiction, don’t be frightened to reach out for help. Confidential support is available via Childline. There is someone there 24 hours a day who help you.

Children of people with addiction may be more at risk of developing alcoholism or addictions themselves. Genetics may play a role though as can the trauma of caring about someone with an addiction or alcohol problem or being brought up in an environment where that is present.

That is not to say that all children of parents with addiction will become addicted themselves.

How to access treatment for a parent with drug, addiction or alcohol issues

To access treatment for a parent who has a problem with alcohol, drugs or some other behaviour you need them to be willing.

You cannot do it for them and cannot fix them.

The more input, professional, peer and family support someone has the more likely they are to be able to get well.

Residential rehab is the most effective form of treatment for people with long standing and very entrenched addiction issues, particularly those people who have already tried to get well and not managed to maintain recovery. This can sometimes be available on the NHS and is more accessible privately than many people realise.

Options for treatment may include:

  • NHS based support, which can include medication, counselling, specific programmes and, for the most in-need, rehab.
  • community based or online recovery programmes, perhaps with peer support.
  • support groups.
  • counselling, cognitive behaviour therapy and/or psychotherapy.
  • somatic therapies, such as equine therapy
  • detox
  • rehab.

Remember you cannot cure your parent’s addiction or alcoholism.

What you can do is:

  • communicate your feelings to them to let them know how it makes you feel when they live this way
  • let them know you want to support them to get well and you can be informed of the treatment options
  • Educate yourself about their problem and treatments available
  • care for yourself and make your own healthy choices.

Child with hands over ears whilst mother talks to alcoholic father

Organising private rehab for your mother or father

Private rehab options are available across the UK, with lots of different providers working to ensure there is variety to meet individual need.

Understanding what is available, what’s involved and being able to talk to your parent about it, may help them to accept help.

Accessing rehab privately means bypassing long waits for treatment, allowing your mum or dad some control and choice over the environment where they stay and 24 hour support in recovery.

Organisations that support families dealing with addiction

  • Port of Call – we’re here to listen and can tell you about treatment options.
  • Adfam supports families affected by drugs and alcohol.
  • Talking to your GP or calling one of the national drug or alcohol helplines is also an option.
  • If you are in crisis and worried have an immediate concern about your mental health or that of your loved one, contact the Samaritans or Mind.
  • Supportline – particularly aimed at those who are isolated, at risk, vulnerable and victims of any form of abuse.

What to do if your parent has an addiction issue

If you are worried your parent has an addiction issue don’t hesitate to contact us.

At Port of Call, we help people to access detox, rehab and addiction treatment.

Many of the treatments we organise begin with a phone call from a son or daughter who is worried about their parent and wants to do something to help.

If you are worried about your mum or dad and want to discuss the options – get in touch. We won’t judge you or them. We work with people facing addiction every day. Whatever your situation, we’ll be happy to talk to you and we’re available 24/7.

* Sources: Public Health England and Alcohol and drug treatment in England report

Call today for free & confidential advice on 08000029010 (International: +44 161 674 9049)

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