MY PARENT NEEDS HELP
CHILDREN OF AN ADDICT
Terror, guilt, loneliness, and hatred. These are feelings that many children of addicts face, often on a daily basis.
Addiction affects the entire family, including young children. A young father who had been sober for a month was shocked when his three-year-old child said, "I don't like it when you drink whiskey, Daddy. It makes you angry."
A single mother brought her young son to Chabad Lifeline. The boy remarked on the center's artwork and was invited back to meet the artist, Haim Sherrf. After the meeting, the boy suddenly opened up to Chabad Lifeline's Director in front of his mother. "I don't want to find my Mom's bottles hiding all over the place anymore."
Children of addicts often think they are the reason for the addiction. They theorize, "the reason my parent takes drugs or gambles is because there's something wrong with me." That if their parents loved them, they wouldn't turn to alcohol, sex or gaming addiction.
Stability and security are severely lacking in the lives of children of addicts. Promises are rarely kept and their lives are packed with dishonesty.
Some children respond to the disease by becoming care-givers. They suppress their feelings and needs, never learning how to express themselves. They become superkids, helping out their parents, excelling academically, and taking care of siblings. Some of them even cook dinner and pay bills.
Inside, family heroes feel inadequate. Without professional help, they can grow up to become workaholics who feel responsible for everything and believe they are never wrong.
Other children lash out in defiance and anger, in an attempt to take the focus away from the addiction. Their behaviour is their subconscious way of expressing, "I exist too, and I have needs." They act in destructive ways, seeking negative attention.
With professional help, they learn to have courage and accept responsibility.
Homes affected by addiction can be hostile, volatile places. They can involve verbal, emotional, physical and sexual abuse. Many children have a safe space in their home, such as under their bed, where they hide and escape into bearable fantasy worlds.
Comic relief is another response to addiction and children of addicts can cover up their fear with immaturity and humour. They often have learning disabilities and a short attention span. With professional help, they can overcome their inner fear and learn when life needs to be taken seriously.
The lost child
The innocent victim withdraws into their own world. They are the invisible children, who have no friends and are very quiet. With professional help, they can learn to become independent and reach self-actualization.
Characterizations and dependencies
Though we have outlined the four major archetypes above, children of addicts typically
find it almost impossible to talk about their feelings
become dependent on a substance or process addiction
feel intense anger toward their addicted parent, sometimes even after the parent recovers
become expert manipulators, having learned the art by watching their parents (both the addict and non-addict) pretend to outsiders that the home is in order and by living in a home where dishonesty is the norm
If you are or if you were the child of an addict, reach out for help by email or by calling 514-738-7700. Our professional Counselors will help you navigate the signs and symptoms, and learn what is in your power to change and how you can best help your parent, your family, and yourself.
Our family workshops and groups (contact us for more information)
Group Dynamics for Families: Tuesdays, 1:30-3:00 PM (pre-registration required)
This group is dedicated to helping family members who are suffering due to a loved one's addiction.
Our family group consists of individuals who all share similar experiences. Whether it be a child, spouse, sibling or parent, the chaos and inability to live in the status quo are what bring family members to the realization that their lives have become unmanageable, and what they are doing is not, and has not been, working. With other group members and a facilitator, we explore and gain understanding of what is in our control to change and what is not.