One in 8 children live in households with at least one parent who has a substance abuse disorder, according to the National Alliance for Drug Endangered Children. A child who grows up with a parent who has an addiction must deal with it as best they can—even if it means developing unhealthy ways of coping that lead into adulthood and are hard to let go of.
But where there seems to be no way, God can make a way! Isaiah 43:19b (NLT) says, “I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.”
Here are some common struggles adult children of addicts face, and how to overcome them.
Growing up with a parent stuck in addiction can create an environment of unpredictability for a child. One day, the parent may be fine to be around; the next day, the parent is dangerous. These conditions can take a toll on a child’s sense of safety, which may then cause them to withdraw. Come out of hiding by finding a Life Recovery Group to connect with.
Not all children of addicts are isolated; some strive to seek the attention they needed from their parents or caregivers but never got. So, they may look to inappropriate or excessive behaviors to gain the attention of others. If an individual struggles with this, they can journal to be more aware of unhealthy patterns.
3. Fear of Abandonment
The core wound of an adult child of an addict is often the fear of abandonment. Because they were abandoned or rejected as children so many times, they fear it will happen all over again as an adult. But what is broken in relationship is healed in relationship. See a licensed Christian counselor in the New Life Counselor Network will help to make sense of the past, as well as develop safe ways to cope with these fears.
4. Low Self-Worth
Children of addicts experience deep shame and guilt for their parent’s behavior. It was not their fault what happened to them; however, difficult feelings were put on them by a parent or someone else who shamed, blamed, or belittled for what their parent did. The guilt they feel for their parent’s addiction may lead to low self-worth.
5. Emotionally Numb
A parent who struggles with addiction is often unable to help their child regulate their emotions because they are emotionally dysregulated themselves. As a result, an adult child of an addict may try to numb their feelings by stuffing them down or turning to an addiction. When it is difficult for someone to name an emotion, they can look at a Feelings Word List, like the one here, to help pinpoint their feelings. By putting a name to the emotion that they are experiencing, it will be easier for them to express their feelings to others and ask for what they need in a relationship.
6. Victim Mentality
Some adult children of addicts have a victim mentality because they have come to believe that they are at the mercy of external circumstances and other people. These individuals believe they are not at fault for their choices, and there is little that they can personally do to affect the outcomes of their actions or success. Healing, though, can only happen when one takes responsibility for their life. By going through the 12 Steps of Life Recovery and attending a Life Recovery Group weekly, one can gain tools they need to overcome a victim mentality.
If you grew up with a parent who was an addict, you’ll likely identify with some of these struggles. But you have something today that you did not have as a child. You have a choice. You can change. And you don’t have to live this way anymore.
For help, call 800-NEW-LIFE.
by Kimberlee Bousman