Talking to Your Parent About Their Addiction

Our parents are often the most influential force in our lives.  The way we are raised, how we are taught to love and communicate, and the behaviors we witness all play a part in shaping who we become in our adult lives.  If you have a parent with an addiction, you have likely dealt with a great deal of frustration and suffering as a result. Whether you were raised around substance abuse or your parent developed a dependence later in life, watching someone you should be able to look up to and admire in their most vulnerable state can be gut-wrenching.  Additionally, it can be challenging to decide how to approach your mother or father about seeking help for their addiction, especially because it means going against the dynamic of a normal parent-child relationship. However, talking to your parent about their problems with substance abuse and options for recovery is the best way to show your love and support and may be the only way to salvage your relationship.  Utilizing the following tips can help you create a plan for approaching your parents about their addiction and give you a solid foundation from which to communicate effectively.

Work Out Your Own Feelings

Before talking to your parent about their addiction, start by taking some time to reflect on how their substance abuse has affected you.  If you grew up witnessing substance abuse in the home, it is likely that you were exposed to things that were far beyond your maturity level and may have had to take on responsibilities that shouldn’t have been yours.  Growing up in these situations can lead to many mental health issues and personal struggles such as low self-esteem, resentment, anger management problems, and substance abuse issues of your own. If you feel that you are still carrying many negative emotions towards your parent, it can be helpful to see a therapist to help you work out these issues.  When you feel confident in your ability to remain calm during an emotionally heavy discussion with your parent, you may want to write down precisely what you plan to say and stick to the script, even if they become defensive or angry in the moment. 

Seek Professional Help

While it is ultimately your parent’s choice to seek treatment for their addiction, you can come to the conversation as prepared as possible by seeking out the advice of addiction experts or trained interventionists.  People with experience in this field can help you make this discussion go as smoothly as possible while also giving you tools such as effective language to help you persuade your parent to get help. Finding a quality treatment center is the first step in finding someone that can help walk you through the process of intervention and help give you a better idea of what your loved one can expect from treatment. 

Involve Friends and Family

Since you will be navigating the complex dynamics of the parent-child relationship during this sensitive discussion, it can be helpful to enlist the help of others who are close with your parent and already aware of their substance abuse.  Close friends, siblings, and other relatives that are willing to offer honesty and support are excellent choices for building an intervention. Your parent may be unwilling to listen to their child about their addiction, but having backup from people they consider their peers can help legitimize your argument and maybe allow them to see themselves from the perspective of others.

State a Clear Goal

If you have been dealing with an addicted parent for a long time, you have likely complained to them about their substance use before.  The last thing you want is for this important conversation to feel to them like you are just nagging. Instead, make sure that you outline a specific goal as the targeted outcome of the discussion, and be prepared to act if they are unwilling to do so themselves.  For adult children of addicted parents who have been supporting their parents financially, this may mean committing to withdrawing all financial support from them if they are unwilling to enter an inpatient treatment program. Every situation is different, so you will need to tailor the goals and repercussions to your circumstances.  Regardless of your parent’s reaction to the conversation, stay strong, speak your truth, offer support, and refuse to enable. Understand that your parent’s addiction is not and has never been your fault, and their refusal to stay sober is not a reflection of your worth. However, your parent might very well be willing to accept help if it means saving your relationship.  

Addiction is a chronic disease that devastates the lives of many families, but with strong foundational resources, recovery is possible.  If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction and mental health issues, now is the time to reach out for help. At Burning Tree, you will find knowledgeable and compassionate professionals that structure treatment to fit individual needs, including the identification of co-occurring disorders. Through accountability and commitment to the 12 Steps, each client will develop the tools to create a sober lifestyle and find lasting recovery. We specialize in the treatment of chronic relapsers and believe with the right support, you can experience real and permanent healing. For more information, call us now at 866-287-2877.  


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