The Secret Of Relating To Your Addicted Parent

Have an addicted parent and don’t know what to do? Get some practical advice here.

minute read

ARTICLE OVERVIEW: When living with an addicted mother or father you need to learn how to take care of your self. It means taking responsibility and asking for help. We’ll guide you on how and where you can do that here.



Does This Sound Familiar?

Parents with alcohol and drug abuse problems can have negative effects on a child’s health, safety, and well-being. Children who live with addicted parents experience:

  • A chaotic home environment.
  • A range of negative emotions.
  • Confusion about roles and responsibilities.

If you are living with parents who abuse drugs or alcohol you’ve probably experienced these challenges already. Do you sometimes feel confused or lost? Do not despair! There is no rule that children who grow up in homes with addicted parents will repeat the same mistakes and reach for alcohol or drugs as well.

Q: So what can you do about an addicted parent?

A: When living with an addicted mother or father you need to learn how to become responsible and take care of your self. In fact, relating to your addicted parent means taking responsibility and asking for help.

This article provides you with information about how to manage your life when living with an addict parent and where to look for help. Continue reading for more and send us your questions at the end.

What’s The Real Problem?

An addiction problem won’t go away on its own. So, when living with a drug or alcohol addicted parent you should not ignore the signs of addiction just because you aren’t sure how to help. Instead, you need professional help.


Because addiction is a complex issue that must be treated by medically trained professionals for best results.

What You CAN Do

Here is what you can do to help your addicted parent:

1. Get Educate

1. Educate yourself about your parent’s addiction problem

Q: What is addiction?

A: The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) defines addiction as: chronic, relapsing brain disease characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use, despite harmful consequences.

Q: But why is addiction considered a brain decease?

A: It is considered a brain disease because drugs change the brain, its structure and the way it works. These brain changes can be long lasting and can lead to many harmful, often self-destructive, behaviors.

The behavioral signs of an addicted parent are the following:

  • Addicted parents are obsessed with their drug-of-choice.
  • Addicted parents keep using even though it is causing harm.
  • Addicted parents compulsively and repeatedly engage in substance abuse and find it difficult to stop.
  • Addicted parents can become irritable, restless and depressed when they quit their substance abuse.
  • Addicted parents lose control over their behavior, lose rational judgment, and can become very unpredictable.
  • Addicted parents often deny problems even though others can see the negative effects.
  • Addicted parents hide their behavior when others mention their concern.

Knowing as much as you can about your addicted parent can prepare you to know how to react, communicate and relate to their problem. You can also ask for help and support from other family members and relatives when living with a parent that faces addiction issues.


2. Report Violence

2. Report any violence or maltreatment

Since addicted parents often lose control when under substance influence, you need to protect yourself from any possible physical/emotional abuse, neglect, or maltreatment by calling: Child Help USA National Child Abuse Hotline: 800-4-A-CHILD (422.4453)

3. Make Sure You’re Safe

3. Make sure you’re safe.

Entering a car with a parent who is drunk or high is dangerous. DO NOT drive with your parent/s while they are under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Instead, find another person to drive with or call a taxi. In cases of overdose and emergency call 911 or a friend/family member to intervene if your parent is engaged into something unsafe.

4. Seek Support

4. Seek help for yourself.

As a child of addicted parents you may benefit from supportive adult efforts to help you. National Association for Children of Alcoholics (NACA) studies have proven that children who cope effectively with the trauma of growing up in families affected by alcoholism often relied on the support of:

  • a non-alcoholic parent
  • step parents
  • grandparents
  • teachers
  • other friends and family

Additionally, children of addicted parents who rely on other supportive adults have increased autonomy and independence, stronger social skills, better ability to cope with difficult emotional experiences, and better day-to-day coping strategies.

Support groups such as: Ala-Teen Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACA), Nar-Anon, and Al-Anon exist to provide children of addicted parents safe, open and supportive environment. The membership of these groups might help you express your feelings, learn from others similar experiences, and receive social support in your emotional recovery. Group programs are also beneficial because they can help you reduce the feelings of isolation, shame and guilt.

The Real Secret

The Secret of relating to your addicted mom or dad

The bottom line is this: The secret of helping your addicted parent is to learn to love yourself, take control over your life, and become your own parent. Try seeing this experience as something that might help you grow up, make you more mature, and more responsible.

Sometimes, unpleasant experiences can serve a positive purpose, they can simply be an example of how NOT TO behave. Instead of focusing on losses, try seeing this as an opportunity which can make you a stronger child. As Nietzsche said: “Freedom is the will to be responsible to ourselves”.

This is your life!

An Extra Tip

An Extra Tip To Relating To Your Addicted Parent

Another important thing to remember is to find a way to encourage, motivate, and support your parent to seek help and enter treatment. The following questions might help you lead your addicted mother or father into thinking about the consequences of their choice to drink and use drugs. Make sure you have a conversation with them while they are not under narcotic or alcoholic influence.

    • What will happen to you and to our family if you keep drinking or using drugs?
    • What will happen if you give up your habit?
    • What can you do to get help?

5 DON’Ts

5 DON’TS When Relating To Your Addicted Parent

    1. Do not accept or take any responsibility about your parent’s choices.
    2. Don’t put yourself at risk by getting in conflict.
    3. Don’t try to discuss the problem when your parent is drinking or using.
    4. Don’t let your entire life revolve around your parent’s addiction problem.
    5. Don’t judge or criticize your parent.

Your Questions


Did you get the info you were looking for? In case you want to ask us something else and/or share your personal experience…please reach us to us in the section below. We will make sure to respond all your legitimate inquiries personally and promptly.

Reference Sources: NIDA: The Science of Drug Abuse and Addiction: The Basics
Addiction and Recovery: Help for the Family
Child Welfare: Parental drug use as Child abuse
Watchtower: What if My Parent Is Addicted to Drugs or Alcohol?
WIKI How: How to Deal With Having a Drug Addict for a Mother
Stanford – Children’s Health: How to Help Teenagers with Addicted Parents
About the author
Lee Weber is a published author, medical writer, and woman in long-term recovery from addiction. Her latest book, The Definitive Guide to Addiction Interventions is set to reach university bookstores in early 2019.
I am ready to call
i Who Answers?