What it’s Like to Have an Addict as a Parent

Categories: Love and Relationships, Substance Abuse

The word ‘parent’ has always seemed a bit foreign to me, more like a vague concept rather than the solid idea I always thought it should be. As a teenager, I would hear other kids at school complain about having a curfew while I secretly wished that my dad would care enough to give me one.

A Stolen Childhood

The only thing worse than being the child of an addict, is being the oldest child of an addict. It seemed like one moment I was a regular kid. Then my mom died, and I lost both of my parents. At 13, I wasn’t ready to take care of myself, let alone the twins.

But somebody had to do it.

While my friends voiced their juvenile complaints, I had to make dinner and make sure the twins did their homework and had clean clothes to wear to school the next day.

I had no example to follow other than a faded memory of a mother who gradually lost the ability to care for us due to the cancer that ravaged both her body and her mind.

As her symptoms progressed, she was popping Percocet and Oxycontin like a kid with a Pez dispenser and nearly set the house on fire while nodding off with a Marlboro burning between her fingers.

My father had to put her in a nursing home and couldn’t handle the guilt without a steady diet of Jack and coke in his system. After a while, he stopped coming home from work all, spending his evenings in Flanagan’s pub until he passed out and one of the bouncers would bring him home.

The twins and I had a steady diet of the fish and chips the barmaid, Mary, would send home with him.

Stuck In A Minor’s Body

By the time I turned 15, the twins were 12, and they were able to fend for themselves pretty well under the circumstances. I started dating Nicky, from down the block. My father never even realized we were an item until my nosy Aunt Patty noticed Nicky dropping me off and told my father how old he was.

He started coming right home after work again, sitting at the dining room table, throwing back shots of whiskey and chasing it with a 2-liter bottle of coke. Only now, instead of nodding off, he was chain-smoking, ready to interrogate me about Nicky, and trying to tell me what to do.

But, it was too little, too late. I already saw myself as an adult. The fact that I was legally still a kid didn’t matter anymore.


Forever Different

My father’s decision to stop drinking a few years later did not change the dysfunction I now carry inside. Most adult children of addicts operate on a completely different level of normal, which can be quite challenging to those of you who are mainstream normal. The organization Adult Children of Alcoholics was super helpful to me, and helps those whose parents are addicts like mine, as well as those whose parents are alcoholics as the name implies.

Some things to remember:

  • We are usually in a state of heightened awareness, always afraid, though we are rarely able to identify anything tangible.
  • We feel guilty no matter what we do, which turns us into control freaks who demand perfection.
  • Despite our quest for perfection, we end up creating chaos, because it’s the devil we know.
  • If you have chosen us as a lover or a friend, you will probably find us to be the most exasperating person you know.

Watching my parents suffer and knowing they were unable to care for us left me feeling helpless. I am a work in progress. Then again, aren’t we all?

If you or your loved one needs help, contact us today and feel free to talk to us about the affordable treatment programs at our drug and alcohol rehab that will fit your needs. The Anaheim Lighthouse is a modern and effective addiction treatment center in Southern California.

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