According to data from the combined 2009 to 2014 National Surveys on Drug Use and Health, about 1 in 8 children aged 17 or younger lived in households with at least one parent who had a past year substance use disorder.
Maybe you’re one of them.
If so, it means you’re more likely to have emotional and behavioral problems and lower self-esteem than your peers. There’s also a good chance you’ll abuse alcohol or drugs yourself one day. Where your dad is supposed to be your primary caregiver and the source of your emotional and financial support, you often find yourself taking over that role. You just want to be a normal kid with a normal life. But when one of your parents is a substance abuser, that seems impossible.
It may come as a surprise to you, but there are some things you can do to get some of your life back and even be a recovery support for your dad. Here are a few suggestions:
- Find an adult in whom to confide. Think of one older person you respect and trust. Maybe it’s a teacher, coach, or aunt or uncle. Tell them about your fears and ask if they would be willing to be a resource for you.
- Keep a journal or express yourself in videos, or in writing poems or songs. Getting your feelings and experiences out of your head and down on paper or into a video is an excellent way to work through them. It’s also a great way to remember things that have happened when you choose to confide in someone.
- Participate in activities that make you feel good about yourself. If you like tennis, get out and play. If you enjoy photography, take some pictures. Take every opportunity to do the things that make you feel confident and happy.
- Keep your friends close. It’s tempting to isolate yourself and lie to your friends, telling them everything’s good at home because you’re embarrassed or ashamed. Your true friends will want to know when you’re going through tough times, and they will support you.
- Attend support groups or classes. Get involved with in-person and online support groups for young family members of those battling addiction. They can help you realize that you’re not alone and provide you with resources and strategies for navigating your challenges. You’ll find several groups on the Al-anon and National Institute of Drug Abuse websites.
- Keep emergency phone numbers handy. These include crisis hotlines, emergency services, and trusted relatives and neighbors who have helped you in the past. Sometimes things can get really bad, really fast, so it’s essential to prepare.
- Make a list of safe places in the community. If there’s a crisis at home and you have to leave quickly, you want to have options – homes of friends, teen centers, family shelters, libraries, etc.
- Remember, it’s not your fault. Your parent’s addiction is not yours. You are not the reason your parent started drinking or abusing drugs. You can’t control their addiction, and you can’t cure them. You can do things that will build and lift you, giving you the strength to reach out to others who can help you and your family.
If your dad is ready and willing to start the road to recovery, the counselors at Renaissance Ranch are prepared to help. We are one of Utah’s best Christian-based addiction treatment centers. We have been where your dad is now, and we know what he is going through. We also know how hard addiction is on everyone in the family, so we involve the whole family in the recovery process. That includes you.