A lot of adults today may look back at their childhood with fond memories of playing with friends, going on trips with their families, and basically living a stress free childhood. Most don’t look back at stressful memories of having to take care of their brother or sister overnight because mom “was stuck at work” when she really had to stay the night in jail for a DUI. They don’t remember the need to get themselves ready for school or make their own meals, since daddy had been sleeping on the couch all day and night because “he was working really hard”–when actually he was passed out after a cocaine or heroin binge.
Growing up with a parent who’s an addict is a tough road. Learning to take care of yourself and your parents at a young age is something that no child should have to do, but it’s reality for many.
The silver lining to this is that according to research from groups like “Children of Alcoholics” and “Children of Substance Abusers”, roughly 75% of adults who grew up in a home of addicts are able to overcome adversity, and not get involved with the lifestyle that their parents have. Unfortunately, as these kids grow to become adults, the pain and memories still affect them even years after the problem of the addiction of their parents has passed.
If you never dealt with this growing up, maybe this can help you understand what it’s like. And if you did have addict parents, please know that you weren’t alone.
As adult children of addicts:
We are always worried.
Regardless of whether our parents went through rehab and have been clean for years, we are always worried about the possibility of a relapse. If our parents are still known addicts, many of us have decided to not let them come around anymore. Even though we are over dealing with them directly, we still love and care about them, and pray every night that they are okay. There is also always the worry: What if it happens to me?
For some that just seems irrational, but for us it’s a part of everyday life.
We are controlling (without realizing it).
We feel like now that we are adults, we have the strength to control everything that surrounds us, and we can keep those bad things from coming into our lives. From the outside looking in, you may see this as us not wanting to listen or not wanting to compromise, but that is never the intention.
We just try to keep everything going good and that’s the only way we know how.
We constantly seek approval.
This bugs the heck out of those whom we seek approval from. We do not have a lot of self esteem, and we have been lied to a lot in the past, so we need to be certain that you are sincere when you tell us that “Yes, I think that it would be a good idea to change your major”, or “Yes, you should buy that new car”.
We know these are little things to you, but we need to hear from others that we are making the right decision on everything.
We define “normal” differently than you.
Our normal usually consists of constant disappointment, fear, and uncertainty. My normal was having to go to grandma’s after school, because my dad had gotten caught stealing DVD’s to sell so he could buy more drugs. And then having to stay at Mom’s for a few months because Dad had to stay in jail for a while.
All of this may sound really absurd. But to me (and many others), this was how we grew up.
We had no peace in our childhoods.
No matter how we look at it, we can’t seem to find happiness in a situation. Rather, we see lessons learned. When we try to look back and seek out some joy, it is almost instantly plagued by betrayal, or some other let down. We are constantly plagued by repressed memories and we will never be able to forget it.
If you didn’t grow up with addicted parents, please try and understand us. And if you did, remember:
We’ll find a way to get through it.
Featured photo credit: https://pixabay.com/en/users/RyanMcGuire-123690/ via pixabay.com