It serves to help keep the family in denial about the damage that growing up with drug-addicted parents is causing.
No one discusses the heartache and disappointment that each is experiencing daily while dealing with addicted parents.
No one is talking about the fact that dad is passed out in the front yard with the car half in the street and half on the lawn.
No one is talking about the embarrassment of having to hide from the landlord who is trying to collect the rent, and knowing that the rent money has gone to support the parental substance abuse.
One author describes this as the same as having an elephant in the living room. Everyone knows there is an elephant there, but no one is willing to state the obvious.
2. Don’t trust
The second rule for children of addicts, “don’t trust,” is borne out of necessity.
Children of addicts learn very early that they can’t trust what caregivers tell them.
A parent will say, “I am going to take you fishing this weekend,” but when Saturday arrives, they are too hungover to get out of bed.
The children of drug addicts quickly learn that promises are simply empty words and can’t be trusted.
3. Don’t feel
The third rule for children of addicts, “don’t feel,” is a protective mechanism.
To keep themselves from feeling the crushing weight of hurt and despair that comes with constant disappointment, children of addicts learn at an early age to cut-off feelings.
It is better (and easier) to not feel anything than to feel the disappointment.
These rules start as coping mechanisms to help children navigate the multiple pitfalls of growing up in a family where the attention centers around the parent who is addicted to a drug.
However, what begins as a mechanism for coping with drug addiction in the family soon becomes a way to survive, eventually becoming ingrained as part of the individual’s personality.
It becomes a default reaction for interacting with others. And, eventually, when children of addicts leave their family of origin and move to their family of destination, they take these coping mechanisms with them.
Now, adult children of addicted parents wanting to have a healthy relationship with another adult, but they find themselves hampered by these messages: don’t talk, don’t trust, don’t feel.
The very things that needed to function successfully with another person are the things that are keeping them from communicating, trusting, and sharing emotions.
The sad part is, many never realize what is causing them to have such a difficult time connecting with another human – often drifting from relationship to relationship looking for that “right one.”
There is good news, however, and the first step is awareness.
Also, watch the following TED talk where Emily an advocate for mental health and disability rights shares her firsthand experience of coping with parent’s addiction.
Guide for children of addicted parents
For kids who are attempting to be their guardians or who are taking care of their folks, finding help outside the home is not always feasible.
Children of addicts are regularly disappointed and discouraged either through terror or manipulation — from talking to an adult about issues they’re encountering at home.
Parents with substance abuse issues may lose control if they feel that a kid is confiding in someone outside the family by sharing the details of their parent’s indiscretions.
Also, Numerous parents are scared that if their substance misuse is uncovered, they may lose custody of their kids and deal with criminal indictments.
However, children who were reared in dysfunctional homes where addiction was the main focus can (and do) recover.
Here are some things to keep in mind:
To begin this process, the healing begins with realizing that these learned behaviors are not character defects; they are simply survival skills that are no longer useful.
There are online groups and websites to help children who were reared in homes where addiction predominated. These children are often referred to as “Adult Children of Alcoholics (or addicts),” and resources abound to help them.
Many seek the help of therapists to break these chains of maladaptive behavior. Part of the healing requires learning to “reparent” oneself (learning to nurture yourself). One of my favorite sayings: “It’s never too late to have a happy childhood.”
Keep a journal — either in a paper diary or an online blog — recording the things that transpire may feel unnerving. However, it’s a decent method to work through your feelings of fear. A journal can likewise be a decent method to recall things that have happened when you settle on the choice to converse with somebody. If journaling isn’t your thing, take a stab at communicating in different manners, such as recording your thoughts and experiences, writing poems, songs, and even drawing.
If you’re feeling humiliated or terrified about things at home, it’s enticing to isolate yourself and lie to your peers about how things are going. Try not to dismiss your friends; find an individual of your age who makes you feel great about yourself, and stay in contact with them.
If you feel disconnected or frustrated about the state of your marriage but want to avoid separation and/or divorce, the marriage.com course meant for married couples is an excellent resource to help you overcome the most challenging aspects of being married.
Sylvia Smith loves to share insights on how couples can revitalize their love lives in and out of the bedroom. As a writer at Marriage.com, she is a big believer in living consciously and encourages couples to adopt this principle in their lives too. Sylvia believes that every couple can transform their relationship into a happier, healthier one by taking purposeful and wholehearted action.