The Impact of Parental Addiction
We are mindful of not cursing in front of our toddlers but never hesitate to pour ourselves a glass of wine with them in the room. Studies show children with parents who are addicted are far more likely to follow in their parents’ footsteps.
We met with a recovered addict who grew up with parents who had substance abuse problems. She grew up in a family who was well-off financially, but this did not prevent the substance abuse from taking a toll on her. This is the story she told.
“I grew up with intelligent, educated parents. Even though my parents didn’t use in front of me; my mother hid in the bathroom to smoke cigarettes and my dad drank his booze. I still knew what was going on and had a natural urge to experiment with the unknown. I not only wanted to mimic them but the added stress that their nasty behavior created made me determined to try out their coping skills myself.
When I was eleven years old, I remember my parents having a terrible argument. The thing about the argument that stuck with me was my mom dropped the large glass full of wine she was holding. As a child, it was the yelling and the glass breaking all over the floor that upset me. Now what bothers me more is I know their argument was drug and alcohol induced. My mom had just had knee surgery and was taking prescription pain pills, washing them down with Chardonnay. Every day after work, my father had Scotch on the rocks, his ’medicine’ as he called it.
“As I grew older, that seemed to be a coping mechanism for everyday issues. I felt a pill, or a drink would solve whatever problem I ran into.
“Word got out about my dysfunction at home and followed me to school. My friends started asking me what was wrong with my parents and that only fueled my urge to use. Peer pressure along with my emotional stress was a perfect recipe for a young drug user. I started drinking heavily and that evolved to weed and pills. Weed and pills took me all the way to using heroin intravenously. Now, being a sober adult, I see my parents’ choices were a huge influence on my addiction.
“Now I can see it is important for parents to set an example for young ones even when we feel they don’t notice.”