To children of substance abusers: you did not create this problem.
You may be having difficulty handling some of your concerns about living with a person who abuses alcohol or drugs. Where the person is your mom, dad, grandparent, brother, or sister, it is important that you talk about your problems, fears, and concerns with people who are understanding and sympathetic.
You may feel that you caused your family member’s substance use disorder or that it is somehow your fault. You may think that if you had behaved better, done better in school, or been different in some way, your mom or dad or the person you care about would not drink so much alcohol or take drugs. You did not in any way cause their disease. No one ever causes another person’s substance use disorder. It is nobody’s fault that someone you care about has become ill.
Your family member may have embarrassed you in front of friends, teachers, or another person. You may have stopped bringing friends home or stopped telling your parents about school activities. Now that your relative is in treatment, his or her behavior should improve.
You may have lived with fighting and stress, and you may have been abused or witnessed other kinds of violence. You may feel very angry and sad because of these experiences. Now you can talk about this and other feelings with your family or the staff at the treatment program. It will be important for you to share your thoughts and feelings about what has happened. You may want to go to self-help groups such as Al-Anon or Alateen. Some young people find these meetings to be helpful. These groups talk about the three C’s: You didn’t Cause it, you can’t Control it, and you can’t Cure it. Remembering the three C’s can help.
It is important to know that substance use disordered run in families. People who have a blood relative with a substance use disorder are about four times more likely to develop the same disorder than those who do not. This means that you may have inherited a tendency to develop a problem yourself, and you should be careful about drinking alcohol or taking drugs. This information is meant to educate you, not to scare you.
The situation at home will probably improve because your relative is in treatment. Like treatment for people with other illnesses, treatment for substance use disorders is helpful, but not everyone knows or believes it is. A great deal of stigma and shame are still associated with substance use disorders. What and how much you tell your friends or teachers is your decision and your family’s. You may just want to say something like, “My mom is ill, but she will get better and come home soon. Thank you for asking.”
You may choose to help educate some of your close friends about your relative’s illness and his or her progress in treatment. Or, you may decide not to share this information with them. It’s your choice.
Remember, you didn’t create this problem, but you can play an important role in helping everyone heal.
Hang in there.
Reference: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration