Living with a parent who is addicted to drugs, alcohol, or other harmful substances and behaviors is hard – and it doesn’t get easier as we get older. If you’re one of the estimated 17 million people who has grown up with an addicted parent, you’re probably angry about their addiction and the ways it has impacted your life. Feelings of anger and frustration are normal if your parent has ever:
- Made you feel responsible for their addiction
- Blamed your other parent for the circumstances leading to their substance abuse
- Physically, verbally, or emotionally abused you or someone else in your family while high or intoxicated
- Used drugs or alcohol instead of meeting your physical or emotional needs
- Withheld love or affection from you
- Tried to manipulate you to help them engage in their substance abuse
- Made you feel guilty for saying no or standing up for yourself after their hurtful behavior
These behaviors will have a profound and prolonged negative impact on you. You may find yourself acting out at school or at home, even though you know it’s wrong or inappropriate. You may be afraid of other adults or have trouble opening up about your emotions to others who are close to you. This is likely to cause trust issues when dating or pursuing new relationships.
These negative effects will be compounded if your parent doesn’t see their addiction as a problem, is not interested in getting help, has legal trouble because of their addiction, or gets your other parent (or someone else living with you) involved with drugs, alcohol, or addictive behavior as a way to ensure they can keep using.
Anger About Addiction is Natural
Anger is one of the most common emotions that take root in adult children of alcoholics and addicts – and it’s understandable. No one likes being hurt repeatedly by their parent, who is supposed to love and care for them unconditionally. It’s important to not bottled up these feelings when grappling with them. Talking about a parent’s addiction with someone who will not judge you or your parent is a healthy way to practice anger management. A mentor, prayer partner, therapist, or support group can give you a safe space to express yourself to trustworthy people. They can give you the tools and guidance to let go of anger before it takes over.
Resentment About Addiction Harms You Most
Anger over injustice (about how an alcoholic parent or parent with drug addiction treats you) is something you can live with and learn from. But it’s important to make sure your anger doesn’t turn into resentment over time. Resentment about addiction does more harm than good. Since your parent is unlikely to understand the full impact of their behavior if they have not gotten help for their addiction, you (and not your parent) are the one who is most hurt by your feelings of resentment. It ends up shutting you down emotionally, which robs other relationships of the joy and fulfillment you’d otherwise get from them,
How to Curb Unhealthy Anger About Addiction
While anger about addiction doesn’t go away after a few therapy sessions, learning some healthy practices can help you let go of toxic anger and view things in a healthier way.
- Compassion: Your parent may be addicted, but there is more to them than this behavior and the negative ways in which their mind, body, and emotions have been harmed by their addiction. Learning how to separate your parent as a person from their addiction as an issue or illness can help you cultivate compassion for them that will keep you from becoming bitter and resentful.
- Distance: Keeping a healthy distance from your parent is okay and appropriate. Spending time with other friends and family ensures you have a safe place to go during a difficult time at home. Not engaging in conversations, you know will make you angry with your parent can be another effective way to set better boundaries and keep unhealthy anger from taking control.
- Connection: Not every conversation or activity should center around your parent and addressing their addiction. Finding things to do that you enjoy (taking walks, visiting friends, creating art, and so on) is a great way to get you out of a stressful environment, and increase your feeling of connection.
Your parent’s addiction does not define you or your worth. We’ve seen many young people and adults who grew up with an addict or alcoholic who now live happy, productive lives, and make progress in their family relationships. While it can be hard to remain faithful when living with an addicted parent, God cares about your family. You are not alone, and you’ve found the right place for guidance and support. Access live chat, email mentors, and find more resources to get help with family addiction.
Do you feel abandoned by your parent's addiction? Read my blog, Dealing with Abandonment.