What do I do as an Adult if my Parents are Currently Addicted?

If you aren’t personally receiving help, knowledge and support you will only sink deeper into a pit of hopeless helplessness, for all the efforts to help probably only make the problem worse. Only once you understand your own feelings and motivations can you start to reduce your addiction to your parent. This way, you can choose to react differently in the same problem scenarios.

Start by finding out as much as possible about the substance, the misuse thereof as well as the addiction thereof. This way you will be able to better manage the problems surrounding addiction as well as your feelings thereof. You can subsequently start to speak to your parent about the changes in behaviour as a result of substance use. Although you need to be firm, it is important to remain respectful.  Your parent will shift the focus to the reasons for the behaviour (there are always reasons!). Rather focus on the problem behaviour. Be specific about precisely which behaviour is interfering in his/her life. Also give hope through mentioning that addiction is manageable and provide support.

If this does not work, a professional intervention may be considered. Friends, families, employers, etc. jointly discuss the problem with a professional person. The date, time and a controlled venue are set for the intervention. Before this date, each person should mention to the substance user/addict that they are speaking to a professional about his/her problem. The person thus knows that the most important people in his/her life are concerned and the intervention does not come as a great shock. During the intervention, each individual talks about the effect of the person’s behaviour in their own words. The function of the intervention is merely to get the person to attend a management program. There are however a few requirements which such interventions must meet and it also carries risk.  These can be discussed with the professional beforehand.


Working through the impact of your parent’s behaviour during your childhood (or currently) is a raw process, particularly because it has also affected you! You move from denial through aggression (towards them, yourself, God, etc.); hopelessness and depression (about everything which was lost during the process); to acceptance and forgiveness. Don’t get frightened away or give up hope when you are on this emotional see-saw. Feelings which emerge vary between joy when relationships run smoothly to the deepest pain when setbacks to old behaviour occur. Everyone experiences this because it is a normal reaction to an abnormal situation.

About thatpsychologist

Clinical Psychologist in private practice in George and Mossel-Bay Kliniese Sielkundige in privaat praktyk op George en Mosselbaai.

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