When your parent is addicted to drugs and alcohol, or both, you start to notice certain behaviors. Mom or Dad may try quitting and seem earnestly committed to getting clean, only to fall back into the habit days, weeks or months later. Problems begin to crop up at work, home or with money. Perhaps most hurtful of all, drinking or using drugs seems to command your parent’s attention and consume his or her thoughts, time and energy, leaving you stranded on the sidelines.

Parents who are addicted have not lost love for their children. They have lost control over drugs and alcohol. To learn how you can help a mother or father get back behind the wheel, read on.

Denial: The First Hurdle to Clear

Convincing Parents that They Need Help for Substance AbuseDenial is a key characteristic of addiction. The addict believes, subconsciously, that drinking and doing drugs does less damage than getting sober. People who question whether or not things are really fine are met with anger, even when they are children or spouses — individuals who have arguably earned the right to speak up. They continue to swap reality for fantasy, even in the face of serious consequences and permanent damage including loss of their freedom or hurting those they love most. Instead of listening, parents are likely to retaliate with justifications and unpleasant truths about their perceived attacker’s life, say writers at Psychology Today [1] magazine.

All of this vitriol can work in your favor, believe it or not. Denial can be difficult to spot. This is especially true for family members who have grown accustomed to dysfunctional patterns and beliefs that typically infiltrate the life of an addict, note multiple National Institute of Health [2] studies on maintaining factors of addictions. Knowing telltale traits can help you better understand how addiction and denial go hand in hand.

Information can also show you what actions to take. For instance, one common misconception among drug and alcohol abusers is a belief that they can stop whenever they choose, on their timetable. For instance, addicts convince themselves that other people — not they themselves — are the real problem. In fact, they often think that family and friends trying to convince them to seek treatment for their substance abuse only make matters worse. They may also blame outside pressure, maintaining that if everyone would just leave them alone things would be fine.

These and other false beliefs feed a misguided sense of control that lets them believe that they are in charge of their habit. The opposite is true. Drug and alcohol addiction calls the shots, allowing them to harm themselves and their loved ones. Facing this fact is the first step toward getting sober.

Negative Biases about Rehab: The Second Obstacle to Climb

Fear of the unknown keeps many addicted parents away from recovery. Urban myths about detox provide one example. Many addicts are convinced by bar room gossip that detox is worse than the drugs themselves, which leads them to avoid treatment entirely. The truth is completely different. Although it is accurate to say that the longer a person has depended on drugs or alcohol, the more difficult quitting can be, getting help makes dealing with these symptoms much easier. The early days of sobriety so often characterized by vomiting, insomnia, flu-like symptoms and hallucinations, can be eased with medical intervention. Later on, intensive therapy focuses on treatment of underlying symptoms and behaviors of addiction, such as depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and social anxiety. Instead of a painful ordeal, entering rehab is a dynamic healing opportunity.

A second misconception that could work against your parent’s willingness to get sober is often driven by ego and shame. Some individuals believe that getting drug and alcohol addiction treatment is a sign of weakness. It is not. The fact is, people who refuse to get help and who continue with their addictive behaviors are not yet strong enough to accept and confront the changes required to live healthy lives. Many former addicts note that simply admitting they had a problem was one of the hardest parts of getting clean. As any newly sober individual who has been through treatment will attest, asking for help is an act of tremendous courage. It takes a strong person to own responsibility for a problem.

Interventions: Potent Weapons to Take Down Both

Mayo Clinic [3] experts agree that in order to convince your addicted loved one to get help, you must paint a clear picture of the losing battle. Consider keeping a journal of your loved one’s addiction, including dates and events that show a pattern of abuse. Another powerful strategy is to hold an intervention. Structured, focused and meticulously planned, interventions challenge addicts to face their problems. They create opportunities for people to get help by clearly communicating the destructive behaviors observed and the impact they have had on others. Although numerous positive benefits can emerge from a wisely engineered intervention, the most important of all is convincing the addict to seek help, ideally from a professional treatment facility.

Recovery from Addiction for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Addicts

If you or a LGBT individual you love struggles with addiction, help is available. Admissions coordinators at our toll-free, 24-hour support line can guide you to wellness. Don’t go it alone when help is just one phone call away. You never have to go back to a life of addiction. Start your recovery now.


[1] Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/is-psychology-making-us-sick/201302/addicted-denial-the-truth-about-addicts-and-addiction

[2]  Retrieved from http://www.nih.gov

[3] Retrieved from http://www.mayoclinic.org

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