How Adult Children Heal When a Parent is Addicted

parental addictionAddiction is difficult to witness at any age, but there’s a tender spot in our hearts that becomes riddled with worry when a beloved parent struggles with addiction. Adult children may not see or speak with their parents as often as they’d like, but that doesn’t mean they don’t care. Discovering that a mother or father has lost their health, finances, relationships and more to addiction is heartbreaking. Many of us want the best for our parents but find that when their substance use gets out of control, there’s no easy path to take. Adult children have to work to make sense of their parent’s substance abuse, and this can take a lot of time and emotional energy.

For many adult children, the lingering effects of addiction, even while they were children, still remain well into adulthood. For example, a few adult children spoke of their experience with parental addiction via BBC News. One person stated, “I tend to only remember a lot of the bad things and also the feelings. That is what stayed with me through my life and is still tangible today; the way that my dad’s drinking and everything that comes with that made me feel.”

A study published in the Journal of Family Issues sought to explore how adult children make sense of their parent’s addiction. The results of the study led to 3 main descriptions that served as the essence of their parent’s struggles:

  • Alcoholism as a disease
  • Alcoholism as a volitional behavior (as a choice)
  • Alcoholism as a socially constructed phenomenon

Many adult children do not know where to turn to and they may use online health forums to better connect with others who are going through similar circumstances. Al-Anon is a supportive, 12-Step program that also provides friends and family members of those with addiction some additional education and support. If you have a parent struggling with alcoholism or drug dependency, seek out help today. Addiction is very difficult to face alone, and it can be devastating to watch a parent experience it. You’re not alone.


Cumberland Heights is a nonprofit alcohol and drug-addiction treatment center located on the banks of the Cumberland river in Nashville, Tennessee. On a sprawling 177-acre campus, we are made up of 2 12-Step immersion campuses, 12 outpatient recovery centers and 4 sober living homes. We believe that each person has a unique story to tell – and that’s why we always put the patient first.

Call us today at 1-800-646-9998 to take the next step towards your happiness and health.

Why is it so meaningful to give to Cumberland Heights?

Your gift to Cumberland Heights through our annual and capital initiates gives immediate support to patients and their families. To make a longer term impact a gift to the endowment fund will provide patient assistance funding for years to come.

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