A Reach Out Recovery Exclusive By College Intern Maggie Having a parent who struggles with addiction harms your childhood in a number of different ways. It's time to recognize and help children of addicts.
Addiction Hurts Everyone
Of course it hurts to watch one of the main adults in your life, the one who is supposed to take care of you, to be strong for you, live instead with this huge monster on his back.
- But it also hurts to wait hours and hours to eat because nobody will cook you dinner.
- It hurts to entertain yourself all day because the person who is supposed to be watching you is passed out.
- It hurts to wonder if that person who is passed out is ever going to wake up.
To my family it was supposed to be a big secret to the outside world that my dad was an alcoholic and a drug addict, but we lived in a small town, and it seemed like everyone already knew. People could see him walk to the liquor store everyday, and people noticed him nodding off in the audience of my dance recitals or school plays.
Addiction in a Small Town
But as a kid, one of the most painful things is not being allowed to play with your friends. Sometimes parents would insist that I come to their house rather than have my friend over, but some parents wouldn’t even let me play with their kids at all. I absolutely forgive my father for everything I went through as a result of his addiction. Now in recovery, something that he struggles with the most is receiving the forgiveness of others. He worries that people still hate him for his behavior, or still see him as an alcoholic and drug addict.
Forgiveness For Everyone
I’ve learned to separate my father from his addiction, and we’re really just waiting on the rest of the world to do the same. Now that I’m older, I look back on the parents in my town who made me feel lesser than for having a parent with an addiction, and can reassess. I look with pride upon myself and my current success and stability.
Those parents were wrong about addiction. It's not catching, and while it hurt me, it didn't destroy. I am in recovery and healing now. They were wrong about my dad being hopeless and helpless. He is a real person, recovering as I am. And now I know for certain that people were also wrong about me. I am deserving of the same love, support, and respect the child of any parent with a chronic disease. All children who suffer as I did deserve it.