What to Do If Your Parent is Struggling with Drug or Alcohol Addiction

How to Help a Parent Struggling with Drug or Alcohol Addiction

By Jennifer McDougall

Addiction is often a complicated problem, especially when the person suffering from addiction is your parent. Addiction affects the entire family and can strain relationships, finances, and much more. If you’re trying to help a parent who struggles with drug or alcohol addiction, it’s important first to take care of yourself as well as possible. Once you’re in a better position to be able to support them through treatment and recovery, there are steps that you can take to both support their recovery while also protecting yourself from co-dependency issues that may arise during their healing process.

Don’t blame yourself.

You may feel guilty for your choices during your relationship with your parent, but don’t be. The fact is that no matter how much you try to help them and how many times they say they will change, they have to be ready and willing to go to treatment and get the help they need. Addiction has four main causes: 1) a chemical imbalance 2) events of the past not reconciled with 3) current conditions they struggle to cope with 4) things believed that are untrue.

If you want to help your parent, it’s best to identify and address one (or all) of the 4 core issues mentioned above.

Check-in on your own mental and physical health; you’ll need it to support your parent.

You might not be aware of this, but your mental health affects your physical well-being. For example: If you are experiencing depression or anxiety, it could be causing gastrointestinal problems like indigestion and bloating. Or if something is bothering you that’s making it hard to sleep at night, which can lead to a headache during the day.

So when it comes to supporting a loved one struggling with drug or alcohol addiction it’s crucial you stay connected with your own health and wellbeing. Take time for yourself and prioritize your wellness needs.

Please educate yourself about addiction and how it works.

If you’re reading this, it’s likely because you’re concerned about a parent or other loved one struggling with addiction. While feeling overwhelmed by the situation is normal and expected, having the knowledge to draw upon will help you better understand what your loved one is going through and make informed decisions regarding assisting them to find treatment.

If a person has an addictive personality type, they may be prone to developing an addiction later in life. An addictive personality means they have low self-esteem and low-stress tolerance—and are often perfectionists as well as impulsive risk-takers that have difficulty controlling their emotions, all of which present challenges for managing substance abuse.

At Passages Addiction Treatment Centers, we do not believe addiction is a disease, but rather a symptom caused by, 1) a chemical imbalance 2) events of the past not reconciled with 3) current conditions they struggle to cope with 4) things believed that are untrue. Our non-12-Step treatment philosophy is an empowering approach to helping individuals worldwide, break free from substance abuse-related issues and become the best version of themselves, without shame and without labels.

Talk to other people who’ve been there.

It is helpful to have someone you can talk to about your situation. Talking with people who have been through similar circumstances can help you gain perspective and comfort and guide how to handle things. Here are some people you should consider talking to:

  • Other family members who have shared experiences with your parent
  • People who were in the same situation with their parents when they were young
  • People who were in the same situation with their children when they were young or currently are in such a position now
  • Friends or acquaintances that are facing similar situations
  • Recovery support groups where you can be open and honest in a safe place

Grieve the past of how things were before addiction stormed in.

Sometimes it can feel overwhelming of what’s happening to someone you love and care about. Grieving the past is healthy but don’t let it take up too much time. Let yourself pour out all the frustrations and pain you’ve been feeling. Cry if you feel like it. There is no shame in crying, in fact, it’s a good thing. Talk to a therapist to help make sense of everything you’re feeling and experiencing. It’s important you don’t take on all the pressure that comes from watching someone you love suffer from addiction.

Stop enablement as soon as possible.

  • Stop enabling your parent immediately. Don’t give them money, don’t make excuses for them, and don’t do their chores or clean their house.
  • Don’t cover for your parent’s addiction by caring for their children or pets. This will only extend the problem and could also put you in danger.
  • This should be obvious but don’t drink or use drugs with them.
  • Don’t encourage them to hang out with people who drink and use drugs.
  • Don’t encourage any type of toxic behavior.
  • Invite them to do things that don’t involve drinking or getting high.

Recognize a co-dependent relationship and get out of it.

If you suspect that your parent is having problems with drugs or alcohol, there are ways you can help. But first, recognize that even if your parent seems happy and has no apparent problems, they might have other issues going on in their life. For example, if they’re struggling with addiction, they may try to hide it from you because they don’t want to worry or burden you by talking about it.

Perhaps they have ingrained their habits so deep into their lifestyle that they see nothing wrong with it. Maybe they show no signs of wanting to change or be better. The important thing to keep in mind is that it is not your responsibility to save everyone. All you can do is be there for them, especially when they want to open up and talk about what is going on in their life.

Mentioning your concern is good but know that it could cause a dispute as your parent might take offense to you mentioning the obvious. Don’t worry, this is normal and you’re not doing anything wrong by pointing out that you’re concerned and want them to be more mindful about their choices so they can live a long, happy, and healthy life.

Individuals are likely to take advance and overstep boundaries with people closest to them because they are in desperate need of help and don’t know where to turn or what to do. The trouble is when they become co-dependent on you for every little thing in their life. That is something you need to pay close attention to so you don’t get sucked in through manipulation and games of guilt. Stand your ground and protect yourself by having solid boundaries.

Set boundaries with your parent, and don’t be afraid to enforce them.

  • Set boundaries that you are comfortable with.
  • Enforce them when necessary.
  • Your parent may be dealing with withdrawal symptoms when they first get sober, so prepare yourself for this and make sure they understand your boundaries before enforcing them; as difficult as it might be at times, try not to let your frustration get in the way of supporting your parent’s recovery process. Remind them to reach out to their therapist or doctor.
  • Live your own life and show up for yourself. Don’t slip on your responsibilities.
  • Lead by example. Show them how much more fun and enjoyable life is without drugs and alcohol. Show them how a prosperous life is achievable through sobriety by doing it yourself.

Help them find an effective treatment program.

By now you probably realize, you’re parent should definitely enroll in a treatment program. Here at Passages, we have everything your parent needs to successfully recover from substance abuse and get back on their feet. One of the best aspects of treatment at Passages is our non-12-Step treatment approach along with a vast variety of holistic healing methods that your parent can discover and heal their underlying conditions.

The Passages Difference

  • Holistic treatment philosophy
  • Non-12 Step
  • 60-80 hours of one-on-one holistic treatment
  • Highly experienced therapists and physicians
  • Cutting-edge treatment modalities
  • Strong focus on treating the underlying conditions that cause dependency
  • Your treatment program will be designed specifically to your needs
  • Top-level detox process – 24/7 nursing with an addictionologist MD
  • We do not subscribe to the disease concept of addiction
  • We do not use degrading labels like addict or alcoholic to define you
  • Five-star amenities including well-appointed suites, a gourmet chef, an ocean-view pool, hot tub, tennis court, and a fully-equipped fitness center
  • Rated “The Number One Rehab in the World” by HealthCare Global
  • Addiction Ends Here®

It can be hard when a parent struggles with addiction, but you can’t solve their problems for them – all you can do is take care of yourself, set boundaries, and offer support if they want it.

You can be your parent’s biggest advocate by encouraging and empowering them to be the best version of themselves, without drugs and alcohol. Live by example and show them how wonderful sobriety is. Never blame yourself for their problems and do your best not to absorb any kind of guilt by not living up to some sort of expectation they have for you.

  • Don’t blame yourself. Your parents are responsible for their actions and decisions.
  • Don’t enable it. It’s important to set boundaries and let your parents know that certain behaviors aren’t acceptable. If they keep overstepping your boundaries, don’t hesitate to get professional help from a therapist or counselor specializing in substance abuse issues.
  • Don’t ignore the problem. Ignoring it won’t make it go away; ignoring it will only worsen things as time passes (which is bad news for everyone).
  • Don’t feel sorry for them or take responsibility for their problems; instead, focus on taking care of yourself so that you are strong enough to handle whatever comes your way.
  • Encourage them to get professional, non-12-Step therapy at Passages Addiction Treatment centers and experience holistic healing and lasting sobriety.


Take care of yourself, and remember that no one can save your parent from addiction but themself. They have to want help. All you can do is be supportive, loving, and encouraging. You can’t make them stop using drugs or alcohol, but you can help guide them in the right direction. The most important thing is to stay strong for yourself and your family. Hope is always on the horizon. There are better days ahead if you believe there are. Stay hopeful and stay positive.

Non-12-Step Addiction Rehab at Passages

Passages Malibu is an alternative to traditional rehab that provides a holistic, client-centered approach to addiction treatment. Find lasting healing through our model of care and experiential therapies. You will uncover the root causes of your addiction, and we will provide you with tools for lifelong sobriety and change. We can help you turn your life around and find hope again. Call (888) 397-0112 today for more information.

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