The Early Wounds Of Addiction
Growing up in a household infused with addiction, without a doubt can have a major impact on children. Kids of addicted adults find themselves in situations and with emotions that no one should have to deal with at an early age:
- Taking care of their parents when they are intoxicated, hungover or withdrawing
- Taking care of other siblings, to make sure food, clothes, and necessities are available
- Taking care of themselves beyond their years
- Enduring emotional or physical neglect
- Enduring emotional or physical abuse
- Withholding emotion
- Acting out
- Anxiety about speaking to a parent or adult
Because children are virtually powerless to manage or to stop these types of situations, or their parents’ behavior, they find it difficult to express themselves in a healthy way. Instead, they find themselves acting out their anger by getting into trouble at school or after school, or even reacting inwardly – covering up their anger with shame, guilt or low self-esteem.
Unresolved Issues, Unresolved Anger
It’s estimated that more than 28 million Americans are children of addicted parents – and roughly 17 million of those people are now adults themselves.
When a person is raised by a parent with a drug or alcohol addiction, they’re not only more prone to developing their own addictions, they also tend to grow up with unresolved issues and unresolved anger.
Holding on to unresolved anger and issues into adulthood can cause bitterness, mistrust, fear, anxiety, depression and resentment. Because adult children of addicted parents don’t always understand the depth of their pain and often carry the above burdens, they find it difficult to forgive and try to move forward in the relationship and in life.
The weight of anger and resentment in our hearts can hurt us, the child of addiction, more than it hurts the other person – our addicted parent. It’s like the old expression: “Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.”
There is no doubt that if you grew up in an addicted home, you faced an injustice. Forgiving a mother or father for their addiction and your childhood is difficult because they have caused damage in your life. You never experienced a “normal childhood” – as “normal” was only a pattern of chaos, instability, secrets, lies, shame, fear and possibly even neglect or abuse. You didn’t experience the opportunities and support that your friends did. You still fear being abandoned – and often require the approval of others. You may even have difficulty in expressing yourself because you are your own biggest critic.
Yes, it is completely understandable to wonder how you could ever forgive the adult who raised you to harbor these feelings. However, resentment lives within you day in and day out: Dwelling on how your addicted parent impacted your life negatively doesn’t help you move forward in your health, happiness or life. Resentment is toxic and it will hold you back.
Even if you’re unable to fully forgive at this point, releasing resentment will help you to heal.
Releasing resentment from a parent’s addiction runs much deeper than the surface. It often involves letting go of repeated wrong-doings – usually years and years worth of hurt. However, moving towards forgiveness and letting go of resentment of an addicted parent is possible.
How To Let Go
Understand that letting go of resentment means to release someone of the debt they owe you for the pain they caused.
Harboring a grudge is like allowing a destructive tenant into your home: He lives in your house, but tears it apart. Bottling up the resentment that you have for your parent or parents will do you more damage than good. While it is easier said than done, consciously making an effort to move on from those powerful, negative feelings and thoughts is the best thing for you. You can’t heal the past, you can’t heal your parent, but you can work on your own healing.
Think about what will happen to you if you continue to resent your parent.
When we let resentment infuse into our hearts and our minds, it’s echoed into our personalities and our characters. The pain that a parent caused in our lives can be felt through other relationships, through our friendships and jobs. When we don’t release our parents from the offenses that they caused, the effects stretch far beyond anything we can imagine. By choosing not to let go – as letting go and forgiving are a choice – we risk damages to ourselves.
Separate your parent from the addiction.
Understanding the disease of addiction will show you that your parent isn’t their addiction – and the addiction isn’t your parent: The addiction is what harmed you. The addiction is what caused you pain and suffering as a child. The addiction influenced your parent’s action and behavior. Your parent did not have control over this addiction – your mother or father was dealing with an illness.
With patience in the process, dealing with anger and resentment towards an addicted parent can eventually lead to self-confidence, healthier relationships and even a sense of relief and peace. Letting go of resentment is the one thing that will allow you to move towards a brighter future – and it starts with you, not your parent. You are worth the healing.