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01-06 Growing up in shadows: Addicted parents raising teens

Posted in Addiction

Growing up in shadows: Addicted parents raising teens

Late most nights, Trevor’s dad walks in drunk and unruly, sits in his chair by the TV, yells at Trevor if he thinks something is wrong and then falls into a drunken slumber. What can Trevor do? He is just a 12-year-old, constantly worrying he causes his father to act this way or that he will anger his father if he brings up his concern. Trevor needs support, but has no idea how to get help.

More than just a single occurrence

Teens and children of addicted parents may not realize that they are not alone. The National Association for Children of Alcoholics, or NACA, finds more than 28 million Americans are children of alcoholics. February 8 -14 is also Children of Alcoholics Awareness Week.

NACA also finds, “Almost one in five adult Americans (18 percent) lived with an alcoholic while growing up.” The child of an alcoholic or drug-addicted parent will have trouble relating with other kids at school, not realizing that there are others out there who understand their situation.

Along with NACA, there are support groups and organizations to help those living with addicted parents. Most teenagers in this situation are unsure how to seek support. One such organization, which has groups throughout America is known as Alateen: a support group similar to Alcoholics Anonymous, offering support for teenagers with addicted parents or relatives.

“Alateen is part of the Al-Anon Family Groups; Al-Anon meetings are for anyone affected by someone else’s drinking,” the Alateen website explains. The Alateen meetings include:

  • Sharing experiences, strength and hope with each other.
  • Discussing difficulties and learning how to cope with problems.
  • Encouraging one another.
  • Helping each other understand the principles of the Al-Anon program.
  • Learning how to use the Twelve Steps and Alateen’s Twelve Traditions.

If an Alateen group is unavailable in a certain area, teenagers can seek support from other Al-Anon groups. These support groups allow a teenager to process what is happening with their parents and avoid mimicking similar habits.

Important notes to remember

In attempting to seek help for an addicted parent, teenagers need to remember a few key facts. offers a few tips for teenagers living with parents addicted to a substance. One thing a teenager must never do is assume it is his or her fault.

“You didn’t make them drink or use drugs, and unfortunately, you can’t make them stop either,” states, adding, “You didn’t cause the disease and you are not the problem.” For whatever reason, the parent(s) decided to become addicted, it is not the teenager’s fault.

A teenager in this situation, could not know what to do, who to turn to or where to even begin. “You can’t control what your parent does about his or her problem, but you can get help for yourself,” wisely explains. Teenagers can reach out to support groups, other family members, a teacher or call the 24/7 hotline from for support.

Teenagers do not need to hide in fear under their parent’s addiction. Calling the police is the best option, in a situation where a parent’s addiction can harm the teenager physically. By stepping into the light and seeking support, the teenager can find help for him or herself and eventually find help for the parent.

Sovereign Health of Rancho San Diego is dedicated to treating mental, behavioral and substance abuse issues in teenagers from ages 12 to 17 through personalized treatment methods. Patients receive proper rehabilitation while learning to identify the negative behaviors hindering treatment and are formidably equipped with therapies and cognitive tools to enhance mindfulness and craft a better life for themselves. Call our helpline, day or night, for details.

Written by Nick Adams, Sovereign Health Group writer

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