Why are Some Homes Predictably Unpredictable?

27 Nov

When a parent is addicted to a substance, home life is often tense and unpredictable, and family members may either try to deny the addicts behaviour, make excuses for it, or attempt to control or stop it. For the one choosing to drink or drug, it’s hard to maintain rewarding healthy connections and be emotionally available.

So much time and energy gets gobbled up trying to either recover, obtain, use, and/or try to keep it secret. Addiction messes with mood and sleep and has personal, social, financial, health, relationship and even legal consequences. 

If one or both parents are emotionally or physically unavailable long term, children can develop a fear of abandonment and learn that holding onto toxic relationships is better than being alone. Drinking and/or drugging is also so boring to grow up around. When the “substance” of choice is the priority, the child isn’t, and that reaffirms their sense of  not really being worthy enough to get to know, listen to, learn about or have an in-depth relationship with.

Growing up around addiction, kids have to guess at what normal is. They are more subjected to chaos and drama, defensiveness, irrational behaviours, broken promises and even neglect. They develop a keen “radar” and know when things aren’t right, but out of misplaced loyalty, they would rather withdraw, keep secrets and/or rebel. As they get older and view more reasonable and acceptable ways of parenting, it can negatively highlight that they are “different” to others. The sense of powerlessness and helplessness that they experience, is inwardly distressing.

Children just want to be safe, loved and validated. They need safety and consistency.

Children need their parents to

  • be emotionally available to them
  • show them that gatherings can be safe and don’t have to be spoilt by extremes of behaviour
  • be a role model when it come to healthily coping with stress
  • model appropriate and safe behaviours
  • help them find some middle ground between being overly responsible or irresponsible
  • encourage them to set personal boundaries and affirm and reward their achievements
  • foster trust
  • aim for certainty and consistency
  • keep promises 
  • notice and reward appropriate seeking of attention
  • model clear thinking and acceptable expression of a range of emotions 
  • work alongside them in times of difficulty to help them calmly find creative solutions 
  • teach them the difference between acting and reacting
  • make wise choices, be moderate and practise kindness
  • surround them with good role models and show them that healthy, trusting, functional, interpersonal relationships are possible.

Rather than gear up for empty New Year Resolutions, if you think your drinking or drugging might have become an addiction and that addiction affects others, this is the time to be brave and take the first step; seek help. 

If you’re concerned your partner is using drugs and aren’t sure of the signs this site is helpful.

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