Life can be very difficult when you live with a mother who has substance use disorder or addiction. This is true especially if you’re a teen or even younger. You’ll find out that soon, it’s not the mother that’s taking care of her child–but it’s the other way around.
You may feel a mix of different, overwhelming feelings: pain, betrayal, hopelessness, shame, embarrassment, are just a few.
However, there are ways to make life easier and better for you and your mother, as well as for the rest of your family.
How to deal with a mother with substance use disorder
1. Watch out for abuse. If you have younger kids or siblings in the household, they are at a high risk for being neglected, maltreated, and abuse when a parent has substance use disorder. If your mother is addicted to drugs or alcohol, for example, you have to watch out for physical, emotional, or verbal abuse, especially when she’s under the influence. Don’t hesitate to report to authorities any abuse before they get out of hand, as they may soon will if left unreported.
2. Think: Safety first. Even if your mother is under the influence or she is in danger, don’t forget your own safety as well as that of your family members. If she puts you or anyone in your family in any danger, go to a safe place or seek help from other family members, neighbors, friends, or authorities.
3. Avoid confrontations and arguments when she’s under the influence. When she’s high or intoxicated, her mind is not thinking straight. There is no use reasoning out with her or provoking her. She may be easily aggressive and may even resort to violence when angered. If you want to talk to her about her habits, pick a time and place where she will not feel threatened. Make sure she’s also sober enough to understand what you want to say.
4. Find healthy outlets. Living with an addicted mother can be overwhelming. Many times, you’ll feel upset, angry, or frustrated and this can take a toll on your own well-being and peace of mind. Instead of taking things out on your mother or on your other family members, consider healthy outlets like exercising, meditating, journaling, finding a hobby, or even just simply going out for a walk. It also helps to talk to a trusted confidante for perspective and for letting off steam.
5. She’s responsible for her own actions. When you’re young, it’s easy to fall into the belief that it’s your fault that your mother is like that. Truth is, it’s not. While your mother may have put her addiction over her responsibilities as a parent, you have to remember to keep healthy boundaries. It’s not healthy for you to keep picking up the pieces for her.
6. Encourage her to seek help. The best thing you can do for her is to make her see that there is something wrong with her because of her addiction. Using constructive criticism and by trying to avoid blaming, make her see how much her addiction has hurt you and your family. Be open and let her know how you feel. Encourage her to seek help so that she can get on the first step to change.
Over the years, we at Bridges of Hope have helped families struggling with an addicted family member, and this includes mothers. Addiction can steal away your mother from you and from your family. With treatment and rehabilitation, you can take back your family and help your mother find the help she badly needs.