By Teresa Greenhill

For many people, the holidays are a time filled with joy. They get to look forward to seeing friends and family and celebrate the traditions they love. However, for some people, this time of year can be stressful. The rapidly growing opioid epidemic in America means more and more families are strained because of drug addiction. Of all the demographics in this epidemic, one of the more surprising ones includes seniors.

Having a senior aged parent suffer from addiction is difficult. You feel like you need to take care of them, but you also don’t want to be an enabler. You can feel angry and resentful, but also guilty because you know your parent is suffering. These feelings are understandable after all addiction is a disease that affects the entire family.

Addiction Treatment

If you are already considering how to rebuild your relationship with your parent, hopefully, they have already done the necessary steps to begin their recovery journey. There are a few core principles of effective addiction treatment:

  • Addiction is a complex, but curable, disease.
  • There is no one-size-fits-all treatment.
  • Addicts need treatment to be readily available.
  • Treatment should work on the multiple needs of an individual.
  • Methods should be modified to meet a person’s changing needs.

If your parent is admitted into a treatment program, they may also test them for various communicable diseases, monitor their medications, and put them through medically assisted detoxification. They may also be evaluated for mental illness– individuals who do not have their mental illnesses treated are more likely to develop other chronic medical conditions like addiction.

Taking Responsibility

One of the keys to addiction recovery is taking responsibility. As humans, we have free will to make the decisions that shape our lives. Despite this, addicts often refuse to take responsibility for their actions. That’s what programs that “allow the abdication of self-responsibility” are so popular, yet so ineffective. Successful recovery relies on the individual making the choice to reclaim power over their lives… but that choice cannot be made if the person refuses to recognize that they made the choice to lose power in the first place.

Communication with Intention

If you want to re-establish a bond with your parent, approach communication with that intention. Doing this will help you avoid normal pitfalls like falling into a blame game, letting your emotions get the best of you, or avoiding listening when you should be. You know your parent better than almost anyone else, so use your intimacy to shape your mindset. Knowing your audience helps you communicate more effectively and compassionately. When you are overcome with strong emotions, take that as a signal to think about whatever triggered it instead of immediately reacting. Finally, be detached from the outcome of a given conversation. This will help you be more open and honest while establishing a true bond. Following guidelines for healthy communication can make conversations more productive, even if they are painful.

Pain and Compassion

There are many roads to addiction, but many people get on these roads as a way to escape trauma in their past. Addicts are encouraged to tap into these experiences while in recovery in order to confront them and move forward. However, for children of addicts, it can be difficult to accept a parent’s traumatic past. It’s easier to focus on how the addiction added to their own traumatic experiences. Practice compassion when working to rebuild a relationship with an addict. Holding on to bitterness and resentment does nothing for you personally– and it definitely won’t help in the process of re-establishing a bond.

When a parent is an addict, it strains their relationships with their children. In order to rebuild these relationships, they need to seek treatment for their addiction while taking responsibility for their actions. Effective communication is necessary in order to re-establish a bond, but the child should also recognize their parent’s pain and practice compassion in order to get there.

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Teresa Greenhill

Teresa is the co-creator of MentalHealthForSeniors.com, which is dedicated to providing seniors with information on physical and mental fitness so that they can be active and happy in their golden years.

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