Addiction has a devastating impact on more than the addict. Friends and family suffer a lot of mental and emotional pain during a loved one’s addiction as well. Among them, however, no one seems to suffer more than the addict’s children. More than 23.5 million American adults struggle with addiction every year, but more than 28 million children grow up in addicted homes. Of them, 17 million are now adults themselves with a new dilemma to face: forgiveness. Making amends with an addicted loved one can be challenging, but forgiving a drug-addicted parent might feel impossible.
Facing Your Drug-Addicted Parents as an Adult
Growing up in a household tainted by addiction can have a significant influence on children. After all, children with drug-addicted parents face situations that no one should have to at such an early age. Even worse, children of addicts may suffer physical or emotional abuse. Forgiving drug-addicted parents is not always straightforward, especially for children who suffered much during their upbringing. If you grew up with one or more drug-addicted parents, you might have struggled with your own problems. You may even still be struggling. So, as you work through your issues and traumas as an adult, you may be wondering if you should forgive your parents or if it’s even possible. Before you make any decisions, you should understand what forgiveness actually is.
What Does It Mean to Show Forgiveness?
There are a lot of misconceptions surrounding what it means to show forgiveness. Although it may seem like the person receiving forgiveness is the one who benefits, this isn’t the case. In fact, the person offering forgiveness is the one who profits the most. This is part of the reason why showing forgiveness is more of a personal choice than anything else.
Forgiveness is a Conscious Effort to Let Go
When someone hurts you, as a drug-addicted parent might have, you might hang on to the pain. Then, over time, those feelings fester and build until they become anger and resentment. This happens a lot for loved ones of addicts. Letting go of all those negative feelings through forgiveness might be difficult, but doing it will help you more than the person you’re forgiving. By letting go, you won’t be held down by draining feelings anymore. Your adult life doesn’t have to be dictated by feelings that only hurt you.
Forgiveness DOES NOT Mean Waiting For or Responding to An Apology
Most people seem to think that forgiveness is only warranted (or deserved) if the person in the wrong offers an apology first. This idea, however, isn’t a rule and it shouldn’t be. When it comes to addiction, many people who struggle don’t accept that they have a problem, let alone that they’re hurting anyone else. So, how can you expect an apology from someone so blinded by denial? If someone has wronged you, you can’t wait for an apology. The sad truth is that you may never get one. Instead, you should make a conscious effort to forgive the person who hurt you, even if it’s a drug-addicted parent.
Forgiveness is an Effort to Understand
If you suffered any trauma during your childhood because of your drug-addicted parents, you might have trouble forgiving them, and you’re not alone. Many adult children of addicts have difficulty forgiving their parents for a variety of reasons. While some of them suffered neglect, others endured emotional or even physical abuse at the hands of their drug-addicted parents. These traumas may have also led to other problems later in life. Still, letting go of negative feelings is a large part of finding forgiveness. So, you may have to address all the painful experiences you had as a child to face your drug-addicted parents. Doing this won’t be easy, but it starts with making an effort to understand the whole story of what was happening during your parents’ addiction. By gathering a better sense of understanding, you’ll be able to forgive your parents and move on with your life.
Forgiveness DOES NOT Mean Accepting Poor Behavior or Treatment
Making an effort to understand the whole story behind your traumas doesn’t invalidate your feelings. You don’t have to accept or excuse something to understand it. However, viewing things from an addicts perspective will help you better understand what was going through your parents’ minds whenever their addiction drove their actions. It’s highly likely that they were not intentionally trying to hurt you. In fact, poor behavior is a side effect of addiction brought on by chemical changes in the brain, much like any other mental disorder. So, the more you learn about the addiction and understand what it did to your parents, the easier it becomes to reach a place where you can forgive them.
Forgiveness is a Process of Dealing with Unresolved Feelings
As a child, you probably had little to no power in situations that involved your parents’ drug abuse. As an adult, you’re now at risk of developing an addiction of your own due to a variety of factors, including your parents’ drug abuse. So, it’s understandable that you might have developed a sense of anger, shame, or even guilt. However, these and other negative feelings are some of the biggest roadblocks when it comes to moving forward. Forgiveness aside, holding onto unresolved feelings of anger, resentment, fear, or anything else that holds you back will only hurt you in the long run. So, even if you feel that you can’t forgive your parents just yet, you should at least try to process all the unresolved anger. Once you work past it and other painful emotions, you’ll be better equipped to move forward and, eventually, forgive your drug-addicted parents.
Forgiveness DOES NOT Mean Making Peace with the Person Who Wronged You
The philosophy of forgive and forget is one of the most misleading and potentially harmful ones that exist today. Showing forgiveness does not you have to turn the other cheek. It certainly doesn’t mean that you have to make up with the people who wronged you, either. Forgiving others for hurting you should not be an opportunity for them to do it again if they haven’t changed. After all, forgiveness isn’t a justification or an excuse for the wrongdoing? it’s a response to it. Remember, forgiveness is more about you than the people you forgive, even if those people are your parents.
How to Forgive Your Drug Addicted Parents
Not everyone deserves forgiveness, and you might decide that your drug-addicted parents don’t. Still, that doesn’t mean you don’t deserve to move forward. There are a lot of reasons to show forgiveness, and none of them have anything to do with absolving your parents. After all, your responsibility is to yourself and your well-being. So, forgiving them for the harm they’ve done to you is something you can and should do for yourself. It takes the weight off your shoulders and offers a long-needed sense of relief. Your parents may not deserve your forgiveness, but you owe it to yourself to at least try, for your own sake.
Look Back on What Your Experiences Have Taught You
Whatever poor treatment you received from your drug-addicted parents growing up is inexcusable. This won’t change, even if you decide to forgive them. Still, every dark cloud has a silver lining. All of your experiences in life have taught you something, so ask yourself: What did I learn from my situation?
Take a step back and reflect on how even your unfortunate circumstances helped shape you into the adult you are today. Looking at yourself and your life this way can help you better appreciate the personal growth and wisdom you’ve gained from the hardships you’ve faced. Once you do that, you’ll have a better idea of whether or not to forgive your drug-addicted parents.
Give Yourself the Time You Need
Not every wound is physical. Emotional pain needs time to heal, too. If you’re conflicted about whether or not to forgive your parents for the pain they caused you, then it’s possible that your wounds are still too fresh. So, give yourself time to heal. You’re allowed to feel hurt, confused, or angry. Anger isn’t necessarily a negative emotion, but be careful not to let it boil over into resentment or depression. Those are the kinds of feelings that can have a lasting negative impact on your well-being.
Ask for Professional Help
Navigating forgiveness isn’t something you have to handle by yourself. In fact, when it comes to healing from drug addiction, it’s better to talk to a professional about what you’re thinking and feeling. Many support groups exist for loved ones of addicts, and most rehab facilities offer family services as well. If one or both of your parents are in recovery, you may even benefit from talking to a counselor or therapist with them. In any case, you can always turn to friends and other loved one for help.
Wipe the Slate Clean
As you might already know firsthand, addiction comes with a long list of problems that add up to more than just poor health. During active addiction, your parents might have struggled with employment, finances, legal issues, debt, or worse. If one or both of them are in recovery, this is the chance to offer a clean slate. You don’t have to forget the pain they’ve caused you. You don’t even have to tell them outright that you forgive them or not. Still, moving forward will benefit everyone. Reminding yourself or your parents of their past mistakes will only hold you back and potentially hinder their recovery.
Forgiveness Isn’t About Your Drug Addicted Parents; It’s About You
An important thing to remember about forgiveness is that it’s not a singular action or event. Instead, it’s a state of mind. And, since it’s an internalized feeling, it’s connected to your health in a number of ways. In fact, practicing forgiveness is beneficial for both your emotional and physical health.
Multiple studies have shown that finding and showing forgiveness can:
- Reduce stress
- Ease depression
- Lower blood pressure
- Decrease your risk of heart disease
- Diminish your susceptibility to addiction
Showing forgiveness to your drug addicted parents also has emotional benefits. It can improve your ability to form healthy relationships. You might even be able to develop a better relationship with your parents once they receive the help they need. It’s entirely up to you.
Addiction Treatment and Recovery Counseling
Forgiveness isn’t an instinctive action. It’s a choice, and it’s a healthy one that benefits you more than anyone else. If you can find forgiveness for your drug-addicted parents, then you can find a much-deserved peace of mind for yourself.