Helping an Addicted Parent in Pennsylvania: How to Cope With the Role Reversal

You’ve probably heard the saying that addiction never affects just one person. Even if just one person in the family has a substance use disorder, the entire family will be affected. Unfortunately, addiction can destabilize both work and family life, wreaking havoc in every relationship. To make matters worse, it’s usually the loved ones of the addicted individual who suffer the most. Realizing that a family member is struggling with addiction and not knowing how to help them can be truly agonizing. This can be particularly difficult for children of addicted individuals since it’s usually the parent’s job to be responsible. As a child of someone with addiction, know that you are not alone and that help is available. Little Creek Recovery in Pennsylvania can help your parent overcome their addiction. In this article, we will discuss helping an addicted parent in Pennsylvania: how to cope with role reversal.

Addicted parent yelling at child.
Growing up in a home with substance use can be traumatic.

How Addiction Affects Families

Addiction is a progressive disease that will undoubtedly get worse over time. Individuals with addiction generally build a tolerance requiring them to use more to achieve the same high. This behavior can have catastrophic effects on a person’s well-being. Prolonged drug or alcohol use can have a lasting impact on a person’s physical and mental health.

Sometimes there is a false sense of hope in families where a parent is suffering from addiction. Things might not be that bad, your parent still loves you, and they might even hold a steady job. In reality, you probably have a warped perception of what a functional family looks like. The casual use of drugs or alcohol by addicted parents can traumatize children, causing depression, anxiety, and many other disorders.

Unfortunately, what your parent is going through isn’t a phase. We realize that living in a home with an addicted parent is traumatizing, but there are resources to help you. However, you must realize that you can’t wait for it to be over. Your parent won’t be able to stop using drugs or alcohol, and things will only get worse as time goes on. Even when individuals with addiction try to stop using, they are likely to relapse due to withdrawal symptoms and cravings. Addicts need to get help from a licensed rehabilitation center to have a chance to overcome their addiction. Thankfully, with the proper support, lifelong sobriety is possible.

If you are thinking of helping an addicted parent in Pennsylvania, you must realize that family plays a vital role in the recovery process. You might be able to convince your parent to seek treatment and enter a rehab facility. Family members can also support individuals going through recovery and help them maintain their sobriety after they complete rehab.

What is Role Reversal

In a normal and healthy family, the parent is the one caring for the child. Every parent’s responsibility is to provide shelter, support, and a loving environment for their children. Whereas in families where one or both parents suffer from addiction, they are usually unable to care for their children. Instead, the burden of care and responsibility often falls on the children themselves. Unlike in typical families, helping an addicted parent in Pennsylvania can include cleaning up after a night of drinking or getting a job to support the family. Sometimes, this ‘help’ goes beyond simple household chores and becomes emotional care for the addicted parent. These typical examples of role reversal go beyond a healthy parent-child relationship.

Regardless of how much you and your parent love each other, that can’t get them to quit their addiction. You must understand that this is not your failing. This is simply the power that addiction holds over affected individuals. However, your support, encouragement, and understanding can help your parent to take rehab seriously. Above all, you must realize that it is not your responsibility to help your parents overcome addiction. They are adults who are responsible for their actions and the resulting consequences. Experts classify addiction as a mental disorder, and people with substance use disorder may have impaired decision-making skills. You can offer help to enter rehab, but it is up to them to make the most of that opportunity. Even professional clinicians and counselors can merely point the way to recovery. Ultimately, getting better is always up to the individual in question.

Helping an Addicted Parent in Pennsylvania often involves doing household chores.
Children often have to do most of the household chores.

The Effects an Addicted Parent Has on Children

Starting from an early age, parents have a tremendous impact on their children. There have been numerous studies on nature vs. nurture. Regardless of what individual psychologists favor as more dominant in development, parents’ influence on their children is undeniable. Whether we want to, we are all shaped by our parents. They are the ones who teach us what love is and what caring for someone means. Sadly, in families where one or both parents suffer from addiction, love and affection can become warped. Parents with addiction sometimes demand unhealthy expressions of their children’s devotion.

Children from homes where substance use is present have a higher chance of developing a substance use disorder themselves. Such children are also likely to:

  • Problems in school. Grades will frequently drop, and children may have attendance issues.
  • Confidence and self-esteem issues. Addicted parents will often demean children, ruining their self-esteem.
  • Trouble entering and maintaining a relationship. Children from households with substance use may have difficulty finding partners for themselves and entering loving relationships.
  • Emotional and behavioral problems. There is a higher risk of developing anxiety or depression.
  • Early drug and alcohol use. Children that witness parents abusing substances usually start experimenting with drugs or alcohol sooner than their peers.

How to Cope With Role Reversal

In most cases, children that face role reversal, and end up caring for their parents, are forced to mature quickly. Instead of having a carefree childhood, parents often overstep emotional boundaries and groom their children to become their caretakers. However, most children aren’t ready for such responsibilities. Having to care for an addicted parent will impede their emotional growth and will leave them lacking the necessary social skills.

Child researching about helping an addicted parent in Pennsylvania.
There are resources online to help you learn self-care.

Practice Self Care

If you’re helping an addicted parent in Pennsylvania, your best course of action is to work on your personal growth. It would be best if you didn’t focus your life only on caring for your parent. Instead, try to find the strength to care for yourself and live your best life. We realize this is much easier said than done, but you can start with small self-care steps. Try some of the following:

  • Keep a journal where you are free to express your thoughts and feelings.
  • Have a list of emergency numbers you can call in case of a family or health crisis.
  • Spend time with friends who make you feel good about yourself.
  • Learn a new skill or hobby; find an activity you are good at and spend time practicing it.

There are situations where, due to addiction, the home living situation becomes violent or unsafe. It can be challenging to get past the fears and insecurities holding you back and gather the courage to act. However, we highly recommend finding help. Look for an adult who you trust to confide in. Tell them how you feel and ask if they are willing to help. Unfortunately, in extreme cases, your only recourse is to call the police. Above all else, remember the 7 C’s:

I didn’t Cause it. I can’t Control it. I can’t Cure it, but I can help take Care of myself by Communicating my feelings, making healthy Choices, and Celebrating me.

How to Recognize Signs of Addiction

Often, individuals with addiction will deny that anything is wrong. For a while, they may even be able to function alongside substance use. Nonetheless, the addiction will progress sooner or later, and they will show signs of abuse in the workplaceAddiction might lead to poor job performance or even termination.

It is even possible for addicts to fool their family members and keep their addiction hidden for a while. Individuals with substance use disorder will lie to avoid confronting the reality that they have an addiction. One of the best ways of helping an addicted parent in Pennsylvania is to look for signs of addiction. We can group the signs that your parent might be addicted into two broad categories – behavioral and physical.

Behavioral signs:

  • Disregard for others. They are not thinking about the care and safety of others, including their children.
  • Evasive behavior. Most addicts attempt to hide their drug use.
  • Lack of control. Poor impulse control and violent outbursts are common for addicts.
  • Obsessive behavior. Once addiction takes hold of an individual, it becomes their main priority in life.

Physical signs of general drug and use:

  • Changes in the eyes enlarged or reduced pupils and bloodshot eyes.
  • Loss of appetite and weight fluctuations.
  • Irregular sleeping patterns, being awake at night, and constantly drowsy during the day.
  • Lack of coordination and poor motor skills.

Helping an Addicted Parent Come to Terms With Their Addiction

Even if you know for certain that your parent is using drugs or alcohol, confronting them might be difficult. If you plan to talk to your parent about their drug or alcohol addiction, we suggest preparing in advance. Think about what you want to say, write it down, and remember to note your feelings. When you confront your parent, they might get defensive, agitated, or angry. This will make it easy to lose track of what you want to say. Talk to them when they are sober and calm so that the conversation is productive.

We also highly recommend getting the help of another adult. This can be someone with experience talking to people with addiction, such as a doctor, nurse, counselor, or priest. If you are helping an addicted parent in Pennsylvania, you should know that Little Creek offers family intervention services. You can get the help of a professional to talk to your parent, and they can also prevent potential conflicts.

Different Types of Addiction

Addiction comes in many forms; however, they all pose a serious risk to physical and mental health. Of course, some forms of substance use are considered to be socially acceptable, such as alcohol. Despite being legal, alcohol can still lead to a serious addiction that they must treat.

On the other hand, it is possible to develop an addiction to prescription drugs. This type of addiction starts pretty innocently by getting prescription medication from a doctor for chronic pain or an injury. Unfortunately, over time, individuals can become dependent on the medication.

Some addictions start with recreational drug use, which might seem fun or manageable at the time. These can be particularly dangerous if they involve the use of heavy drugs such as heroin or cocaine. Thankfully, it is also possible to get addiction treatment for heroin and other opioids.

Man carrying crying child.
Parents suffering from addiction often have trouble caring for their children.

Helping an Addicted Parent in Pennsylvania Enter Rehab

If your parent is open to the idea of getting treatment for their addiction, you can help them enter rehab. Individuals suffering from substance use disorder frequently experience guilt and shame and have difficulty asking for help. Therefore, you can assist them by guiding them through the admissions process. Helping an addicted parent in Pennsylvania can even include contacting admissions staff on their behalf. You can contact our admissions staff, and we will be happy to explain all the details regarding rehab and treatment.

If you want your parent to attend Little Creek Rehabilitation Center in Lake Ariel, keep in mind that we only offer inpatient treatment for men. During inpatient treatment, individuals in rehab are required to stay in our treatment center. The length of stay is usually between 30 and 90 days.

Women can attend and participate in our co-ed outpatient treatment programs. These programs don’t include overnight stays at the Little Creek Lodge. Outpatient programs allow individuals with addiction to spend evenings and nights in their own homes. Some programs can even include family participation. We host family education workshops and counseling sessions that can prove to be beneficial for all the family members.

A common excuse individuals use to avoid entering rehab is having to pay for the cost of treatment. Luckily, Little Creek accepts coverage from most major health insurance providers. The Affordable Care Act includes substance use disorders as essential health benefits. Of course, there are differences between healthcare providers in terms of what is covered and for how long. If you are confused regarding which insurance we accept and what exactly is covered, feel free to contact us.

Parent and child watching sunset.
It is possible to maintain lifelong sobriety after attending rehab.

Helping an Addicted Parent in Pennsylvania After They Complete Rehab

Just because someone completes rehab doesn’t mean that there is no risk of them developing addiction again. Relapse is possible for all recovering addicts, and they need to be mindful of their cravings and addiction triggers. To help patients avoid and process their triggers constructively, we use the 12-step model in our rehabilitation program. Continually attending support group meetings is one of the best ways to maintain sobriety.

If one of your parents is a recovering addict, you can help them by reminding them to attend AA meetings. Create a schedule and support them to make meetings a regular part of their weekly routine. Additionally, helping an addicted parent in Pennsylvania can include getting educated on addiction triggers. Know their addiction triggers, and remove any addictive substances from the household.


There are many ways of helping an addicted parent in Pennsylvania; however, it would be best if you directed them to a rehabilitation center. It is not your responsibility to heal your parents; the choice to sober up and get better is theirs. Taking care of your parent alone can be a daunting task for any child. With that in mind, your parent’s best chance for recovery is with the help of professionally trained staff. Contact the Little Creek Recovery Center in Pennsylvania to inquire about getting treatment. We would love to help your parent get better.

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