Parents and Addiction – Facing the Holidays

relationships December 27, 2017 Teresa Greenhill

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Mending Fences: Reconnecting Over the Holidays With Parents Recovering From Addiction


Addiction can be described in many ways. A doctor will almost certainly define it differently than your next-door neighbor and your neighbor differently than your best friend. In any case, it doesn’t matter how someone else defines it. What’s important is managing it in the proper way, and this can be extremely difficult when those inflicted are the ones who raised you. Here is some advice to help reconnect during the holidays with parents going through addiction recovery.


The first steps toward mending fences with those recovering from an addiction are understanding what causes addiction. This, in turn, will help you better understand what you can do to support your loved ones through their recovery.


What causes addiction?


Addiction is different for every person, but there are a few common root causes. One of the causes is the pleasure derived from using. Many different types of drugs cause, as described on, a forceful surge of dopamine (a precursor of adrenaline) to the brain, and most users find themselves unable to stop after their first time due to these changes in the brain. Over time, users will begin to feel less pleasure with each dose and will begin to take more in order to reach the “high” that they’re accustomed to.


The search for pain relief is another root cause of addiction. Senior citizens are especially in danger of this form of addiction because of the many prescription drugs they must take every day to manage their pain. According to, prescription abuse often occurs when seniors take more medicine than what they are prescribed, take it when they don’t need it, or even accidentally take someone else’s medicine. Prescription abuse has grown exponentially in the past few years among older generations, and it is important to pay close attention to senior parents in order to avoid issues.


How can you help?


For parents dealing with addiction recovery, the holidays can be very difficult, especially if they haven’t been near their family in quite some time due to dealing with their addiction. They may think that everyone will be focusing on their past and that being with them will bring up many unwelcome memories. It’s best to take it slow and be patient so as to not upset them. Start by reaching out, talking to them as you would under normal circumstances and genuinely listening to them.


  • Offer non-judgemental support to senior parents so they can see that you genuinely want them to improve. If they’ve decided to go to group meetings, ask them how they’re going and tell them how proud you are that they’re able to talk about it with others.
  • Don’t compare one addiction to another. Everyone is different, and talking about a friend who improved from alcoholism in just two or three months may give your parent certain expectations and discourage him or her if the same goal isn’t reached in the same amount of time.
  • Make them laugh. Addiction is definitely not a laughing matter, but sometimes the first step toward improving someone’s life is making him or her remember that there are some things worth smiling about, and a sense of humor can get you through tough situations.


When the holidays come around, people tend to stress about having to get together with their families, and this definitely will apply to parents just entering addiction recovery. Instead of focusing on the addiction during the holidays, focus on your parent’s recovery, and you’re sure to improve his or her self-esteem and, in turn, help patch your relationship.


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Teresa Greenhill

Teresa Greenhill is with Mental Health for Seniors

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