LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — Being addicted to a substance, whether it’s alcohol or drugs can disrupt a person’s life. But what people don’t always realize is that a parent’s addiction can deeply effect their child’s life as well.
“We start to see the consequences of that use far down the line when they get into their late teens and 20s,” Ryan Hogan, Drug and Alcohol Administrator for the Luzerne County Drug and Alcohol program, said.
That’s why there’s a whole week dedicated to children of addiction awareness. This year it’s February 9th through 15th.
“This goes out to parents this goes out to young people out there. Don’t hesitate to reach out. We’ve seen everything and we’re able to help you for any reason,” Hogan said.
Cammie Anderson, a drug and alcohol prevention education coordinator, says people don’t realize how many kids are impacted by a family member’s substance addiction. She tells me she spoke with a boy in high school whose mother was addicted to heroin, earlier on Monday.
“He had said to me ‘if I could restart my life, I would love to know what I would be like if my parents were still together and did not go down this road. And I did not you know have a mom who was not in my life because of her own addiction,’ Anderson said.”
Anderson says one of the main concerns the boy has is what he will be like as a parent.
“His struggle is that he really has a lot of pressure to make sure that he does not repeat this cycle,” she said.
Hogan says that it’s extremely common for kids who have a parent who is addicted to a substance to follow their parent’s behaviors. It’s often traumatizing for kids to witness their parent’s addiction, and that trauma can manifest in two ways. Either the child becomes introverted and unable to verbalize their emotions.
“They might try to live their life as well and orderly and organized as possible to avoid any kind of chaos to add to the already existing chaos in their lives,” Hogan said.
Or they might take an extroverted approach and lash out at people.
“They may tend to go towards deviant behavior maybe some criminal behavior. Maybe they’re having trouble in school or they’re acting out at school,” Hogan said.
Anderson says the youngest child in her case load was in second grade. One of the first steps to help kids dealing with such a traumatic experience is to validate the children’s emotions.
“We let them know is what ever they’re feeling. It’s okay to feel that. You can love your mom but hate her disease,” Anderson said.
She says it’s important that kids know that they are not alone. This week will include support group meetings to highlight the fact that there are resources available for kids to help kids in such situations.