Do Addicted Parents Always Raise Addicted Children?
Addicted parents don’t intentionally set out to harm their children. They are simply caught up in the compulsion of their disease. They can’t control their addiction any more than a person who has cancer or diabetes can simply choose not to have their disease any more. Compulsion to use drugs even when children or other loved ones are getting hurt is the nature of the addiction beast.
What happens to children when one or both parents are drug addicts? There are many forms of harm that come to children of addicts. They could be victims of violence or neglect. There may be an impact on them financially, and they may live without things other children take for granted because their parent is consistently choosing drugs over them. They may be exposed to substances themselves, either in utero or by being around smoky rooms or near drugs that have been carelessly left lying around. Many addicts strive to be good parents in spite of their addictions, but the fact remains that drugs are affecting the lives of both parents and children.
Are children of addicts doomed to become drug addicts themselves? What about addicted parents who make a decision to get sober either before or after their children are born? Can the parent’s choice to stop using drugs end the cycle of addiction for future generations?
This brings up the question of what really causes addiction. It’s a question similar to which came first - the chicken or the egg? What causes addiction - primarily genetics, or environment? The development of addiction is caused by a complex combination of factors. But which factor is most important when it comes to passing on addictive tendencies from parent to child? This is a controversial topic, and experts often disagree on the answer. It is known that a child of an addict is more likely to become an addict. What no one knows is exactly why.
If addiction is caused solely by genetics, the implication is that all children of drug addicts will become addicts themselves, which is not the case. Addicted parents with more than one child frequently find that while one child may show addictive tendencies, another will not. While one child may become an addict, the other goes on to have a responsible job and a normal life. These siblings shared both genetics and environment, but not the fate of active addiction.
Addicts in Recovery and Their Children
Once drug addicts decide to ask for help and get sober, they may begin to feel a great deal of remorse about how their addiction may have harmed their children. Changing the past is never an option, and there are no clear answers about whether children of addicts turn to addiction because they learned the behavior from their parents, or whether they would have developed the disease of addiction on their own for genetic reasons or another combination of reasons not fully understood.
Dwelling on things that can’t be changed carries no benefit for recovering addicts. The past can’t be changed and neither can genetics. Making a decision to be sober and the best parent you can be today is the best gift that you can give your child. Living a happy, useful, sober life and cultivating coping skills for dealing with problems without picking up a drink or a drug are important lessons to pass on to children.
Parents who are addicts don’t always raise children who are addicts. Some children will be able to make better choices by learning from their parents’ mistakes. Most will benefit from the example set by parents who choose to get sober. Others will have to find their own path, just as their parents have to find theirs.