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Coping With an Addicted Parent

Jun 21, 2008
As told to Eileen DeClemente by her daughter Sara:

I don't feel that there is any right or wrong way to cope with parents who are alcoholics and drug addicts but I have found that people cope differently according to their needs and personalities. From the time that I was a child my coping mechanism was to be around all the time to take care of my mother and if I wasn't there than she was not going to be all right.

The most devastating day of my life was the day I was home with her and she had a seizure that I could not control. I had to call an ambulance and I was not able to take care of my mom then and I didn't know how I could help then. When she had the mild tremors and could not get up the stairs, my sister and I would help her get up the stairs when she needed to go to bed and no matter how bad they were, we were always there to help her get by so I knew I could fix the problem. When I went to school it scared me because I wasn't around to help mom out, so I would have to come home sick at least one day a week to make sure I am around to help.

Missy, my sister, and I had very different methods of coping and her method was to take care of me to make sure I was taken care of. I never realized that her method was caring for me until after my parents got sober and she didn't realize how I felt about being home to take care of my mom until then also. As kids we just were aware that our parents were not like other parents but we weren't very clear as to why they were so different.

Growing up with parents that constantly are under the influence of something was almost how we thought normal life was but until mom stopped using we never thought differently. I knew that it was not normal for her to act so ridiculously when we as kids wanted to find a specific candy and we couldn't so she drove 5 neighborhood kids around town after town for hours to find this specific candy just because we wanted it. Many parents did not want their children in a car with my mom but she hid exactly what she was doing from everyone so no one could necessarily pin point exactly what was going on behind closed doors in the DeClemente household.

It made me sick to not be by my mother's side and not know what she was doing so I did everything in my power to ensure that I could be around. Even if I wasn't the one home and my sister was, I knew that mom would be fine because someone was around to care for her. I never did like it when dad was the one home with her because they usually ended up getting in a fight and dad would leave so either Missy or I needed to be the ones at home. I struggled with making friends and playing with them every day because it took time away from my watching my mom so we would go play at my house most of the time so I could keep my eye on her and play with my friends at the same time. You wouldn't think that a 5 year old little girl paid that much attention to her mother and what really was going on but it forced us to grow up much quicker than others our age.

As I look back on my past I realize how tough it was but that we adjusted to a specific lifestyle that we really did not know any different so how else would we live? It really forced me to grow up much quicker but in the long run I think it has made me a much more responsible person. The take that I have in life in general is to avoid conflict and to try to fix other people's problems to make them happy and unfortunately it's a trait that I cannot lose. I have continued this trait throughout my childhood to my adulthood but I have learned how to healthily cope with the inability to care for my parents.

Throughout college I made weekly trips home to make sure that my mom was doing all right and as long as I could see her I had a peace of mind. She never was in need of anything or of any assistance but it made me feel better knowing that there was nothing more I could do.

As a young adult now, I know that I cannot fix my mom and dad but I can just be there to support them when they need me. I unfortunately inherited the worry trait from my mother so I worry about how they are doing constantly but I trust that they are going to be up front with me and tell me if they need my assistance rather than trying to figure out what I can do to fix the situation. I look at my childhood as a learning experience and that it helped me to grow into the person that I am today so taking a positive outlook on my life has helped me to keep a positive outlook on life in general.

There is no right or wrong way to cope with issues but it is the opportunity that you make it down the road for yourself. Keeping a positive outlook on the past, present and especially future can help anyone to stay positive and avoid the trap of falling into the same type of lifestyle that someone has grown up in. I very easily could have fallen into the trap of alcoholism or addiction but I realize how hard it was on our family and more importantly how my parents life style changed impacted my life and I want to live a full and eventful life in a positive environment. The love of a family member is enough to take one day at a time.
About the Author
Eileen DeClemente was 11 years old when she took her first drink. Alive is her courageous story of an addiction so consuming it nearly killed her and destroyed her family. To anyone who has ever battled an addiction, and to the people who have loved them. This story is for you, Eileen is Alive.
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