No matter how old we get, we can still feel like our parents’ children and fall safely into that role during our interactions with them in adulthood. Even after we’re all grown up with lives and families of our own, it’s easy to find ourselves adhering to our parents’ wishes and deferring to their instructions as our default position. All things being equal, this can be harmless gesture of respect for the people who raised us; however when this lingering dynamic starts to get in the way of our health or theirs, it becomes a problem. Many of us have been experiencing this more and more with the latent onset of our parents’ addiction.
As abuse of “regulated” drugs like prescription painkillers and benzodiazepines continue to rise, many of us are faced with having to confront an addicted parent. The traditional paradigms of substance abuse and addiction within the family (where the parent has to monitor the child) have been changing, and we are now in a climate in which addiction knows no age stereotype. In 2013, generic hydrocodone was the most prescribed drug under Medicare and approximately 170,000 seniors engage in doctor-shopping each year. This means that in thousands of families across America, adult sons and daughters are left with a choice: do nothing or intervene in their parents’ burgeoning substance abuse.
It can be jarring to think that the person who represented the embodiment of strength and stability when were growing up has fallen victim to any sort of addiction but we have look beyond the past so we can be more effective in getting help for our parents. The longer this goes on, the harder it will be to deny and we may find ourselves forced to take a more active role in our parents’ medical issues. This may mean accompanying them to the doctor, watching their pill intake closer and speaking frankly without about the onset of their substance abuse. This can be hard, particularly for those of us who now have our obligations, but it is necessary.
Many of us grew up with addicted parents and now know what to expect from their behavior. However, when we find ourselves having to suddenly deal with an aging parent’s drug or alcohol abuse, we may have to be prepared to be the parent ourselves and step in on their behalf.