Millions of people have issues with drug and alcohol use. That includes mothers. It’s not always easy to communicate with a parent suffering from drug addiction. It can often be challenging to understand why they act the way they do and what you can do about it. First and foremost, it’s important to understand that addiction is not a choice.
It’s not as simple as just choosing to stop. Recovery from addiction is a process and can’t be done alone. If your mother is living with an addiction, then she has options, and so do you.
Effects of Parental Drug Use
The effects of parental drug use are wide-ranging. Here are the most common effects:1
- Fractured relationships
- Causes poor mental health in the children, partners, and extended family of a person with addiction
- Life-long psychological changes in the child
- Fractured families
Signs Your Mother May Be Addicted
If your mothers addicted to substances, that means a physical dependence has formed. There will be certain signs to validate your suspicions. These are the most common signs of addiction:
Changes in Behavior
Addiction is an all-consuming process. Addiction makes people act differently from who you know them to be. There are changes in sleep patterns and memory and decreased interest in hobbies, work, and relationships. Your mother may have mood swings, irritability, and angry outbursts. Any long-term goals may be abandoned or rarely pursued. She may also forget family traditions and important dates.
Gaps in Time
Substance abuse takes time. Obtaining drugs, taking drugs, and coming down from a high can take hours. Often a mother addicted to drugs will be ashamed of the addiction and try to hide it. Addiction can cause mom to begin showing up late, blowing events off, or becoming unreachable for hours.
Drug addiction is expensive. Unless there is significant wealth, the cost of drugs or alcohol will begin to cut a hole in the bank account. There’s a good chance your parent may start asking for small loans, selling items, or stop paying their bills entirely to fund the addiction.
Physical Changes That Point to Addiction
Addiction affects the body in several noticeable ways. Regardless of age, body type, or general levels of health, these changes are unavoidable. If your mother is addicted, they will have more than one of these common physical changes.
- Sudden weight changes: Whether gaining or losing.
- Dry, brittle skin: This includes scabs from picking skin, beginning to bruise-easily, skin sagging, or change in complexion.
- Poor hygiene: Drug addiction changes what a person feels is important. Showering, dental hygiene, and clean clothes may not seem important to the person when drug addiction is present.
- Jitters: Your mom may have uncharacteristically high energy, twitches, or is just unable to stay still.
- Thinning hair and nails: Patchy hair, receding hairlines, and brittle nails can be a symptom of addiction.
- Driving under the influence: Your mother may attempt to drive while high. Even once is not ok and is a sign of addiction.2
Your mother may downplay the situation with phrases like, “I’ve only had a few” or “We’re not going far.” Driving under the influence puts a lot of lives in danger. Seek additional help when possible should this occur.
Detecting Drug Use
Addiction, like any disease, is best caught early. If possible, encourage your mother to visit a doctor for a general check-up to rule out any other medical reasons for the signs we’ve mentioned. Remember to take note of the changes to establish consistency.
All of this can be overwhelming, especially when you have work or school of your own. It’s normal to become stressed out or even angry with your mother for causing these changes. But remember, addiction is not a choice, and you don’t have to do this yourself.
Discussing the Drug Use with Your Father
If you have an open relationship with your father, then reach out to him. Share your feelings, suspicions, and evidence as best you can. By bringing it to his attention, you can help open the door to a wider range of treatment options.
Talking with Your Sibling
Discussing your mother’s addiction with a sibling can be tricky. Especially if you’re an older sibling breaking the news to a brother or sister who may be younger. Should this scenario be true, then remember to explain addiction’s consequences to your younger sibling in a place where they feel safe. Encourage dialogue by asking them how they feel, answering questions as best you can, and being patient as they come to grips with the information.
The reverse, a younger sibling, explaining the drug addiction to an older sibling, may require more persistence. Often, younger siblings are ignored. Continue to bring your concerns up to an older sibling, but should this fail, then there are other options.
Finding a Trusted Friend or Family Member
It’s normal to feel isolated if your father or sibling is unable or unwilling to listen to your concerns. Suppose you’re unable to communicate your concerns with your father or sibling. In that case, it’s time to speak with a friend or family member, preferably an adult or the parent of a close friend.
When to Say Something at School
Alerting a teacher or other adult at school can be the source of a mixed bag of emotions. You may feel any number of anxiety-riddled thoughts. However, feeling this way is normal, and rest assured that by alerting a school official, you’re doing all you can to help your mother recover from addiction.
If you feel the most comfortable talking to a school official before your family or friends, then that’s fine too.
Support for the Courage to Speak Out
You are not alone. No matter how isolated you feel, there are support groups all around you. This can be family, friends, trusted adults, and even trained medical professionals. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration, a government program, offers 24/7 support at 1-800-662-HELP.