Let me put it this way… your children know what your addictions are. You are not successfully hiding it from them. Your words of advice to not do what you are doing fall on deaf ears. They already don’t trust you in this arena. But you do hold the key position of influence in their life, so you still have a chance.

Statistics on Addictions

It’s either you, or the next person who reads this article. A 2011 study found that nearly 1 in 2 US adults (47%) have some form of addictive process. It could be food, TV, working, drugs, love, alcohol, shopping, sugar, gambling, sex, cigarettes, exercise, stealing, internet, lying, anything really.

More specifically:

Do you have any addictions?

The following are self tests and quizzes that review criteria to see if there are any potential problems. These tools are not diagnostic or conclusive and should not be substituted for an evaluation by a trained professional.

Alcohol – NCADD

Drugs – NCADD

Internet – NetAddiction.com

Gambling – STOP Gambling.com

Food – Yale Food Addiction Scale

Sex – Sex Addiction Screening Test

Shopping – Shopping Addiction Quiz

Working – Work-Addiction Risk Test

Exercise – Exercise Addiction Self Test

Another way to find out if you are addicted – or prove that you are not – is to try this (primarily for alcohol or drugs but expandable to many other processes). The next time you find yourself in a situation where you would normally get drunk, decide to have only one drink and then stop. If after you have stopped you find yourself drinking again in the same situation, after you have decided to stop… then you have a problem.

Addictions change the way people think and behave, and are by nature a codependent relationship. This relationship becomes more important than all others. Therefore when parenting should take place, something else happens that is not geared toward the best interests of the child, but of the addict.

Here’s a great idea… collude with your child to break rules on visits from her rehab, provide her with drugs, convince her to not tell the rehab and that you’ll cover for her if there are any problems, say things like “It’ll be our secret, we’ll show them.” Wow, you showed them… at the cost of your child!

Kids and Addictions

Your children are watching you. Your patterns of interacting are programming their future thinking, expressions of feelings and relationships. They are learning how to handle difficulty, stress, emotions, and relationships by observing what you do. This will be the only thing they know for several to many years to come, perhaps decades.

Children who have grown up with parents and addictions experience life differently than those who do not. They often have psychological and emotional deficits including disrupted bonding and attachment, problems with self esteem and perfection, difficulty in relationships, trouble knowing what normal is, and tend toward seeking the approval of others. They also have significantly increased risk for using cigarettes, alcohol and drugs. For more information, see here and here and here.

According to Dr. Patrick Carnes, when someone has addictive thinking and patterns of behavior, child or adult, they tend to believe they are a bad and unworthy person, unlovable the way they are, they can’t live without that one thing, and that their needs will never be met if they have to depend on others.

If these beliefs exist for the parent, and the child lives in an environment where they are expressed regularly (not necessarily spoken, but lived out), you can easily see how the child may begin to adopt these beliefs themselves.

All addictions, big or small, affect family functioning. The environment a child grows up in has a significant impact on their life going forward. For more on children and teens who have addictions, see here and here.


Todd has been a therapist for over 20 years in a variety of settings. An unconventional therapist who tells the truth, Todd has taught undergraduate and graduate level courses, and authored his first book, Simply Relate.

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