How to Cope as the Grown Child of an Addicted Parent Using the Great Outdoors

How to Cope as the Grown Child of an Addicted Parent Using the Great Outdoors

Mommy. Daddy. Saying either of these words aloud as a child means, “I need you. Can you help me?” If we fell, or were scared, or confused–we knew we could shout one of those words out and she or he would come.

But maybe that isn’t exactly how it worked for you. As a child of an addicted parent, maybe you fell down often, and maybe you were scared of lots of things, including the dark. Most of all, you always felt confused, because when Mommy or Daddy said, “Okay, I’ll be there!” and then wasn’t, or didn’t answer at all, you wondered why.

Aren’t Mommies and Daddies supposed to love their kids more than anything else in the world?

When you discovered that silence was the usual reply, you began to parent yourself. Parenting is a tough job for anyone, let alone a young person–and the grief of having some of your most precious childhood years stolen away has taken major tolls on who you are now. It is likely that you struggle with anxiety, are unable to trust others fully, or tend to isolate yourself so as to not get hurt in relationships or highly emotional situations. These traits have held you back from living life to the fullest; now, you’re ready to make peace with your past, your parents, and yourself–and connecting with the great outdoors can help you do just that.

Use nature as a springboard for finding a sense of peace

English poet John Keats said, “The poetry of the earth is never dead.” If you’ve ever seen an incredibly breathtaking sunset, or the outline of a mountain range against a blue sky, you know his sentiment is true. As someone whose childhood was stifled at an early age due to an ill parent, you were used to worrying about everything–maybe even your basic needs–as a method of survival.

While you might be used to coping with anxiety regularly because of everyday struggles, studies have shown that those levels can be drastically reduced by spending time outside each day breathing in fresh air. Vitamin D produced by the sun is actually a hormone, and it activates genes that release neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine–both of which contribute to feelings of well-being and happiness. This can be exercise in the form of a walk or a jog, or simply sitting on a patch of earth you find beautiful.

Take these times outside to be present with yourself and your thoughts; allow them to wash over you. This may be difficult, but when accompanied with other support systems and resources at Alta Mira, peacefulness can become a part of your life.

Hope is Just a Phone Call Away


Develop that missing sense of trust with your natural surroundings

It has long been touted that nature has a distinct and beautiful ability to soothe, heal, and calm those affected by addiction. As someone who was not able to trust a parent fully as a child, you may struggle with those same issues in close interpersonal relationships–both romantically and friendship-wise. Because you don’t trust others to provide for you, you might sometimes feel you are alone in that burden, creating a weight that is tough to bear on a daily basis.

Nature is consistent, it is lovely, and it is true. Just as the sun sets, the sun rises again–and we get to experience those moments every morning and night. Set aside time each day to go outside, and appreciate the fact that no matter where you look, there will be beauty; trust in it. Take these times to self-reflect and consider that you are able to see the ripple on a lake or a cardinal flying through a forest because of your parents. Know that they were sick when you were younger, and as hard as it is to accept, it wasn’t their fault. If your parent is still struggling, Alta Mira’s 4-day Family Program might be a great option for you to openly discuss and learn together. As your parent undergoes treatment, you are welcome to experience the growth and exploration found within this family program. And, if you need other treatment suggestions or advice on how to best support yourself and someone suffering from addiction–regardless of whether or not the addiction is still present–contact us.

Utilize nature as healthy alone time

Isolating yourself from others might be easy because it is comfortable–that’s the type of emotional distance you grew used to. But this isn’t to say that alone time isn’t good for you; in fact, studies abound that suggest spending at least ten minutes a day alone with yourself has multiple health benefits, even aside from the aforementioned stress relief.

There is a difference, though, between solitude and isolation: solitude is a time for self-reflection, growth, and understanding–and is intentional; isolation may or may not be intentional, but it is done to avoid someone or something. Isolating yourself might look more like staying indoors and avoiding social situations to tiptoe around rejection and conflict, whereas a moment of solitude is a choice to be alone for mental and physical health purposes.

Being the grown child of an addict is extremely difficult, but there are many support groups and resources that can help–including the vast and incredible one outside of your door. You may at times feel as though the world is too big for you to handle, but revel in that, instead of being fearful of it. Don’t forget: the poetry of the earth is never dead. If you are willing to read it, learn how to forgive and grow from your past experiences, you may find that difficult parental relationships, and even personal shame and guilt, will become much easier.


Battling with the emotional aftermath of addiction is tough–but you don’t have to do it alone. With treatment and recovery programs to fit your specific needs, Alta Mira is the best choice you can make for yourself. We have a team of compassionate, reputable addiction treatment experts in various disciplines who are dedicated to helping people break free from substance abuse, and help reestablish family connections. Please contact us today.