Q: Is it true that some drug abusers are very quiet while using a drug, and it is their children who start to fight with the drug abuser?

A: Sometimes youngsters are so angry at their parent’s taking drugs or drinking that they pick a fight to “get back at him.” It makes these youngsters angry that their parent cannot be responsive when they need him to give the parental attention they want and deserve. Should one stay away from every discussion with the drug abuser – even when she is not taking drugs?

When your parent is not taking drugs, not drinking, listen to her. You may find that she has some good things to say. Children who have a substance abuser in their midst have to learn to tell the difference between sober discussions, thoughtful adult criticism, and those arguments caused by the substance.

Q: What are sober arguments, sober criticism, and sober discussion?

A: Sober arguments, as referred to in this book, are those discussions in a family that are caused not by substance abuse but by normal day-to-day life. For instance, if the drug-dependent parent complains that his son or daughter stays out too late at night, he may have a valid concern that has nothing to do with his substance abuse.

In some families the children are so used to ignoring the drug-dependent parent that they might be tempted to dismiss the drug-dependent’s concern with a “but you smoke pot regularly” or “but you drink” retort. It is unfair to the drug abuser and a good way to avoid an important but inconvenient subject.

Don’t forget that a parent may be abusing drugs to escape unpleasant feelings about himself. If you can, when the drug-dependent parent is sober, make him feel an important part of the family. This may motivate him to learn about his illness.

Q: My mother loses her temper when my father drinks. I don’t blame my mother, and I take her side. My father gets furious with me for what he calls interfering. Wouldn’t you think, as a daughter, I have the right to interfere?

A: We are often tempted to take sides when parents argue. Parents argue because they have reached the limit of their patience. When you take sides, it gives them more reasons to argue, and one parent may feel that you are teaming up against him or her. Teenagers usually take the side of the parent who they feel protects them and who they feel may be threatened. Before getting involved in your parents’ argument, decide what can be accomplished by interfering. Too often, such interference may lead to further isolation from one parent.