When Your Parent Has an Addiction


When Your Parent Has an Addiction

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Books for growing up in a household where addiction rules

What does it look like for a child or teen growing up in the United States in a household where one or more parents has an addiction? The hard numbers reveal just one part of the picture. According to The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University:

• 13% of children under 18 live in a household where a parent or other adult uses illicit drugs

• 24% of children live in a household where a parent or other adult is a binge or heavy drinker

• 37% of children live in a household where a parent or other adult uses tobacco

The National Institute on Drug Abuse also reports a rise in drug use among people in their 50s and early 60s, attributed, in part, to the aging of baby boomers whose use of illicit substances has “historically been higher than those of previous generations.”

This is troubling news for children and adolescents. That’s why ESME is pleased to recommend a host of books to help young children through young adults cope with heavy feelings of shame, denial, anger, embarrassment, and so many more that often accompany growing up in a household where addiction rules.

For younger children

“My Dad Loves Me, My Dad Has a Disease”—A Child’s View: Living with Addiction

By Claudia Black

  • Published by Mac Publishing, 1997 (3rd revised edition)
  • Ages 5–14
  • 84 pages

Years ago, when Claudia Black was a counselor in an alcohol- and drug-treatment program, she asked a six-year-old daughter of a man in treatment if she knew why her father was in this program. The girl paused and with confidence said, “My dad loves me, but my dad has a disease.” Hence the title and central message of this book. It also reflects the central truth of understanding addiction: How do we separate the disease from the person? This workbook is filled with pictures and gives children the chance to express their thoughts and feelings.

An Elephant in the Living Room: The Children’s Book

By Jill M. Hastings and Marion H. Typpo

  • Published by Hazelden Publishing, 1984
  • Ages 9 and up
  • 88 pages

Considered a classic in the field of addiction, An Elephant in the Living Room is an illustrated story to help children understand and cope with the problem of alcoholism or other drug-addiction issues in the family. The book is published by the Hazelden Foundation, a nonprofit organization for addiction that merged with the Betty Ford Foundation in 2014. The organization has some of the leading programs for treating alcohol and drug addiction.

For teenagers through young adult

For Teenagers Living with a Parent Who Abuses Alcohol/Drugs

By Edith Lynn Hornik-Beer

  • Published by iUniverse, 2001
  • Ages 12–17
  • 162 pages

Edith Lynn Hornik-Beer is a journalist and the author of numerous books, all of which focus on alcoholism and particularly its effect on teenagers growing up in alcoholic households. In this book, she seeks to answer questions teens have about what to do when living in an alcoholic household, how to manage in school, and why parents continue to fight even when sober, among other questions. The aim of this book is to help empower teens to help themselves.

When Parents Have Problems: A Book for Teens and Older Children with an Abusive, Alcoholic, or Mentally Ill Parent

By Susan B. Miller

  • Published by Charles C Thomas Publisher, 1995
  • Ages 13–young adult
  • 79 pages

This book touches on various problems that parents may have, including alcoholism and drug addiction, yes, as well as perfectionist parents, mental illness, and even poverty. The book often is used as a resource for therapists, school counselors, or group leaders who work with children and teenagers, but suggestions are incorporated on how teens and young adults can advocate for themselves.

Alateen—a Day at a Time

By Al-Anon Family Groups

  • Published by Al-Anon Family Groups Headquarters, 1989
  • For teenagers through young adult
  • 384 pages

Written by and for teenagers, this book follows a similar format to other commonly read and beloved Al-Anon One Day at a Time literature. Every day presents a different story, question, thought, or feeling to reflect on. When reading Alateen—A Day at a Time, teenagers come to understand that they are not alone and, in so doing, might find more strength.

No book, of course, should take the place of seeking professional counsel or a support group such as Al-Anon/Alateen. Let us know if you find these books to be helpful and if you come across any other resources that we can share with readers.


Connect with other Solo Moms who understand in our confidential community of Sisters.


Nancy Sharp is an author, a keynote speaker, and a storyteller who frequently speaks publicly about loss, transformation, and bold living. The author of the award-winning memoir, Both Sides Now: A True Story of Love, Loss, and Bold Living, she lives in Denver with her second husband, her twins, and her two stepsons. You can find her on Twitter at @BoldLivingNow and Facebook at Nancy Sharp.

Please feel free to contact us with any comments or questions.


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