You know that sobriety is the right decision for yourself – and for your family. Juggling the hard work of recovery with the 24-7 job of being a parent can be tricky, but ultimately reaps huge benefits.
Being a parent in recovery comes with its own set of unique challenges. Not only do you need to maintain focus on forging a new path for yourself, you are also responsible for parenting your kids. Depending on the severity of your addiction, your children may also be healing from the impacts caused by your dependency, a process you need to encourage and help facilitate.
Though no one claims that recovery while parenting is easy, there is broad recognition of the tremendous benefits your sober lifestyle will bring not only to you, but to your family. When you choose to overcome your addiction, you open up the possibility for a strengthened relationship with your children, as well as the opportunity to demonstrate healthy, functional ways to cope with stress. Leaning into the hard work of recovery, and learning from others’ experiences, will help you as you define a better future for you, and your family.
Tip 1: Take Care of Yourself
As a parent with an addiction, there were likely times when the choices you made served your dependency more than the needs of your children. This is the harsh and unfortunate reality of being dependent. While you are breaking free of that trap, you may also be struggling with some guilt over not having been there for your children.
This is an important realisation, and moving through this emotional process is part of healing. However, it is important not to go too far in the opposite direction of giving every single bit of your energy to your children. This is mostly because in order for your recovery to be sustainable, you need to build in time for yourself to relax or practise alternative coping mechanisms. These could be things like going for a run, attending a support group, or joining a yoga class. What you want to aim for is balance between your needs and the needs of your children, because it is in that space where families (and recoveries) thrive.
Tip 2: Make Your Time with Your Kids Purposeful
Overcoming an addiction means reclaiming a significant amount of time that was being spent either thinking about or being under the influence of your drug of choice. Naturally, this space will now need to include what you have to do to maintain your recovery, but it can also open up opportunities for rebuilding relationships that have been dulled or damaged by dependency.
With your children, this means connecting with them on their level, and supporting their interests. This typically starts in small, practical ways. Get out the scissors and glue and work together on an art project. Go for a bike ride together. Watch a movie they love and really watch it – don’t just scroll through the phone. Plan and cook a dinner together. Engage with them, ask them questions, and really listen to what they have to say. Be patient with them. These are important ways to start forming a healthy relationship with your children, rebuilding trust, and making your time together meaningful. When you devote real, quality time to your kids, it also makes it easier on you and them to set aside some time for yourself as well.
Creating Space in Your Schedule
It is important to note that many modern families have a tendency to overschedule. Your addiction may have been one way to cope with the stress and pressure of trying to give your children access to every possible opportunity. Shuttling kids between multiple classes, practises and events wears out both parents and children, and limits the potential for restorative downtime.
Remember that it is not only pleasant to just come home and hang out sometimes, it is important for your mental health. If overscheduling is sounding like what you are contending with at home, consider how to pare down the family schedule. It’s likely that both your sobriety and your children will benefit.
Tip 3: Be Accountable and Open
Parents in recovery have different ways of involving their children in the process, but for any parent, talking to their kids about what is going on is essential. The nature of addiction is secretive and isolating, and whether your children explicitly understood what was happening or not — part of overcoming addiction is being open and honest with them about your recovery and what it means.
Be careful not to overshare – you may have relied on your children for emotional support during your addiction, and this creates a burden that can carry on well into their adult lives. Keep your conversations informative but not explicit, and focused on them.
Not sure where to begin the conversation? Here are a few talking points that may help:
- Take ownership of your dependency – it is okay to explain that you didn’t realise how big of a problem your addiction had become, but now you understand that you have to make serious changes to be healthy and to be a better parent. For younger children, it may be helpful to explain addiction as a disease that needs treatment in order to get better.
- Apologise – this is an important part of accountability, and helps to acknowledge the hurt you may have caused your children during your addiction. With an older child, you may want to set aside time to make this part of a conversation, explaining you have something important you want to talk to them about. However, with younger children letting it happen naturally, like saying “I’m sorry I wasn’t there to read to you before” at bedtime, is an appropriate way to handle an apology. This may also open space for your children to process their feelings with you, which is an important step in rebuilding trust and defining your roles as the parent and the child.
- Tell them your addiction is not their fault – this may seem totally obvious, but the reality is that many children internalise blame for their parent’s dependency. It is critical to let them know that your addiction and all of your behaviours around it had nothing to do with them. Say it to them until you feel like they truly understand it, as this will be healing for them, and important for you as you continue to take full responsibility for your addiction and its effects.
Tip 4: Know the Warning Signs of an Impending Relapse
Maintaining a stable, long-term recovery is undoubtedly a top priority for your health and the health of your family. It is also important to recognise that for some people, relapse is a part of recovery. Being aware of factors that contribute to relapse helps to prevent one from occurring and can signal that you may need some additional support in your recovery process. Some common warning signs include:
- Persistent boredom, lack of interest or enthusiasm about life
- Feeling like an emotional rollercoaster
- Low self-confidence or self-worth
- Financial struggles
- Feeling you lack a support system
If you are noticing some of these signs, reach out immediately to an addiction specialist who can help you get your recovery back on track. With the right kind of help, you can maintain your progress, and continue to be a better parent to your kids.
Finding Total Support at The Dawn Rehab Thailand
At The Dawn Wellness Centre and Rehab in Chiang Mai, Thailand; we help our clients to overcome their addictions and embrace becoming a present, healthy parent. We work with each of our clients on a highly personalised, individual basis to develop a treatment plan that is most effective for their specific needs.
Individual Treatment, But with a Family Component
The Dawn understands that addiction affects not just the person with a dependency, but also significant impacts on the family unit – often without the family being aware of it. To heal the family as a whole, and increase chances of long-term recovery for the client, these impacts must also be addressed. Towards the end of the client’s treatment, we engage the family in a series of educational and clinical consultation sessions, either on-site or remotely.
Call us today to learn more about how we can help get you on the road to recovery.