Being a Parent in Recovery
Addiction can affect anyone, regardless of the roles we play in the lives of those around us. According to a study in 2017 by the SAMHSA, 12.3% of American children live in a home with at least one parent who has a substance use disorder.
Being a parent while struggling with addiction can affect both recovery and the raising of the child or children. Although it may be daunting, there are several important things to remember which will make a positive difference.
Parenting and recovery
There are striking similarities between parenting and going through recovery. Both require round-the-clock attention and a complete re-shuffling of priorities. They also require huge changes in habits and relationships, which can throw our security and normality off kilter.
A final undeniable element of both is that an element of support is vital. The quote from Ann Douglas, “If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a village to support that child’s parent” rings true.
Having support in the way of a partner, family, friends, therapist, or social workers is necessary for being a parent in recovery.
A Relationship might confuse things
A common situation for those in recovery, including parents, is a self-inflicted solitude. There is the fear that a relationship, or rather losing one, can be a trigger that can lead to a relapse.
When it comes to being a parent in recovery there may be nothing scarier than a relapse. Whether it means losing custody of the child, or in some way physically or mentally hurting them, it’s understandably haunting.
Managing recovery, parenting, and trying to find someone who can support you and your child through the process can be a tall order. One should seek qualities in a partner which will support or amplify both the recovery and the parenting.
Trust-worthiness and compassion can be incredibly supportive for a parent in recovery. Finding it is another matter.
Reach out for professional help
Speaking openly with your counsellor or therapist on this matter can result in more personalized advice for your situation.
Where there are similarities we can also see some contradictions. Two important aspects of recovery and 12-step programs are to put yourself first and to take one day at a time.
Any parent will know that the child is always going to come first, but addiction (and addiction recovery) can complicate that. Our addiction can sometimes ‘seem’ more important than our children at times of crisis.
Foresight and planning are imperative parts of parenting. Also recovery and parenting can both be time-intensive, with meetings, playdates, counseling sessions, and field trips.
Finding a balance between parenting and recovery can itself be an overwhelming prospect, but it is possible.
Learning coping skills.
Nothing is more stressful than feeling like you’re always running late, and stress can be harmful to both parenting and recovery. A skill like time management is attainable by anyone, and can be greatly helpful for a parent in recovery. There are many ways in which one can learn time management nowadays.
Numerous books have been written on the matter, there are also podcasts and YouTube videos with great advice. Finding your own way to improve your time management can have a positive impact on both your parenting and recovery. It can also be a valuable tool for your child if they’re approaching their teenage years.
My Mummy / Daddy is different
Once a child is old enough they will start to notice how mummy or daddy differ from their friends’ parents. Introducing your child to the ideas of addiction and recovery sooner rather than later can give them a better chance of understanding. Depending on the age of your child or children, there are different resources which can aid in teaching them about addiction.
From ages four to seven: At these ages children have formed an understanding of the basic things around them. This can be a good time to introduce addiction as an illness that you or your partner are recovering from.
Sesame Street to the rescue
Sesame Street have recently introduced a new Muppet character called Karli who lives in foster care because her mother is in treatment for opioid use disorder. She shares her struggles and discusses healthy coping techniques with her human friend Salia, whose parents are also in recovery.
Introducing your child to these characters can give them a good understanding of what’s happening in your life, through a medium that may be more comfortable. There are many resources available on the Sesame Streets Communities website which can aid in this education.
Children between ages eight to eleven are generally focused on facts, so parents should be too. Again, there are many useful resources available online to help explain the specifics to them.
For teenagers they will be more focused on how it affects them, so keeping an open flow of communication is vital.
Change your mindset
The main goal of recovery, beyond abstinence, is to find gratitude and connection in life, and to learn to enjoy things without substance. If this is actively sought by a parent then their child will learn these behaviors and live a better life for it.
Recovery Care Partner are trained in providing support and advice for parents recovering from addiction. They can also help with addiction interventionists (VA, PA, GA, DC, CT and South Jersey) if you need help guiding a parent to recovery.