As a parent who is also an addict, you may be wondering about the benefits of finding a top-quality intensive outpatient program near you. These programs, also known as IOPs, allow you to live at home and attend school or work as you receive treatment for your addiction. However, as a parent, you will also need to continue this role during recovery—something which can be incredibly difficult to navigate. The following tips will help to foster understanding and healthy family relationships at all stages of recovery.
Risks to Children of Addicts
Whether still using, in transition to recovery, or in early or ongoing recovery, the effects of a parent’s addiction on their child can be severe and lead to lifelong struggle. Not only are children of addicts at far greater risk of emotional issues, they are also at risk of developing an addiction themselves. Children may behave poorly, act out, and engage in high-risk behavior. They may also neglect their responsibilities at school, causing them to achieve poor grades or fail.
A parent’s inability to be emotionally available to their children can cause emotional insecurity which can take years to resolve. As well, children may feel that it’s up to them to take on the responsibility of the parent in terms of caring for younger siblings, cleaning, or cooking. A child growing up without routine or structure can lead to confusion, while the emotional instability of a parent in active addiction or a drug rehabilitation program can make interaction frightening for the child.
What You Can Experience During Recovery
Regardless of the stage of recovery they may be in, parents are engaged in making major changes in their lives, which requires much of their energy and time. Even this endeavor can cause disruption if the following issues are not recognized.
Imbalance Between Maintaining Recovery and Parenting
Parents in transition to or in the early stages of rehabilitation can easily become preoccupied with ensuring they maintain their recovery. This can mean that parents make a lot of changes in a short period of time, which can cause issues with their children. Here, it’s critical to ensure that children are adjusting well to these changes. For the parent who needs to attend meetings or obtain other recovery services, planning for childcare during these times will be crucial to minimizing both your own and your child’s stress.
Feelings of Guilt
Parents in recovery often deal with overwhelming guilt that they weren’t there for their children, and they may have issues coping with their absence even though they are in recovery. This can lead to the temptation to overindulge a child in order to assuage guilty feelings. However, being in recovery does not eliminate a child’s need for structure and discipline. A parent in recovery still must be a parent, which means ensuring children have a structured environment where supervision and monitoring exist, and where children feel supported.
Trust issues are very common in children of addicted parents, and rebuilding trust will require plenty of reassurance. However, it’s important to remember that your efforts do not have to be momentous in order to make a difference to your children. Being there for their sports and special events will make a world of difference. Even simply being there to pick them up from school can go an incredibly long way to helping rebuild trust.
Answering Questions About Your Absence
You will likely be faced with how to answer the question of why you “went away” during the time before you decided on and began your recovery. Honesty and communication are two of the most important strategies here. This can be accomplished on a one-to-one basis or may be more effective in a family counseling setting, depending on the family dynamic.
Disciplining Your Child
Discipline can be a very real challenge for the parent in inpatient drug rehabilitation; it can be difficult to navigate how to accomplish this, especially if you’re experiencing feelings of guilt. What’s important to realize is that discipline is a necessary part of parenting and every stage of your child’s development. That being said, setting and enforcing rules that are appropriate for your children’s ages and holding them accountable for their behavior will build the foundation for a better relationship in the future.
Bullying Due to Stigma
Stigma is also a very common issue that parents in recovery must overcome. For their children, however, stigma can mean that a child is bullied at school. Again, open and honest communication will be key. In conversations with your child, focus on the many positives that your recovery will bring. It may also help to speak with the counselor at your child’s school, who can be instrumental in helping your child maintain a positive outlook during their time in school.
Strategies for You
There are several strategies you can employ to help yourself be a healthier person on all levels.
Attend to Your Own Needs
Although you may feel that it’s important to do everything you can for your child, you must realize that unless you’re taking care of yourself, too, you will end up exhausted. With a healthy diet and exercise, getting plenty of rest and doing things you enjoy, you will have the energy you need to be a happy parent.
Taking care of yourself also means taking personal responsibility for your addiction. An intensive outpatient treatment for addiction will help you come to terms with and help you explain your addiction to your child. If your child is nine years of age or younger, you can explain to him or her that you have a disease that caused you to behave in the ways you did. Older children will be more likely to understand the more complex aspects of addiction, such as the fact that you needed help to stop using and you didn’t realize you had a problem.
Another part of taking personal responsibility will be to apologize to your child. In order to do this effectively, you must be specific. For example, you might apologize for not being there to see their play or for yelling at them when they didn’t pick up their toys. As well, you need to tell your children that your addiction and the absences, mood changes, and other issues were not their faults. This is something that needs to be emphasized as often as possible.
Keep the Promises You’ve Made
Whatever you’ve promised to your child, keeping that promise will be incredibly important, both to you and to them. Your child needs to know that you mean what you say, and, in doing so, you will know that you are capable of living up to the promises you’ve made, too.
Your child may not appear hurt by your addiction, but, rest assured, still waters run deep. In retaliation for the hurt they are feeling, your child may talk back to you, withdraw, or engage in aggressive or unruly behavior. All of these will require your patience and understanding; you will both need time to adjust to the changes that are occurring in your lives as the result of recovery.
Take Time and Express Affection
Taking the time to be with your children doing the things they love can communicate a multitude of messages. It will tell them you’re willing to be there for them and support them and are healthy enough to do so. Don’t ever be reluctant to show your unconditional love for your children, as this will help confirm for them that nothing you did was their fault, and it will help rebuild that special relationship between parent and child.
Getting the Right Help Is Key
An intensive outpatient program with BlueCrest Recovery Center allows you to continue to live at home and attend work or school, and it allows you to more fully explore family relationship conflicts. Our IOP takes a holistic approach to recovery that addresses the physical, mental, and spiritual aspects of addiction. Learn how our program will help you build the skills you need to repair damaged relationships and develop healthy bonds; call (973) 453-5384 to learn more.