How To Balance Parenthood After Addiction Treatment
Back-to-school nights, SAT’s, car-pools, sports tournaments, – just a few things that remind us of parenthood. But add maintaining sobriety into the mix, and things can get overwhelming. Many drug and alcohol treatment programs discuss the subject of parenthood and sobriety and can offer skills to help parents cope with life after rehab. However, striking a balance on a daily basis can raise even more questions, concerns and fears. Here are some valuable tips to keep in mind when dealing with the joys and stressors of parenthood after addiction treatment.
Easy Does It
First and foremost, easy does it. After treatment, most parents have a renewed sense of purpose and excitement to reconnect with their children, make amends, and for some, they may be even connecting with their children for the first time. But remember, even though you’ve finished a rehabilitation program – you’re still in recovery. Work on yourself first and slowly start connecting with your children.
Taking Ownership of Your Alcoholism or Addiction
While reestablishing your relationships, take ownership of your substance use or alcohol addiction. Of course there are factors to determine if this advice pertains to you such as the age of your children and if they even saw any of your addiction. If you decide it’s the right move, taking ownership of your addiction can truly help in the healing process and can also help your children later in their lives. Being honest about your negative behavior while using drugs or alcohol and what it did to you and your family can start a conversation as well as demonstrate your accountability in the process.
Educate Your Family
According to an article in the National Institutes of Health (NIH, 2012), “children of substance abusing parents are more than twice as likely to have an alcohol and/or drug use disorder themselves by young adulthood as compared to their peers.” These statistics are tough to read, but educating your children on your addiction, and the realities of the outcomes of substance use in families, you can help in breaking the cycle of addiction. Alcoholism and drug addiction also have a genetic component and providing trusted information on these facts to our children can also lead to them not repeating our mistakes.
Allow your children to own their feelings during this process and valid them. No matter how intense their emotions are, let them feel them and express them without rescuing them. On the flip side of this, let them know they do not have to rescue you while you work through your recovery. Teaching your children that they aren’t responsible for anyone else’s feelings or emotions helps them not to take on your problems or issues, especially during recovery.
Dealing With Push Backs
The most positive aspect of recovery is that you can now can be present with your child(ren) and participate in their lives. So what happens when you start experiencing pushback? While every situation and family dynamic is different, the time you spend with your children can help during times of pushback. For example, your child wants to go to a movie and you need to go to a meeting. Depending on the child’s age, they may not understand why you can’t spend time with them, start pushing you away, and begin resenting your time at meetings. To combat this cycle, try scheduling smaller blocks of time together and fill it with your total and complete presence. Smaller blocks of quality time can go a long way in reconnecting with your child(ren).
Strengthen Your Support System
Parents in recovery tend to feel very isolated. Often times, addicts have lost many friends and family before, during and after recovery and start their new life alone. The good news? As your friends and family members see that you are in recovery, many will be more willing to reconnect with you and become a support system for you and your children. However, managing sobriety and balancing your kids’ needs with your own can still feel overwhelming, but it can be achieved with other systems of support:
- While your friends and family may be available to help balance your kids busy schedules, the people in your 12-Step program such as NA or AA can be a much needed support system when you need to discuss the struggles of parenting and maintaining sobriety. You may also find friends in your meetings who are balancing the same parental issues. Connect with these mothers and fathers to work together in helping each other manage the challenges of sobriety.
- What if you can’t leave your children at home? There are groups that allow children to come to meetings, check you local area to see what organizations allow children.
- What if you can’t find someone to watch you children or are geographically isolated? Call your sponsor. If they aren’t available, depending on your program – you can go online and find recovery chat groups that can offer support.
Practice Self Care While Coping With Your New Life
In early sobriety it is important to remember to practice self-care, especially as a parent. Stress can be a major factor in relapse and nothing is more stressful than parenthood. So, now that you are in recovery, you need to take steps to create stress-free environments and practice self-care such as:
- Making your home environment as healthy for you and your children as possible. Spend time decluttering your home and create a sense of order. Allowing your children to take part in this process can also be very therapeutic as they will see you are committed to change, cleaning up your life, and making their lives better.
- Create a relaxing space only for you. It can be as simple as a comfy chair in the corner of your bedroom or outside, or an actual room in your home. Decorate this space with plants, pictures, or books that bring you joy. Use this space to journal, listen to music, meditate, or do whatever helps you recharge your batteries.
Treatment for Addiction
Addiction is isolating but you are not alone, especially as a parent. Many parents who get treatment proceed to live healthy and meaningful lives in sobriety. Recovery is a lifelong journey and you deserve to feel happy in a new sober lifestyle. If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction and a mental health disorder, get help today. Do not let the stigma of addiction and mental health keep you from getting help.