Those of us living with addiction who are also parents face specific challenges. Our addiction affects not only us but the people around us, and our children are uniquely affected. Our role as their parents makes us responsible for our children’s well-being, but when we’re struggling with addiction at the same time, we are impacted in various considerable ways that can affect how we parent. Some common themes when coping with addiction are feeling intense emotions of shame and guilt. When we are parents, these feelings can be especially difficult because we fear corrupting our children’s innocence and destroying their chances for happiness. We’re deeply ashamed of ourselves for the position we’re in, for being addicts in the first place and for bringing our children into such a toxic situation. We can feel intense guilt on a daily basis, for exposing them to our addictive behaviors, for simply being addicts even when we try as best we can to shelter them from our addiction. As parents, we naturally worry about our children and want the best for them. When we’re also addicts, we can be consumed with fear that we’re hurting our children with our addiction, that they will inherit our addiction from us, that addiction will inevitably run in the family. We fear our children will never be happy, healthy or whole. Many of us first experimented with our drug of choice when we were children. We worry our children will do the same and that they too will be forced to contend with addiction at an early age. We fear they will become self-destructive and dysfunctional in the same ways we did. When we think our children might be impacted by our addiction, we fear for their mental and emotional health. We are concerned that their sense of self will be tainted by our addiction, that they will blame themselves or think that our struggles mean they’re not good enough. We can have a very hard time expressing our concerns and communicating with our children because our own mental and emotional health is compromised by our addiction. We’re often depressed, highly anxious and not thinking clearly. We’re not in the best position to prevent addiction in our children because we ourselves are still embroiled in our own struggles with it. We want so desperately to keep our children from harm, but we’re showing them patterns of self-destructiveness by our example. Handling our roles as parents while struggling with addiction can be a uniquely difficult experience. Becoming aware of some of these challenges can help open our eyes to how urgent it is that we get help.
At Riverside Recovery, we approach addiction as the family disease it truly is. We include weekly family therapy and monthly family workshops as part of our treatment programs. Call (800) 871-5440.