A Parent’s Addiction Affects Everyone in the Family

With the joys of parenting also comes responsibility. Parents are expected to be role models and offer the strength that guides their family. Sometimes parents need strength and guidance or their children’s lives are completely altered. Parents who suffer from drug or alcohol addiction need to find treatment that will help them recover and be the supporting and responsible parent they would like to be for their child.

One parent’s addiction affects everyone. Children sometimes have to parent themselves and/or their own mother or father. The added stresses may cause anxiety, guilt, loneliness and disruptive behavior, and may lead them into an addiction. There are many challenges throughout the recovery process, but with success their children will benefit, too.

Experts in the field of drug and alcohol abuse are finding that a family’s recovery from addiction may take longer than previously thought. All of the ripples of anger, frustration, and troubled emotions that touched children and spouses can take three to five years to heal. A 1999 study called The Family Recovery Project, by Drs. Brown and Lewis, aimed to describe this developmental recovery process for families.

Fifty-four families, with lengths of recovery from two months to 20 years, were interviewed. From this study, Brown and Lewis presented four stages of recovery from addiction and their impact on parenting and the overall family.

Parents face child-rearing challenges during ongoing recovery. They must learn to set rules and discipline their children with firmness and compassion so that the child once again has a strong role model. Because of guilty feelings, some parents go to the other extreme and give in to the whims of their child, but limitations will help them feel stable again.

Parents will need to rebuild a level of trust with their child. Simple acts like getting a child to school on time or attending their play or sports event will help re-build these levels. Sharing family meals and activities will reassure that your absences will be less frequent than before.

Modifying parent behavior throughout the addiction recovery process is the key to helping the entire family recover from the addiction. Becoming a better parent will help speed recovery and make each transition toward healing easier. Parents who were once addicted can turn that negative into a positive. The lessons they learn in recovery can be life lessons in discipline, abstinence, courage, and growth that they can pass along to their children.