Recovering from an addiction isn’t something to take lightly. It can be a long, difficult process. The elements of recovery include everything from discovering your own identity without the use of a substance to forming healthy coping strategies to get through the rest of your life.
When you’re a parent, recovering from an addiction is not only more important, but it can be more difficult. More is at stake in your recovery, including a relationship with your kids.
There’s no question that addictions can tear families apart. As an addict, you may be unable to meet your child’s most basic physical, emotional, or psychological needs. Finding a recovery program that works is a fantastic first step toward being the parent you’re destined to be.
That doesn’t mean the recovery process will always be easy or smooth. So, what can you do to be a good parent while recovering from an addiction? How can you make sure your children stay safe, happy, and healthy?
Manage Your Mental Health
As much as you may want to put your children first, you can’t pour from an empty cup. Self-care is a crucial part of the recovery process. When you aren’t taking care of yourself physically and emotionally, you could increase your risk of developing other mental health conditions, including anxiety and depression.
Self-care and mental health management look different for everyone. It’s about finding ways to reduce your stress level. Some of the most practical forms of self-care include:
- Cooking healthy meals
- Practicing mindfulness
Another aspect of taking care of your mental health includes recognizing any signs that feel “off.” Anxiety and depression often go hand-in-hand with addiction, with an estimated one-third of individuals with depression also struggling with alcohol. But, it’s not always easy to pinpoint the symptoms.
If you’re unsure about your own feelings or you don’t know whether you’re experiencing depression, the best thing you can do is talk to a mental health professional or your doctor. Getting an official diagnosis will allow you to start a treatment process, so you can keep your mental health strong and stable throughout your addiction recovery. That benefits you, of course, but it also benefits your children.
Keep Your Children Safe
Addictions can cause unpredictability. Even when you’re actively working through the recovery process, you might find yourself in situations that are unsafe for your children. One study found that 40% to 60% of addicts relapse within their first year of recovery. If you feel yourself slipping back into old habits, it might not be safe to be around your children for a period of time.
It’s also important to look at your environment. Maybe you’re well on the road to recovery, but you’re in a situation that isn’t safe or healthy. On top of recovering from an addiction, it can be hard to give up a relationship or even move out of your home.
But, if you’re experiencing something like domestic violence or other toxic behaviors, you’re risking the emotional, and perhaps the physical health of your kids. Some common signs of a toxic relationship include:
- Verbal abuse
- Controlling behaviors
As a recovering addict, it’s also important to understand your triggers. Are you in an environment or in a relationship that tends to trigger your old habits and pushes you toward a relapse? If so, that can be another dangerous sight for your children to see.
The long-term effects of your children witnessing or experiencing those behaviors in the household can be quite serious. It can lead to feelings of anxiety or even trauma for them that may not get addressed for years.
So, do what you can to create a safe and nurturing environment for your children. Sometimes, working on your own recovery is only half the battle. The other half involves making some major life changes.
Look to the Future
Addiction recovery isn’t easy for anyone. But, it affects almost everyone in your life. As a result, you might not be happy with your current situation, but when you have children, it’s crucial to get through the difficult hills and valleys now. In doing so, you can prepare yourself — and them — for a better, brighter future together.
Let that be your motivation as you go through this recovery period. You’ve already taken the first step by admitting you’re struggling and getting the help you need. But, don’t let your pride keep you from taking on flexible family roles and letting others help you. Try to focus on the positive as much as possible, so you can continue to be a good parent and be there for your children, even when you’re feeling low about your recovery process.
The idea of being present and playing an active role in your child’s life can be the catalyst that keeps you going through recovery. Whether it means getting professional help or leaning on support from friends and family, keep your mind focused on the future and understand that you can beat this addiction for yourself, and for your children.