Parenting while encountering substance use disorder (SUD) can be extremely challenging. It can feel like you have too much on your shoulders weighing you down. You want to give your kids the best life possible, but the disease of addiction is a huge obstacle to overcome. Parenting with SUD is difficult, but it’s not impossible. You want to do right by your kids, but sometimes, you just don’t know where to start. This is a good place to begin.
Risks and Challenges of Parenting With SUD
Parenting is a demanding and complex responsibility. When parenting with SUD, additional challenges and risks arise that can significantly impact both the parent and their children. SUD not only affects the individual’s physical and mental health, but it also has profound consequences on the family dynamics, particularly the well-being of children.
One of the prominent challenges of being a parent with SUD is the potential for children to be forced into caretaker roles. Substance abuse often leads to erratic behavior, neglect, and an inability to fulfill parental duties. In such situations, children may find themselves taking on responsibilities far beyond their developmental capabilities. That might include ensuring their parent’s safety, managing household tasks, or even providing emotional support. This forced caretaker role can be traumatizing for children, disrupting their sense of normalcy and safety.
Children of parents with SUD may experience chronic stress, instability, and a lack of emotional support. The unpredictability of a parent’s substance use can create an environment where children constantly worry about their parent’s well-being. This chronic stress can contribute to emotional and behavioral issues in children. These problems can affect their mental health both in the short term and long term.
Furthermore, children forced into caretaker roles may miss out on crucial aspects of their childhood. These include play, education, and social development. This deprivation can hinder their ability to form healthy relationships, cope with stress, and navigate life’s challenges as they grow older. The trauma associated with being thrust into adult responsibilities prematurely can manifest in various mental health disorders, including anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Intergenerational transmission of SUD is also a significant concern and a big risk. Children growing up in households where substance abuse is prevalent face an increased likelihood of developing similar patterns of behavior in adulthood. The absence of stable role models and the normalization of substance use can contribute to a cycle of addiction within families.
If you’re parenting with SUD, you probably know all of these risks and more. One of the most difficult hurdles to get around is the shame and self-hatred brought on by the stigma of being a parent with SUD. Other people, especially other parents, might judge you for your situation, creating even further challenges.
All parents love their children. If you could just snap your fingers and make everything better for them, you would. But that’s not the reality you live in. Addiction is a chronic disease that takes a lot of strength, time, and support to overcome. Even taking small steps toward the betterment of your future and theirs can make all the difference.
Helping Yourself First While Parenting With SUD
When you fly on an airplane, the flight attendants will tell you that, in the case of an emergency, always put your own oxygen mask on before helping others, including children. It may seem counterintuitive, but children depend on adults for support and safety. If you pass out while trying to help your child, neither of you get what you need.
The same rule applies to parenting with SUD. You love your children, and you want to be there for them. However, the reality is that you won’t be able to take care of them if you don’t take care of yourself first. At the same time, your children want to see you happy and healthy. These are just a few reasons why you should still seek professional help even while you’re parenting with SUD.
If you’re facing severe SUD, a residential treatment program like the one we offer at Avery Lane may be the best option for you. Residential treatment gives you access to 24-hour support and care during detox and beyond. However, we know that as a parent it can be difficult to take that time away from your family. You may not have anyone to care for them while you’re in treatment. Likewise, the stress of leaving them may be too much to consider. Fortunately, there are other options for treatment that will allow you to stay at home and be with your family when they need you.
The next step down from residential treatment is a partial hospitalization program (PHP). You can think of this kind of like a day camp for people with SUD. At Avery Lane, PHP is five days a week (Monday through Friday) for five hours a day. This might be a good option for parents who have childcare during the day, but not in the evenings or overnight. PHP offers a routine of therapy, support groups, and medication management while giving you the freedom to go home to your family every evening.
Additionally, PHP emphasizes the importance of family involvement in the recovery process. Therapy sessions often incorporate family counseling, helping parents rebuild and strengthen relationships with their children. This collaborative approach addresses the interconnectedness of family dynamics, supporting not only the individual in recovery but also fostering a healthier family environment.
If you need more flexibility than PHP, an intensive outpatient program (IOP) could be beneficial. IOP is similar to PHP in the services that are provided. However, you generally only go into the facility one to three days a week during the day, depending on your needs and availability. The skills you learn in both PHP and IOP can be practiced and integrated into your everyday routine. That means that the combination of time at home and time in treatment can actually be better for some people than full-time residential treatment.
Parents enrolled in IOP can attend evening sessions or choose schedules that align with their family commitments. This enables them to actively participate in their children’s lives during the day while receiving the necessary therapeutic support in the evenings. The convenience of IOP contributes to a more seamless integration of recovery into their daily routines.
Taking Small Steps Toward Sobriety
Embarking on the journey toward sobriety is a profound and transformative decision that requires a thoughtful and gradual approach. Taking small, intentional steps can make this process more manageable and increase the likelihood of long-term success. Here are some ways to break down the tough journey into smaller, manageable steps:
The initial step involves sincere self-reflection and acknowledgment. Take a candid look at your relationship with substances, recognizing the need for change and the impact it has on your life.
Setting realistic goals is crucial. Establish short-term objectives that align with your overarching aim of sobriety. These goals may involve reducing the frequency and quantity of substance use, allowing for a gradual transition.
Building a support system is essential. Confide in friends, family, or join support groups to share your journey. Having a network that understands your struggles provides encouragement, understanding, and accountability.
Consider seeking professional guidance. Therapy or counseling can help address underlying issues contributing to substance use, providing personalized strategies for coping and recovery.
Create a sober environment by identifying and minimizing triggers. Remove substances from your home and surround yourself with positive influences that support your decision to embrace a sober lifestyle.
Developing healthy habits is a fundamental aspect of the process. Replace substance use with activities like regular exercise, nutritious eating, and sufficient sleep, contributing to overall well-being.
Learn and practice healthy coping mechanisms for stress and emotional challenges. Incorporate mindfulness, meditation, or engaging in hobbies that bring joy and relaxation into your daily routine.
Celebrate every small achievement along the way. Recognizing progress, regardless of how minor, reinforces a sense of accomplishment and motivates further positive change.
Educate yourself about the effects of substance abuse, the recovery process, and the benefits of sobriety. Understanding the impact on your physical and mental health strengthens your resolve.
Establish a daily routine that provides structure and purpose. A well-organized schedule helps fill the void left by substance use and contributes to a stable, sober lifestyle.
Finally, stay patient and persistent. Sobriety is a gradual process with inevitable setbacks. Be patient with yourself, learn from challenges, and view them as opportunities for growth.
Taking small steps toward sobriety is about making consistent, positive choices that lead to lasting change. Each step forward is a victory on the path to a healthier and more fulfilling life. Remember, seeking help and staying connected with support systems are key components of this transformative journey.
Educating Your Children About Addiction
One of the more uncomfortable parts of parenting with SUD can be talking about addiction with your children. You may feel embarrassed to broach the topic or not know how to make the conversation age appropriate. Even though it can be difficult, educating your children about addiction is important. It can help prevent them from going down a path to SUD themselves. At the same time, it can help them understand what you are going through, which can ease some of their anxiety.
Initiating conversations with children about addiction requires a thoughtful and age-appropriate approach. Begin by using clear and honest language, tailored to the child’s developmental stage. Address the concept of addiction as an illness rather than a moral failing, emphasizing its potential impact on anyone. As the discussion progresses, delve into the scientific aspects of addiction. Explain how substances can alter the brain’s functioning. This introduction helps children grasp the complexity of addiction as a medical condition.
Simultaneously, it’s crucial to convey that addiction is not a choice. Dispel any misconceptions, and stress that individuals grappling with addiction did not willingly choose their circumstances. Try to connect this understanding to emotions, discussing the feelings of sadness, loneliness, or stress that may contribute to substance use. Encourage children to express their emotions openly and teach them healthy coping mechanisms.
To further humanize the issue, share age-appropriate personal stories or narratives of recovery. This approach enables children to relate to the experiences of those affected by addiction, fostering empathy and understanding. Additionally, address the impact of peer pressure and emphasize the importance of making informed decisions aligned with personal values. Reinforce the concept of healthy choices, including good nutrition, exercise, and positive relationships, as essential elements of overall well-being.
Create an environment that encourages open communication, where children feel comfortable asking questions and expressing their concerns. Finally, discuss the potential consequences of substance use, both short-term and long-term, touching on physical and mental health, relationships, and life opportunities. Through this comprehensive and open dialogue, parents can equip their children with knowledge and emotional resilience. These things are needed to navigate complex issues related to addiction while fostering a compassionate and informed perspective.
Again, this is a difficult part of parenting with SUD. It may be scary and upsetting for your child as well. If they express these feelings, let them know that they are valid and encourage them to process them. It’s okay if either of you need to take a break and return to the conversation later. This isn’t something that can be taken care of in one conversation anyway. It’s an ongoing process, like every part of parenting with SUD.
We Understand the Struggle of Parenting With SUD
At Avery Lane, we understand the complexities and challenges of parenting with SUD. As a women’s-only addiction recovery facility, we recognize that mothers, in particular, bear a unique set of burdens when it comes to seeking help and support. Our commitment is to provide a sanctuary where women can find solace, understanding, and effective treatment without the weight of shame.
Parenting, as a journey, is laden with its own set of trials and tribulations. Add the burden of SUD, and the challenges can seem insurmountable. We want to assure parents who find themselves on this difficult path that Avery Lane is not a place of judgment. Instead, it is a refuge — a place where understanding and compassion are woven into the fabric of our approach.
Some of us are parents ourselves, and we recognize the strength it takes to seek help, especially when it involves acknowledging struggles with addiction. Avery Lane is a community where mothers can come together, share their stories, and support one another without fear of judgment. Our staff is not here to cast blame or point fingers; we are here to extend a helping hand and guide our clients toward recovery.
The journey toward sobriety is a challenging one, and we want to acknowledge the bravery it takes for mothers to confront their SUD. Avery Lane is designed to be a place where women can embrace the healing process with dignity and grace. We provide a nurturing environment where individuals can focus on their recovery without being burdened by the stigma often associated with addiction.
Our programs are tailored to address the unique needs of mothers, recognizing the profound impact that addiction can have on families. Through therapy, counseling, and various support services, we aim to empower women to regain control of their lives and rebuild the bonds that may have been strained by addiction.
Avery Lane is more than a treatment facility; it is a community of understanding and empathy. We recognize the strength and resilience within every woman who walks through our doors, and our mission is to help them rediscover their inner strength. Together, we can break free from the chains of addiction and create a brighter, healthier future for both mothers and their families.
If you are struggling with parenting with SUD, you are not alone. Thousands of parents across the U.S. are trying to overcome the challenges of parenting and addiction. It does not mean you are a bad parent or that you don’t love your children. It simply means that you have a disease, and diseases need medical care to be treated. You shouldn’t have to shoulder the burden alone. You and your family deserve a life of wellness and peace. If you are able, reaching out for professional help is one of the best things you can do for your own health and the health of your children. Give Avery Lane a call at (800) 270-2406 for more information.