Tips for Parenting in Recovery Everyone Should Know

Parenting in recovery is difficult. This article will give you tips for parenting in recovery to help you and your family thrive.

The relationship between a parent and a child is one of the most heavily affected relationships by addiction. As addiction takes a firm hold on every aspect of our lives, we can end up neglecting them. The results of this are catastrophic, but not completely beyond repair. In this article, we’ll discuss parenting in recovery and how to win back trust in your family relationships. 

The Effect Addiction Has on Families 

Addition can tear a family apart. From being a parent watching a child go through addiction, to a spouse watching their spouse go through the depths of addiction, to a child having their parent overtaken by addiction at the expense of attention to them. The tornado of addiction can ravage any family relationship. 

Children are among the many innocent bystanders in our addiction. Oftentimes we neglect them in pursuit of drugs/alcohol and during the period of our use. That’s the thing about getting drunk/high, you’re not present. You’re off in your own drinking/using world, unable to fully match the current needs of your children.  

This can have many results. In some cases, children will seek guidance from another adult/family member, be it their other parent, their grandparents, or older siblings. In other cases, they can feel as if they are on their own and may turn to bad influences. A friend of mine in the program lost the right to see his daughter due to this disease, because being blackout drunk every night doesn’t make you a reliable parent. I’ve heard stories from other alcoholics where their child always had to make meals for themselves, because they were either too drunk to effectively do it or passed out.  

In children, the effect of having a parent mired in addiction can have long-reaching consequences. From the get-go, having an addict/alcoholic parent can make you more susceptible to addiction. The same way having a parent who went through cancer can mean you have a higher risk for cancer. In my experience, more often than not, addicts/alcoholics are not the only ones in our families who fall victim to addiction and mental health issues.  

Father and daughter sitting on grass in park enjoying sunset together

Source: Freepik

Healthy Parenting Begins with Forgiveness 

The shame parents feel from the actions during their addiction can be overwhelming. The guilt of our past actions can take us to the brink of going back out if they are not addressed. Many people include a resentment of themselves on their step 4 resentments list.    

Unsurprisingly, forgiving ourselves begins with the steps.  Steps 8 and 9 deal directly with making amends and forgiveness. They are:  

  • Step 8: Made a list of persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all 

This is pretty straightforward. How can we possibly make amends if we don’t fully acknowledge what we did wrong and how we harmed others?  This is why it’s critical to not only write down people we have harmed, but to state exactly how we harmed them and plan out how we go about making amends to them. Generally, this involves some kind of statement, be it a letter, email, phone call or face-to-face interaction. This will involve more than simply saying “I’m sorry” for the 10,000th time, so it’s important to go review your amends plans with your sponsor before giving them. 

While every amends has a living-amends aspect (i.e. genuinely changing your behavior in the long run), oftentimes with children the living-amends aspect can take a primary role. This simply means that you continue to be honest, continue to keep your side of the street clean, and continue to be an effective, attentive parent. For very young children, the living amends aspect will be the primary means of making amends.  

  • Step 9: Made direct amends to such people whenever possible except when to do so would injure them or others 

This is the part where the rubber meets the road. Reaching out to people you have harmed and delivering your amends to them. Again, this entails more than simply saying “I’m sorry” for the 10100 time.  

While every amends has a living-amends aspect (i.e. genuinely changing your behavior in the long run), oftentimes with children the living-amends aspect can take a primary role. This simply means that you continue to be honest, continue to keep your side of the street clean, and continue to be an effective, attentive parent. For very young children, the living amends aspect will be the primary means of making amends.  

Mother and her son are posing in the studio and wearing casual clothes

Source: Freepik

Remain Consistent While Building Trust 

Rome wasn’t built in a day. The same can be said of relationships being rebuilt during recovery. Well, maybe a better phrase would focus on something being rebuilt after total destruction, like say (sticking with the theme of European capitals) “London wasn’t rebuilt in a day after the fires of 1666 or after The Blitz”. Well, that doesn’t really roll off the tongue, but the point remains the same. Rebuilding relationships won’t happen overnight, rebuilding trust takes time.  

As alcoholics/addicts we love instant gratification, but that’s not how forgiveness and amends work. Amends have multiple stages: 

Stage One: Listing the people we owe amends to and why we need to make amends to them. 

Pretty self-explanatory, how can we possibly make amends if we aren’t fully aware of the ways we caused harm?  

Stage Two: Crafting the amends 

The amends needs to have two main qualities, honesty, and humility. We need to be honest about what we did and be humble enough to admit we were wrong. 

Stage Three: Giving the amends 

Do we deliver the amends in-person? Over the phone? Via email? Do we owe any money/other compensation? All of this will be planned out in advance.   

Stage Four: The living amends 

Without this, the earlier stages are meaningless. We need to go beyond simply owning up to what we did, we need to genuinely change our behavior in the long run. If people see over time that we have genuinely changed, they will be more inclined to forgive us for our past transgressions.  

For those with children, this is an especially important aspect. Backwards time travel isn’t possible, so we can’t travel back in time and change our behavior, take back things we said or did, or go back in time and kill our grandfather before he met our grandmother, thereby creating a paradox because if our grandfather dies before our parent is conceived, we were never born in the first place to go back in time, leading us to be born only to eventually travel back in time and kill him, meaning we were never born and never able to go back in... anyways. All we can do is be a better parent in the future. 

Front view happy parents with kids at home

Source: Freepik

Encourage Family Time and Remain Present 

This goes with the goal of being consistent and building trust. Now that drugs and alcohol are out of the picture, we can be a better friend, spouse/significant other, co-worker and (most relevant to the topic of this article) a better parent. Carve time out to spend with your children, be it a hike, driving them to and attending their sports games, picking them up and dropping them off at school or simply hanging out. Anything you can do to be an effective parent in the moment.  

Take Care of Yourself 

Staying healthy mentally and physically is always important, especially when you are taking the steps of recovery. Going to meetings and working through the steps with a sponsor is a great way to gain some mental stability and serenity, which does wonders for your living amends.  

It’s often said that the program is the most important thing in our lives, as opposed to our relationships with family, work, etc. This is not to say those things aren’t important, they absolutely are. But for us addicts and alcoholics, all of those things are dependent on staying sober. If we don’t maintain our program, we risk going out, which puts us in serious danger of losing all of those things. Recovery is the keystone for all of those things. 

PCTD Can Help 

You knew this paragraph was coming, likely because this is the Pacific Crest Trail Detox website. Pacific Crest Trail Detox can give you a firm foothold in early sobriety, giving you a good start in rebuilding your family relationships. 

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