It’s unspoken but loud.
It’s in the back of our minds and makes us hesitate to move forward. It’s the feeling that we’re weak and negligent for going to recovery–a feeling that increases ten-fold if we’re parents.
If you are a parent battling addiction, you may feel like you have to choose between your children and getting treatment. If you enter a treatment program, you may feel immense guilt for “abandoning” your children and for the long process of recovery that will affect the whole family.
Although it is natural to feel these emotions, they cloud the reality that getting help is the most responsible, loving, and supportive action a parent can take. In fact, good parenting and recovery have a lot in common.
Shared Key Virtues
Both sobriety and raising a family center on the seven key virtues that we explore in every program offered here at St. Gregory’s:
In addition to these seven virtues, parenting in recovery requires grit, courage, and perseverance. And yes, you can parent from a residential program like the one we offer at St. Gregory’s.
Parallels Between Parenting & Recovery
Prominent author and Psychology Today writer Dan Mager highlights many of the requirements that being a parent and being in recovery have in common.
Toss Aside Perfection & Normality
Just as there is no one definition of what recovery should look like, neither is there one right way to parent. Expecting perfection from yourself in either parenting or in recovery will only lead to guilt and a sense of failure. Forget about perfection or what’s “normal” and focus on the moment.
Quit the Blame Game
The life cycle is filled with joy and heartbreak, highs and lows. No parent will ever be able to shield their child from this reality. Life is good, and it’s hard. We can’t hold ourselves responsible for the pain our kids will inevitably feel. And we can’t blame ourselves for all of the life circumstances that contributed to our addiction.
Instead of focusing on past mistakes, take responsibility for them. Taking responsibility means apologizing when appropriate–and then learning from the past so that you can avoid those mistakes in the future. This is true for both parenting and recovery. We can’t beat ourselves up; we have to accept our situation and move forward.
Embracing Humility & Open-Mindedness
All of the aforementioned processes ultimately bring us to a place of humility, which leads to open-mindedness. We can’t expect our children to respond positively to us all the time, or to gratify our need for respect and validation simply because we’re their parents. We need to humbly approach them as imperfect people. Parent-child relationships need time, frequent repairs, and a whole lot of patience.
Tools for Parents in a Residential Program
Individual Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
Most treatment programs include individual counseling, often in the form of CBT. This type of therapy will aid you in identifying behaviors and patterns that contribute to addiction. In the process, you’ll come to understand your parenting style and how to identify patterns of behavior in your children.
At St. Gregory’s, we offer a great family program where children and adults can come together and receive counseling. This program is designed to go hand-in-hand with what may be uncovered during individual therapy. Our program provides a chance for family members to share their feelings and get their questions and grievances out into the open.
Talk It Out With the Community
Sometimes, the best thing we can do is lean on other parents who have gone through what we’re going through. They can assure us, normalize our experiences and feelings, and tell us what to avoid. In a treatment program, you’ll connect with other parents through group therapy and alumni programs. Here’s one example of one mother’s experience with her partner’s dependence on alcohol, and how they worked through it to become better parents and people.
Throughout treatment and recovery, you can remind your children of how much they matter to you. Tell them that they have been a great motivation for you to get help. Remind them that you are imperfect, that you are trying, and that things will get better–slowly but surely.
Whatever you do and wherever you are, don’t hesitate to speak with us today. We’re here for you, your family, and your success.