For those new to sobriety, taking care of themselves might be an entirely new experience. Taking care of self and looking after a child may seem at times very difficult. However, if you are a father new to recovery – or if you have years of sobriety under your belt – being an excellent father is far from impossible.
Ultimately, you cannot still be a child when you have your own child. Those in active addiction are essentially children; they can’t take care of themselves; they don’t feed themselves, bathe themselves, or prioritize their own well-being. It IS impossible to be a good parent (let alone a good role-model) while in active addiction.
Sobriety vs. Recovery
Unfortunately, it typically isn’t enough to simply maintain sobriety. In order to truly offer their children the best versions of themselves, sober fathers must be actively working a program. What does this mean? In essence, it means putting in the work to continue self-progression. Going to meetings, working the steps of whatever 12-step program they choose, utilizing their sponsor, and giving back; however, they can. Children need consistency, seeing as they will ultimately be products of their environments. They need to witness their father engaging in self-care, and prioritizing health and happiness over everything else.
Addiction and The Family
On the one hand, addiction is notorious for devastating family systems – sometimes irreparably. But on the other hand, a family can play a major part in successful, long-term recovery. If damage has been done to interpersonal relationships, family therapy is a wise choice. Depending on how old a child is, involving them can prove to be extremely beneficial. If young children are exposed to their parent’s active addiction, individual therapy may be necessary. It isn’t uncommon for children who witness their parents struggling with addiction to turn to drugs and alcohol themselves later on in life. Family is crucial to long-term recovery, and it is important to heal together.
Becoming a Good Role Model
Even if a father’s addiction has to lead to rifts within the family, it is important that he still attempts to be the best role model possible. Depending on how old the concerned child is (or children are), honesty may be the best route to take. Everyone struggles from time-to-time, and being genuine and forthcoming may help the child down the road. It is completely normal to fear that children will reject any efforts to fix the relationship – keep moving forward, and try to understand that actions always speak louder than words. Try to remember that forgiveness doesn’t happen overnight. It can be a long process, and it may be quite a lot of work, but gaining forgiveness is more rewarding than throwing in the towel will ever be. Try not to get too discouraged if things don’t happen on the expected timeline. Just like ensuring that relapse is never an option, healing wounded family ties and becoming a great role-model is an ongoing process.
What if My Father is in Recovery?
It can be difficult to navigate how to interact with anyone new to recovery, let alone someone in your immediate family. It is also normal to feel a certain degree of resentment towards parents who have grappled with addiction. It may feel as if your addicted parent was intentionally trying to harm you, or was purposefully ignoring you and your needs. This is never the case. Addiction is an all-consuming disease, one that transforms loving, nurturing parents into shells of their former selves. Your support and understanding are needed. Reach out to others who have been in a similar situation – get the support you need. You won’t be able to give support unless you are receiving it yourself.
If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction or needs support in recovery, we at Recreate Life Counseling are here to help. Please feel free to give us a call today – we look forward to hearing from you soon.