Addiction Treatment for Parents

It would be ideal if people who had addictions could take a complete and total break from life and focus exclusively on their addictions and their path back to sobriety. Unfortunately, most people who have an addiction issue also have life to attend to, and often, that life includes children. In one study published in the journal Addiction, half of the women seeking treatment for addiction were mothers, and two-thirds of the women still had custody of their children. While women are traditionally caregivers of children, men might also have custody of their children, and they might face the same issues their female counterparts face when they attempt to get help for their addictions.

While dealing with children isn’t easy, especially during the addiction recovery process, the results might be well worth the effort. As parents are able to put their lives back together and focus on the needs of their children, instead of focusing on the needs their addictions place upon them, the entire dynamic of the family may change and amazing healing may take place.

The Importance of Care

It’s common for addicted parents to resist treatment for addiction due to fears about what will happen to their children. In one study, published in the Journal of the National Medical Association, 55 percent of women admitted that they did not want to get treatment for addiction due to responsibilities they held as a mother or as a wife. In addition, 40 percent admitted to fears that children would be removed from the household, if the women admitted addiction was an issue for them. It’s easy to see why these fears exist, but it’s important to note that the price children pay for living in homes where a parent is addicted is almost impossible to bear. Treatment might be difficult, but the alternative path is much more painful.

In an interesting study of parents who had substance abuse issues, researchers found that participants felt, “most comfortable in the role of drug addict and found order in the chaos in the addictive lifestyle.” While these parents might have been comfortable in a chaotic, addicted life, children might very well feel deeply uncomfortable in these situations. Children often thrive in routine, when food is always served at particular times, bedtimes are strictly adhered to and school is always a priority. Parents who value chaos may rob their children of this order, and they may make the children feel quite insecure as a result.

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Faced with tumultuous childhoods, many children adapt by growing up much too soon, taking on responsibilities for younger children and attempting to care for their impaired parents. In a review of the consequences of growing up in a home where addiction is an issue, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration finds that this tendency to abandon childhood can have life-long consequences.

When these children age, they may experience:
  • Unsatisfactory relationships
  • An inability to handle money
  • Substance abuse disorders
  • Inappropriate roles within the family

Some adults are able to overcome these tendencies with therapy, and they may learn to appropriately share burdens with their partners and develop healthy relationships with those they love, but others seem destined to repeat the mistakes their parents made, and they perpetuate the cycle into another generation.

Including Children in Care

While children can hinder some people from getting the care they need, children might also spur some parents to obtain the care they’ll need in order to get better. For example, the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment found that most women studied in addiction treatment programs had children, but fear of losing custody of those children tended to motivate the women to obtain necessary care. Since children are so very important to their parents, and the long-term success in rehab those parents might obtain, many programs include aspects tailored just for parents.

Some treatment programs, including programs reportedly used by Charlie Sheen, allow parents to bring their children along with them for care. These programs might provide daycare services for very small children, while parents go through their own addiction treatment classes. These programs might also provide living quarters for parents and their children, so the bond remains strong while the treatment process moves forward. These programs seem rare, however, and it’s easy to understand why this is the case. Recovering from addiction is a difficult process, and many people simply are not feeling their best as their bodies adjust to a lack of drugs. Facilities that accept children may be liable for injuries the children face while living in the communities, and since the parents might be too impaired to assist, the risk of a problem might be quite high. For this reason, most inpatient programs for addiction simply do not allow treatment for children until the parents have reached a specific point in recovery and can be responsible for the actions of the children.

Outpatient treatment programs may provide an ideal choice for parents, as these parents may be able to tap community resources to help with childcare needs. While these parents obtain care for their addictions, they may ask for help from:

  • Parents
  • Friends
  • Siblings
  • Spouses
  • Neighbors

By pulling together a diverse set of helpers like this, parents may ensure that children get to school safely, and have a safe place to return when school is over. At the end of the parent’s daily treatment program, the parent can pick up childcare responsibilities and provide consistency for the children. Those who have strong family connections and safe neighborhoods may find this to be an attractive option.

Parents who do not have such strong family ties or an extended network to lean on might benefit from linkages to community programs. Some addiction programs keep a list of nearby community groups that are available to assist with childcare while the parents undergo addiction treatment. These community programs may help the parents fill a needed gap, until they are well enough to handle the care of children alone.

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It can be difficult for parents to understand all the options open to them and make good decisions about care for their children. It’s important not to let concerns about childcare stand in the way of a strong recovery. At Axis, we’re happy to discuss childcare options with you and help you make good decisions about the care that’s right for you and for your family. Please call us today to learn more about our options and find out how to enroll.