The Addicted Parent
Drug and alcohol addiction does not discriminate. Many mothers and fathers of small children are addicted to alcohol and/or drugs, and it is heartbreaking. Just like anyone with addiction, parents in active addiction can do and say horrific things to their children. These youngsters are often exposed to things they should not see. As a result, some develop extreme trauma.
Typically, these parents do not mean to do and say abhorrent things. But they will often carry on in a very erratic manner that is not conducive to rearing mentally stable and healthy children. This is a very serious matter.
By Kari Mackneer, Clinical Director, Clean Recovery Centers
There is help
Children are extremely impressionable. Traumatic things that happen in childhood can cause many problems as they grow older. Some may even experience PTSD at some point in their lives as a result of issues that occurred when they were infants. Children of one or both parents suffering from addiction may see, hear and experience things they are simply not equipped to handle.
Here’s the good news: there is help. First, there is nothing wrong with having the disease of drug and/or alcoholism. But there is something completely wrong with having the disease, knowing you have the disease and not doing anything about it.
The side effects of addiction often result in abhorrent behavior. No parent in their right mind wants to expose their children to these behaviors. But parents in active addiction are not in their right minds and are often resistant to treatment. As a result, the suffering their children experience is prolonged and the damage even greater.
In addition, many parents of small children face challenges outside of their addiction when it comes to seeking help for their disease. Questions they ask include, “Who will look after the children?” and “I need to work. I can’t afford this!”
As to not being able to afford taking time off work, I can tell you from experience – there is far more risk with parents in active addiction who stay with their children than the financial impact of lost work hours. In cases where there are no financial resources, state funded facilities are available in most states. When there are no resources to look after the children, the state may be able to help as well. It is worth a few calls to find out.
Are any of these alternatives easy on the children? In most cases I would say “no.” That said, there are not many things worse than a parent or parents trying to look after children while in active addiction. In most instances, the children have done nothing wrong and can end up suffering more than their parents realize. It is simply not fair to children to try and raise them in an environment that is emotionally unstable and possibly even dangerous.
Good treatment facilities will try to work with parents to coordinate a schedule of care that minimizes disruption to the children’s lives. That said, this treatment needs to be robust, and the schedule cannot render the treatment ineffective. The only hope for a parent and anyone in active addiction is to receive treatment and recover. Also, it is often the only hope the children have of enjoying a healthy, happy and productive childhood.