If you were an addicted individual that recently started rehab, you might have an idealistic expectation that as soon as you complete the programme of rehabilitation, all your problems will disappear. Getting sober is just the first part of the recovery journey. You now need to focus on staying sober and on mending damaged relationships with your loved ones. You cannot assume that just because you are sober, everything will go back to how it was before your addiction. This will simply not happen. The reality is that your addiction will have changed the lives of everyone you love. That is not to say that you cannot have a bright future together; it will just not be the same as before.
If your children are old enough to understand, it is important that you do not let them assume everything will instantly go back to how it was. They need to know that recovery from addiction is a long process and that there will be ups and downs along the way. Be honest with them and prepare them for the fact that you all need to work together to build a future.
Understanding the Illness
As there is still so much stigma attached to addiction, it is vital that you educate your children about the illness. They need to know that you did not choose to become addicted and that your actions were caused by the fact that you were ill. There are many books about addiction; if your children are teenagers and likely to understand, buy books that they can read themselves. You can find books aimed at younger children and read these to them to make it clearer for them.
Many rehabilitation clinics offer family therapy sessions as they know that addiction is a family illness. It might be a good idea to have your children speak to a professional counsellor or therapist to help them deal with the addiction and recovery.
Children are affected in many ways by a parent’s addiction, and if your child is getting into trouble at school or seems to be withdrawn, he or she may benefit from one-to-one counselling. Remember that your kids are more likely to develop addiction issues of their own when they are older, so it would be a good idea to try to deal with any underlying issues now rather than later.
Addiction causes individuals to act in a way that they would not usually act, and these actions can hurt other people. It is highly likely that your children have been hurt by things you said or did while intoxicated, and the impact of these actions can be devastating. Your children are unlikely to simply forget things you did, so you need to make amends and take things slowly.
As the saying goes ‘actions speak louder than words’ this is very true when it comes to addiction recovery. It is not enough to just say ‘I’m sorry’ You have to prove how sorry you are for the things you have done in the past. Let your children know how much you love and value them by treating them well every single day. Do things to help them and praise them when they deserve it. Try to focus on the positive rather than highlighting the negative. And be there to support them when they need you.
Addiction makes people selfish, so while you were ill, you probably thought little about the needs of others. It is time now to think of the people you love, especially your children, who need to feel as though they are important in your life. Do things together and choose activities that your kids will enjoy.
Remember that it may take time to get your family life back on track, but with a little patience and some hard work, you will get there.