Forgiving addicted parentsParents are supposed to provide their children with a source of support, strength, and unconditional love. Unfortunately, the parent-child relationship can be severely strained by the burden of addiction.

Find a Way to Confront Your Feelings

Parental addiction is more common than one might expect. Studies estimate that more than 28 million people in the United States have a parent who is addicted to alcohol or drugs.

Children with parents who suffer from substance abuse face a number of struggles in their early years. For example:

  • Looking after parents when they are drunk or intoxicated
  • Caring for younger siblings in a parent-like role
  • Cooking, cleaning, and performing other tasks associated with running a household
  • Having a lack of support to succeed in school
  • Enduring emotional neglect
  • Suffering physical abuse
  • Worrying about family finances, including the risk of hunger and homelessness
  • Being fearful that someone will find out about a parent’s addiction and separate the family
  • Feeling socially isolated from peers due to problems at home

Growing up with an addicted parent leaves a child with unresolved emotional issues, including feelings of resentment, fear, anxiety, bitterness, mistrust, and depression. To heal, you need to find a way to confront the trauma you’ve suffered and acknowledge how it has affected you.

Speaking to a counselor can help you process childhood trauma, as can attending a support group such as Al-Anon. Writing in a journal or expressing yourself through art and music can also help you explore your feelings about your childhood in a safe environment..

Separate Your Parent from the Addiction

To let go of past hurts, you must be able to separate your parent from his or her addiction. Substance abuse is a chronic illness with a biological basis. Once addiction takes hold, it’s very difficult to get your life back on track without professional intervention.

Recognizing that your parent wasn’t fully in control of his or her actions due to the influence of alcohol or drugs might mean brainstorming a list of happy memories to focus on. Remembering times when your parent wasn’t actively using can help remind you of your mother or father’s love.

Acknowledge that Parenting Is Difficult

Unfortunately, there is no rule book for parenting. Even the most well-intentioned parents with access to a strong support system can make terrible mistakes. If you’re harboring resentment towards your addicted parent, it might be helpful to acknowledge that no parent is perfect. All anyone can do is try to make the best of the given circumstances.

Acknowledging that no parent is perfect may include exploring the factors in your parent’s past that contributed to his or her addiction. Since substance abuse often runs in families, he or she may have grown up with an addicted parent. Depression, anxiety, or other mental health issues may also have played a role. While this doesn’t excuse bad behavior, it does help provide you with a better understanding of the challenges your parent was facing during your childhood.

Realize Forgiveness Is for Your Own Benefit

You might feel as though your addicted parent doesn’t deserve your forgiveness if he or she hasn’t specifically expressed remorse for past actions. While this is understandable, it’s important to realize that forgiveness is primarily for your benefit.

Holding on to resentment from the past affects your current relationships with friends, family, and coworkers. It makes you angry, scared, and afraid to move forward. Letting go makes it possible for you to move forward.

Imagine you have $86,400 in your bank account. If you discovered that someone stole $10 from you, would you spend the remaining $86,390 in hopes of seeking revenge? Would you risk being left with nothing instead of accepting the loss and moving on?

There are 86,400 seconds in every day. Letting go of the negative aspects of your past gives you time to focus on the blessings you do have.

Focus on Controlling Your Future

The past has already happened. For better or worse, previous events are out of your control. However, you have the power to decide how your future will unfold. You can either hold on to wounds from the past or decide to make a fresh start. The choice is yours alone.

If you’re struggling with substance abuse issues yourself, you can break the cycle of addiction by asking for help. Addiction may have a biological basis, but genetics aren’t destiny. Substance abuse can be treated with a medically assisted detox followed by a combination of individual and group therapy. Seeking treatment can help you build a better life for yourself and your loved ones.

By Dana Hinders

To learn more about our programs, please visit our website.

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How to cope with cravings

You may leave rehab feeling like you’ve got your addiction under control, but cravings are a normal part of the recovery process.

Cravings are often described as a feeling of intense hunger for alcohol or drugs. When you’re experiencing a craving, you might feel like the abused substance is calling out your name so strongly that you can smell or taste it. You might experience physical symptoms associated with anxiety, such as a rapid heartbeat and headache.

Addiction is a chronic illness, which means you’ll likely face some form of cravings for many months or even years to come. However, once you learn which tactics work to keep your cravings under control, they’ll decrease in both frequency and intensity.

1. Practice Mindfulness

Mindfulness refers to making a deliberate effort to focus your attention on the present moment. When you’re having a craving, mindfulness meditation can help you increase awareness of your personal triggers and control emotions that are triggering the urge to use.

Focusing your attention on your breathing and the sensations you’re experiencing in the moment will help you see that uncomfortable emotions are only temporary. You can learn to think of cravings as visitors to your mind that you’re under no obligation to welcome or obey.

2. Distract Yourself

Cravings are short lived, with research showing that intensity diminishes after 15 to 30 minutes. This means the best way to beat a craving may be to simply distract yourself until it passes. For example:

  • Watch a movie
  • Read a book
  • Spend time in nature
  • Write in your journal
  • Draw, paint, or engage in a creative hobby
  • Listen to music

Since stress is often a trigger for cravings, enjoyable distractions will also help you manage the situation by lowering your stress level.

3. Remove Yourself from Dangerous Situations

If you’re feeling the urge to use because you’re surrounded by reminders of your old life, you need to remove yourself from the situation. Continuing to hang around places and engage in activities that you associate with using sets you up for relapse.

Be honest with the people in your life about what triggers your cravings. If you know that going back to your favorite bar is going to make you crave a drink, you shouldn’t be risking your sobriety by putting yourself in a dangerous situation. Anyone who doesn’t support your commitment to staying clean doesn’t deserve a place in your life.

4. Avoid Entertainment that Glorifies Substance Abuse

Songs, TV shows, movies, video games, and books that make substance abuse seem glamorous can trick your brain into a craving. Surrounding yourself with portrayals of people who’ve overcome addiction is a better alternative, since inspirational stories can help strengthen your resolve to stay clean.

Entertainment is also a common person-specific cue for cravings. Person-specific cues are triggers that are unique to each individual, such as associating a certain song with drug use because it was playing the first time you got high. A 2015 study found that person-specific cues have a stronger effect on cravings that substance-specific cues such as the presence of bottles, lighters, or drug paraphernalia.

5. Call a Friend

Knowing when to turn to your support network is an essential part of building a successful sober life for yourself. If you’re struggling with a craving, reach out to a supportive friend or family member. Talking to someone about what you’re feeling can help strengthen your resolve to not fall prey to your cravings.

Talking also helps you remember the negative consequences of using. When you’re faced with a stubborn craving, it’s easy to fall prey to the trap of only thinking about the benefits of drug or alcohol use. Your support system can help remind you of how much you have to lose if you give in to temptation. They can also bring you back to reality by reminding you that using “just once” is likely to lead to a complete relapse.

6. Go to a Meeting

Alcoholics Anonymous and other 12-step groups play a vital role in maintaining sobriety by providing you with access to a community of people who understand the challenges you’re facing. Going to a meeting can help you manage cravings by reminding you that you’re not alone and showing you that a lasting recovery is possible no matter what obstacles you’ve struggled with in the past.

12-step meetings are available in almost every community, with larger cities having multiple meetings per day. This means you can find a meeting to attend even if you’re away from home. If you’re struggling with transportation issues, contact a meeting leader to see if another member can provide a ride.

By Dana Hinders

 

To learn more about our programs, please visit our website.

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Our 2018 Alumni Reunion is just a few weeks away!

 

Bald Eagle building

Join us at St. Joseph’s campus for an afternoon of fun, food, and recovery-based fellowship on May 19 from 1:00-10:00pm.

 

All alumni are invited to bring one guest (adults only). Please also bring a chair for chillin’ around the bonfire.

 

RSVP to Emily Benjamin at ebenjamin@stjosephinstitute.com with your name, number of attendees, and t-shirt size (alumni only) by April 15.

 

If you missed our email invitation, you can sign up for our mailing list here.


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