Parenting is one of the most challenging yet rewarding things a person can do in their life. However, throwing a history of substance use into the equation can be even more challenging.
As a father, you have a unique bond with your child, one that differs from their mother’s. While one is not more important than the other, the father being present is key in a child’s upbringing.
Being a father with substance use disorder (SUD) may mean that you hold a lot of regrets. Perhaps you were absent for part of your child’s life. Maybe your actions in active addictions damaged the relationship. Whatever the reason, regrets can be hard to face. This doesn’t mean that they are impossible to overcome.
It is not uncommon for individuals in recovery to feel deep regret about what they did in the past. It is what we do with those feelings that is important.
Have a Conversation With Your Child
Having a conversation about your past is critical to helping mend the wounds you may have caused. Depending on your child’s age, you will need to restructure how and what you talk about specifically. You don’t need to go into every detail; it’s starting that line of open communication that is important.
Explain the Behavior
This is crucial in having a dialogue with your child. You don’t have to be specific if they are too young, but you can, at the very least, explain the behavior. Explain that addiction is a disease caused by a dysfunction in the brain. Explain that there are certain things you have to do now to correct that dysfunction, whether that is going to meetings, exercising, or meditating.
You can ask your child if they want to join you in those activities. Have your child engage with you in your recovery journey in whatever way they can so they understand you better. That’s ultimately what this is about: getting your child to understand the difference between who you are now as opposed to who you used to be.
Be Gentle and Respectful
Take your time with your child. Answer whatever questions they have. Use parental judgment on what is and isn’t appropriate.
Being respectful is also critical, as this is a very serious subject, so you should treat your child with the respect that the subject holds. That means talking to them in a more adult fashion than you usually do.
Check-in with your child to see if they understand. Reward their understanding. As fathers, we often try to protect our children from the darker parts of the outside world. With this conversation, we do have to show them how there are bad parts of life. If they handle that information with respect, they should be rewarded.
Try not to focus too much on the negative parts of active addiction. Instead, try to frame the conversation in a positive light. Talk about the benefits of being in recovery, how much better your life is without substances, and how much more active you can be in your life now. This last point is critical because as a child’s brain develops, they will be more focused and receptive to how your recovery relates to them.
Family History and Genetics
This may not be applicable to every father, but if there is a family history of substance use disorder, you should talk about that as well. Explain to your child that they may not be able to interact with substances the way other people can. A predisposition to substance use disorder is dangerous and should be a part of that conversation.
Be a Positive Role Model
While it is natural to have regrets about how you may have parented in the past, you now have the ability to correct that. You can be a positive role model for your child. You overcoming your problems with substances is an excellent example for you to set. Children learn by observing, watching, and mimicking. You overcoming something difficult and becoming a better person from it can have positive lasting impacts on your child.
Healing Pines Recovery Specializes in Helping Dads
If you are having trouble being a father and staying in recovery, try reaching out to Healing Pines Recovery. We are an all-male recovery center, meaning we offer perspectives and advice specifically for men and fathers who have gone through your exact experiences. We also provide family therapy, which can help facilitate these difficult discussions. Healing Pines is here to help you become the best father you can be.
Being a father — whether you are new to it or not — can be a challenge, especially when working through recovery. Many fathers worry if they are doing enough for their child, which can be a significant concern for you while working through addiction or substance use disorder.
There may be times when you might feel like a failure or that you have let your child down. However, in those moments, remember this: you have taken the necessary steps toward a better future for yourself and your child. Something that can reinforce this healing is seeking help. If you are a father or know someone in need of treatment, reach out to Healing Pines Recovery today.
We provide a number of recovery options for men looking to achieve and maintain sobriety. Make positive changes for your child’d life today by calling (720) 575-2621.