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Drug Addiction and Normal Parenting Struggles

Parenting is a complex job that requires awareness, compassion, flexibility, strength, and a little moxie.  It’s a fair amount of work just keeping track of different personalities, different abilities, likes, dislikes, needs, wants, and developmental stages.  Now imagine that you are doing this from within the fog and distortion of a drug addiction or alcoholism.  One thing is for certain – good parenting and drug addiction cannot exist together.

Family Structure With Drug Addiction

In a healthy family, the parents are on top of the power hierarchy with the kids down below.  This structure drives the discipline and interactions in the family.  Ideally, parents are not only clearly in charge but also warm and nurturing.  They are willing and able to give their kids opportunities to take responsibility and try new things, but nothing that would undermine the authority of the parents.

When addiction is present in a family, things get turned upside down and sideways.  Often, a child ends up doing care-taking duties for the addicted parent.  Or the non-addicted parent will do so much for the addicted parent that they don’t parent the kids as well as they need to or know they should.  Kids take on grown-up responsibilities, feel lost, feel guilty, act out, and sometimes adopt their own drug abuse or addiction to cope with their mixed up family.

Emotional Environment With Drug Addiction

One of the less obvious casualties with a drug addiction is long-term emotional pain and distortion.  An addiction within a family is somewhat like a mobile hung above a baby’s crib.  You can just touch one part  of it and the rest of it will move.  It only takes one person in a family to be addicted for everyone to feel the effects. 

The addicted parent likely had some kind of emotional emptiness or pain to start with, contributing to the development of the addiction in the first place.  The other parent may be part of that emotional pain, or if not, they will certainly have some once their addicted spouse chooses their addiction over them many times over.  The kids will eventually note tension between their parents, or sense some dishonesty, wonder why their addicted parent acts strange and seems to reject them. 

Because kids are naturally self-focused, they tend to blame themselves in some way for things going wrong with the family.  This guilt or confusion can cause them to act differently to get their parents’ attention.  So much energy goes towards the reaction to the addiction rather than towards learning and developing.

Modeling Good Self Care With Drug Treatment

There’s no better way an addicted parent can show love than to start drug rehab.  This action shows that the charade is over and that the parent is willing to take care of themselves.  Drug rehab can’t turn back time, make wrongs right, or fix anything.  It can bring truth back to the forefront and make healthy parenting a priority.

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