Parents in Addiction Recovery

Addiction recovery is a long – and often windy – road for anyone. In fact, recovery is a lifelong process, as many people recovering from addiction continue actively pursuing and strengthening their recovery even decades after their active addiction ended. For single parents in addiction recovery, it can be complicated further by concerns about the welfare of your children. You must make arrangements to ensure your children are cared for and loved while you complete inpatient rehabilitation. At the same time, you have concerns over behaviors that you fear may have had a negative impact on your children.

Most people considering entering inpatient rehabilitation have similar concerns. After all, treatment is expensive, and if you have health insurance that offers some coverage for drug or alcohol rehabilitation, it may not cover nearly enough. It may seem impossible to find a rehabilitation center that accepts your insurance.

Some Concerns of Single Parents in Addiction Recovery

As one of their parents in addiction recovery, you might fear that your children will be placed in foster care or agonize over the knowledge that addiction sometimes runs in families, paralyzed with fear that you may have passed the devastating disease of addiction on to your children. While all such concerns are valid, few obstacles are insurmountable. The recovery community and treatment options have evolved in the last few decades as awareness of the many unique situations addicts must cope with has grown.

That’s why we’ve put together this comprehensive guide: as a resource for parents in addiction recovery, beginning or continuing their journey of treatment who want to ensure that their choices from today forward are in the best interests of their recovery and their children’s futures. With the resources in this guide, you can find treatment options, identify organizations aimed at helping single parents achieve recovery, and information on support systems that exist for children of addicts, both those in active addiction and those in recovery.

What You’ll Find in This Guide:
  • The Impact of Addiction on Children
  • Recovery and Treatment Considerations for Single Parents
  • Where to Find Support for Your Children
  • Looking Forward: Positive Parenting Techniques

The Impact of Addiction on Children

As a single parent in active addiction, you may worry about the impact your behavior is having on your children – or, like many addicts, your disease may convince you that your behaviors only harm you. Parents in addiction recovery may experience regret about the impacts their addiction may have had on their children and how it has shaped their futures. In this section, we discuss research and knowledge regarding how addiction affects children.

Children of AddictsAddiction teaches children unhealthy expectations and sometimes necessitates that they quickly mature in order to fend for themselves or care for younger siblings. This article outlines some of the impacts of addiction on children, and the importance of increasing stability in the home.

Your worst fear as a single parent with addiction is quite likely the possibility that your children may be taken from you and placed in temporary foster care. Unfortunately, this can sometimes happen, though as this resource explains there are steps that single parents can take to regain custody – beginning with rehabilitation, followed by working with social services and participating in regular visits with your children. You may also be required to take parenting classes. Whatever requirements are placed on you, have faith that your family can be reunited as you progress through your recovery.

Families in which a parent is struggling with addiction may lose their sense of “normal,” and a tense family atmosphere can lead to emotional disconnection over time. This resource delves into the impacts of addiction on children and examines the family dynamic.

Children who deal with addiction at home are at an increased risk of physical and mental illness, learning difficulties, and even abuse and neglect. This article explains the importance of starting a dialogue with children who are coping with a parent suffering from addiction, and offers tips for sources of support for children.

Children may behave in a manner that’s not age-appropriate in a single-parent household in which the parent is struggling with addiction. That’s because they often feel a need to compensate for their parent’s deficiencies resulting from their addiction and may act in a parental role to younger siblings.

Children may continue to feel the effects of abuse or neglect resulting from a parent’s addiction even after the parent is no longer actively abusing drugs or alcohol. This article outlines behavioral consequences and other impacts of addiction on children.

Recovery and Treatment Considerations for Single Parents

The roadblocks to achieving successful recovery might seem insurmountable as a single parent, but there are more workable treatment options for parents in addiction recovery today than ever before. In this section, we discuss various treatment and recovery options to help you navigate the specific challenges of recovery as a single parent.

Husband in Addiction TreatmentOf course, the first step in your recovery is recognizing that you have a problem. If you’re reading this, you may be becoming aware that your alcohol or drug use is slipping out of your control, and that means you’re already on the right path. This article explains some of the indicators that may reveal alcoholism, such as isolating yourself from friends and family to avoid being called out on your addiction or doing the minimum to care for your children.

Part of your recovery may involve reaching out to your former spouse or partner to get them on board with your recovery plans and on the same page as far as appropriate communication with your children regarding your disease and treatment. Not all situations are ideal, but if your children’s other parent remains in the picture, you may be surprised to discover how much they’ll support you through recovery. If nothing else, they surely want you to be well again for the benefit of your kids.

Awareness has grown in recent years about the unique challenges faced by parents in addiction recovery, and as a result, many rehabilitation centers are adopting policies and offering features specifically designed to cater to the needs of single parents. This article describes several common challenges faced by single parents and solutions offered through modern treatment options.

According to, the National Survey of Substance Abuse Treatment reports that 14 percent of drug treatment programs nationwide offer childcare services while a parent is receiving inpatient treatment.

Residential family treatment is a newer approach (first developed in the 1990s) to addiction treatment aiming to solve the numerous challenges of addiction recovery that single parents experience. As this article explains, your children’s presence while you undergo treatment can be a strong motivator, and it also provides an opportunity for you to practice positive parenting techniques in a supportive environment.

For single parents with work or school obligations that make inpatient recovery impossible, outpatient treatment can be effective for some; however, keep in mind that for some types of addictions and some people, outpatient therapy may not be sufficient to achieve recovery. As this article explains, certain addictions can be successfully treated in outpatient settings.

Prescription drug abuse is one of the most common addictions among mothers, due in part to the ability to access these drugs readily in most areas as well as the perception that because these medications are prescribed by doctors (albeit not always – or even usually – to the person taking them), they must be safe. This article examines this issue, noting that one mother reported that accessing pharmaceuticals such as Vicodin was as simple as showing up to your child’s soccer game and mentioning to another mother that you needed one. However, opioids are powerful substances, and anyone taking them without a prescription or taking more than prescribed by their physician places themselves at risk of addiction.

Where to Find Support for Your Children

As a single parent, it’s critical to obtain the support you need to achieve recovery so that you can be the best parent you can be to your children. But your children are also undergoing an experience of their own as you work through recovery, and getting support for them is an important part of the healing process for your family. In this section, we discuss resources aimed at supporting children who are coping with addiction in the home environment and other issues.

Children of Addicted ParentsConfident Kids Support Groups is an organization devoted to offering supportive services for children who are struggling with various difficulties in their childhood, including drug and alcohol abuse in the home, foster care placement, growing up in fractured families, neighborhood violence, and more.

Even adult children of alcoholics or parents who have struggled with addiction need support. Adult Children of Alcoholics is an organization serving the needs of this demographic, offering support for adults who have endured challenging experiences in childhood.

One positive influence can make a big difference for children of parents struggling with addiction. According to The Fix, even if an addicted parent is unable to provide the love and support system a child needs while they’re in active addiction, a friend, relative, or neighbor who can provide a loving, reliable influence can make a difference for those children.

If your children are already in foster care or you fear they may be placed in foster care, know that parents often have opportunities to earn trust in Family Drug Court and regain custody after staying clean and actively participating in treatment for a period of time.

Teachers, counselors, religious leaders, and support groups such as Alateen are all possible sources of support for children of addicts. Sometimes, children may not feel comfortable talking with the other parent or even another relative, and alternative sources of support are invaluable in these instances.

NIDA for Teens is a project of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), National Institutes of Health (NIH). The resources on this website are designed for teens (middle and high school students) and teachers to educate on the effects of drug abuse.

Learn to Cope is a peer-led support network for families coping with addiction and for parents in addiction recovery. The organization holds meetings (led by peers) and offers other resources to help families navigate the path to recovery together. With over 7,000 members, Learn to Cope is a nationally recognized model for peer support and prevention programming.

Project Know is another family-focused organization, with resources addressing everyone impacted by a family member’s addiction from siblings to parents, spouses, and children.

Looking Forward: Positive Parenting Techniques for Parents in Addiction Recovery

As parents in addiction recovery, looking toward the future may seem out of the question when you’re focused on making it through one day at a time. In this section, we provide resources and information on how to navigate through your lifelong recovery while utilizing positive parenting techniques and tips for ensuring that you stay on the right path.

Road to Addiction Recovery
Parents recovering from addiction generally move through four phases: active alcohol or drug use, transition to recovery, early recovery, and ongoing recovery. Your approach to parenting and the skills you utilize may differ depending on the stage of recovery you’re in, but with the right support and guidance, you can learn to make the right choices.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help. As parents in addiction recovery, your schedule is likely very hectic between your meetings, getting your kids to school, after-school activities, and more. This article explains the importance of asking for help, pointing out that single parents are often likely to cut their 12-step meetings when their schedules become overwhelming. By asking for help, your friends and family can help to support you during recovery by caring for your children when you have obligations such as meetings that are critical for your recovery.

Recognize that other single parents have been down this path before you and have successfully built or repaired strong bonds with their children. This article examines stories from working mothers who have experienced addiction, which often emerges from seemingly innocent coping techniques that many parents turn to, as well as some eye-opening statistics. For example, this article reports that national data indicates that more than 10 percent of kids in the U.S. live with an addicted parent.

Unresolved guilt and shame can hinder your efforts to rebuild your relationship with your children. It’s important to address these lingering, unresolved emotions in order to move forward in a positive role in your family.

Recovering from addiction when you’re a single parent is certainly not easy, but it’s entirely possible. Learning what support systems exist, reaching out for help, and learning to manage your emotions – letting go of guilt while taking on a parental role for your children – are part of your journey to recovery.

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