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The Importance of Caring for Yourself If You Are the Parent of an Addict


By Mel Timms

When you discover that your child has an addiction to either drugs or alcohol, your first reaction, as a parent, is often to blame yourself: is there something you could have done differently? Should you have done something sooner? How can you help them to change their behavior, and get them the help they need? As a parent, your first instinct is to protect your children: this is hardwired into every parent from the day their child is born. Fixing bloody knees and checking for monsters in the closet is easy: controlling your child’s addiction is not. However, whilst your instincts mean you are likely to want to focus on helping your child to overcome their addiction problems, it is also important that you take care of yourself at the same time as taking care of your child.

Addiction Is a Battle That Has to Be Fought Individually

No matter how much you might want to fight your child’s demons for them, the fact is that the only person that can control and fight your child’s demons is your child him or herself. No matter how much you want to fix and control the situation your child finds themselves in, sadly there is nothing you can do that will make the change — unless they feel ready and able to make that change. However, that won’t stop you from trying; and fighting this battle will be both mentally and physically exhausting. Supporting your child through their recovery will drain you, and leave you with little time to care for yourself. For both of your sakes, it is essential that you do take care of yourself whenever possible.

The Effects of Forgetting to Care for Yourself

In the short term, ignoring your self-care will have very minimal affects. However, the battle against addiction isn’t a short battle — it’s a marathon rather than a sprint. If you don’t take care of yourself, you will find that you experience a raft of negative effects: your relationships with your friends and loved ones will suffer, your health will suffer, and even your work and career will stall and suffer, too. It’s natural to feel constantly worried and frustrated when your child is in rehabilitation, or battling addiction; however, it is massively essential to take time out and look after yourself. To put your own needs first, and to spend vital time where you are not thinking about your addicted child, and the responsibility that that puts on your shoulders.

Choosing to focus on your own life is not only important — it’s essential. Get outside and enjoy the fresh air, exercise or hit the gym, go to a restaurant for dinner with friends — relax, unwind, and have fun. No matter what it is that you choose to do to help you relax, and take control of your own life, make the time to do it regularly. Put on your own oxygen mask before you help to secure the oxygen mask on your child. Ultimately, this focus on self-care will be for their benefit, too; the happier and healthier you are, the more able you will be to help and support your child on their journey to recovery.

Finding the right balance between supporting your child and supporting yourself will not be easy, and it is likely that you will get it wrong throughout your journey — that’s OK. What is important is that you realize when you need to readdress the balance, and either offer your child more support, or take time out to focus on yourself for a couple of hours. The top priority in your life should always be you. It is what you deserve, and it is also an important lesson to teach your child. By watching you care for yourself, you are setting a good example about what sensible self-care looks like — something that is an essential part of every recovery journey.

Photo credits: skynesher/digitalskillet