Any single parent will tell you the job’s tough.
For those in drug addiction recovery, it can be an even more significant challenge to balance wellness with caregiving. While single parents need to care for their children, they must also continue to do the work to manage their substance use disorder, mental health struggles, and underlying trauma.
Recovery is a long road. But, everyone who battles addiction while raising a child without the help of a partner will tell you the same thing: it’s hard, and it’s worth it.
Parental Substance Abuse: The Complication of Being a Single Parent
Single moms and dads are more likely to be affected by factors contributing to alcohol or drug addiction. They may be caring for one or more children without someone else’s support to help with finances, homework, or childcare. Worries about money alone can place so much stress on a parent that they may decide to turn to drugs and alcohol.
A single mother or father may experience more stress than the average two-parent household. Those who struggle with substance use may easily fall into the old routine and find themselves having trouble staying sober. Some single parents may turn to prescription medications, such as Xanax, to help with anxiety and distress. Unfortunately, these coping strategies can lead to a slippery slope ending with substance abuse.
What Causes Single Parents to Become Stuck in the Cycle of Addiction?
One factor that keeps single parents trapped in the cycle of addiction is fear. The idea of losing custody of their children is one of the most frightening things parents face. As a result, many parents try to hide their battles with addiction, making it harder to seek addiction treatment and attempt to break the cycle.
The stigma surrounding substance abuse disorders—from the public and even family members—can also contribute to refusing to enter treatment programs. As a result, the chance to recover from addiction stalls, impacting the mental and physical well-being of the entire family.
Seeking substance abuse treatment begins recovery from an ongoing battle with addiction while giving your children a healthy, stable environment to grow.
Why Recovery Is Essential for Single Parents
If you’re raising children as a single parent, staying sober is even more critical. Without a second parent to serve as a support system, if something happens to you, the lives of your children will dramatically change. Here are obstacles children face when a parent battles a substance use disorder.
When a parent struggles with addiction, their child often knows something is wrong, even if they aren’t sure exactly what it is. The sense can impact the child’s emotional development because they aren’t receiving consistent, positive attention from their parents.
Kids learn from behavior that their caregivers model. If a parent can’t respond to the child’s emotional needs, that child is less likely to develop proper emotional response skills towards others. Furthermore, children with parents who suffer from substance abuse disorders are at a higher risk for mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety.
Impaired Psychological Development
When a parent struggles with a drug and alcohol addiction, it creates an unpredictable life for children. Parental substance abuse removes the structure that children need as they are developing.
Young children might fill in as caretakers for themselves or their siblings. For example, a parent who takes drugs at night might have trouble waking up in the morning. The child may feel like they must take on the parental role, filling in gaps to protect and care for their siblings by preparing breakfast and so on. The situation leaves them without the chance to develop in their own role as protected, loved children.
Substance Abuse Treatment as a Single Parent
There are a variety of treatment programs available to help single parents who are looking to recover. First, they have to decide to seek professional help. Once they’ve decided, there are two common types of programs that they’ll need to choose between:
- Inpatient treatment programs
- Outpatient treatment programs
For a single parent, an inpatient treatment program may seem daunting, especially if you don’t have a support network in place to encourage recovery from drug abuse. However, it may be among the most effective treatment options to address the root causes of your substance use. Outpatient programs tend to provide greater flexibility, easing the burden of finding alternate caregivers for your children while you’re in recovery. Let’s explore each of these options in-depth below.
Inpatient Treatment Programs
Inpatient treatment programs may also be called residential treatment facilities. These represent the most comprehensive and intense type of substance abuse treatment programs available, providing patients with 24/7 medical care and support.
To start, your medically supervised withdrawal makes the process more tolerable. Being in a sober environment will allow you to focus and gain control of your life without having to juggle your household’s daily responsibilities and routines at the same time. Inpatient treatment programs are structured to help teach you new behaviors and address the factors that led to your addiction. Learning and practicing these new behaviors will help you to prevent a relapse.
Disadvantages to a residential treatment program include a higher financial investment and the separation from your child for at least one month in most cases.
Outpatient Treatment Programs
Outpatient treatment programs allow single parents to return home after attending daily treatment sessions. The program provides flexibility in your schedule so as not to disrupt your child’s schedule.
In most cases, treatment can be scheduled during the day, evening hours, or on the weekend, providing you with many options to get the help you need. These programs are popular for single mothers or fathers because they afford greater flexibility. They are significantly less expensive than residential treatment programs but offer many of the same benefits.
Outpatient treatment uses a variety of therapies and treatments to help, including:
- Motivational interviews
- Medication to ease withdrawal symptoms
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy
- Dual-diagnosis enhanced treatment
- Family therapy and support groups
Throughout this process, you will learn skills for long-term, independent recovery.
How to Prepare for Substance Abuse Treatment
Deciding to seek treatment is the first step in the recovery process. For the highest chance of success, it’s vital to find a treatment program that will adequately suit your needs.
If you decide to enter inpatient treatment, find a close enough program that your children can still visit you. The program should include an option for family therapy to help heal the wounds that might have developed throughout your addiction.
Last, look into your insurance coverage. Some insurance providers may cover some portion of the cost, which can help you decide to enroll in inpatient treatment.
Talking It Over with Your Kids
Some form of explanation to your children is vital to the recovery process. You need to be as honest as possible when you explain the upcoming changes in their lives. If you don’t talk about your struggles and the decision to seek help, children could feel like they’re to blame. With this in mind, make sure to have an age-appropriate conversation and give them space to ask questions.
What Happens After Treatment?
Your love for your children might have helped you to decide to enter treatment for substance addiction. But, completing the program doesn’t mean that your problem will simply go away. Here are five steps you’ll need to take after completing your treatment program:
- Find a support network or 12-step program
- Create structure in your daily life
- Develop new habits
- Focus on physical and mental health
- Repair your relationship with your child
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to use as you start to navigate your life after treatment. But, with the proper support, structure, and new habits, you can begin to mend your broken relationships and take control of your life.
Get Help on the Road to Recovery
As a single parent in recovery, you might have bad days. When this happens, recognize the issue, seek support, and commit to getting back up and starting again. Sobriety is a journey that will teach you something new every day.
The road to recovery is a challenge for many parents, but it can be especially difficult for single parents. Recovery Team has twenty-five years of experience as a private drug and alcohol treatment center. Let us provide the support you need, coming alongside you on your journey to recovery.