When caring for the kids means seeking help for addiction: Overwhelmed by the competing demands of daily life, single parents are at a higher risk for substance abuse and addiction.
Some things are impossible to rationalize away. The awareness of "it's all on me" is inescapable for single parents. Nobody works harder and few face more obstacles. The balance of competing demands is precarious at best. When substance abuse becomes part of the mix, balance becomes unattainable and we begin a descent in which we place those we love most.
Single Parents are 'At Risk'
The demands of daily life for a single mom or dad place us at a higher risk for substance abuse and addiction. Too many of us are socially isolated and lacking natural supports. We live with higher financial stress and our schedules are anything but manageable. We're focused on the needs of our children and denying our own.
Some of us sought comfort in a drink after the kids were in bed. Some of us used just to get through the day. Some of us only stopped using due to pregnancy and some of us never stopped at all.
We live our lives at 100mph and stopping anything seems impossible.
"Lines in the Sand"
Every addict engages in ongoing negotiations with self. We establish lines we won't cross in order to derive a sense of security. There's a point in the progression of addiction in which we've crossed too many of them. Yet even when self-preservation is conspicuously absent, we often maintain a strong awareness and protectiveness of our children.
We're told that we have to get sober for ourselves and it's unimaginable. I'm often asked, "Is it okay to do it for my kids?" Hell yes, it is! There's no bad reason to get clean and sober. We're willing to go through hell for our kids. The turning point in recovery comes for many of us when we're ready to get out of hell for our kids.
Overcoming Stigma & Shame
Of all the judgments a person fears and anticipates in seeking help for addiction, admitting that our children are affected is the greatest. We expect to be condemned for what we see as our weakness. Our isolation and fears are compounded by what we project.
Talk to People Who Get It
There are countless reasons why I recommend folks to 12-step programs. First and foremost, I know that no one who truly understands addiction will judge a person for where their disease has taken them. I understand it's intimidating to talk with folks who have attained long-term sobriety, but I hasten to point out that they only got there because some good folks helped them out of their wreckage.
AA and NA tend to be the best starting points. They're free, widely available, and filled with folks on similar journeys. I've never met folks who are more genuine and generous with their time. The benefit of contacts, friends, and sponsors in staying sober and changing our lives cannot be overstated. People in recovery tend to be the most knowledgeable regarding resources for folks in dire straits. They can also tell you:
How to Choose Professional Support
Along with a primary care physician, recovery supports are often our best option for determining what happens next. If rehab cannot be an option due to the needs of our children, we might explore a rapid detox program. If this too is unachievable, we look to Intensive Outpatient Programs/Day Treatment, or to the least intrusive: outpatient individual and group counseling. In the absence of a plan we falter. Knowing the steps and taking them affords us hope.
It's reasonable to fear that professionals might report our circumstances to Child Protective Services. The real threshold for legally mandated reporting includes a fair amount of gray area. I encourage folks to judge and choose professionals based on their reputation in recovery communities. I also find that those of us who work in the field and are open about being in recovery ourselves tend to be the most supportive.
If your fear of potentially having Human Services involvement is going to stop you then know this: We cannot report what you don't tell us. Alternatively, ask us hypothetical questions: "If I were to tell you A, B, and C, would you have to share that information?"
The best of us will simply spell it out for you and we won't ask you to trust us. We'll support you in coming to trust yourself.
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All the best to you and yours,