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Be the Dad You Always Wanted to Be

June 16, 2021

By Clint Fletcher

According to the US Census Bureau, there are over 70 million fathers living in the United States. And according to the National Association for Children of Addiction (NACOA), 1 in 4 kids has a parent addicted to drugs or alcohol, which adds up to more than 18 million children total. While fathers who are struggling with these disorders can cause great damage to their family dynamics, they also have the power to turn things around and begin healing.

The Effects of Drug Abuse on the Family

For fathers currently in active addiction, it’s important to know how your family can be affected by your drug use, especially your kids. Children can be impacted by addiction through their parents even before they’re born. In fact, one recent study published by Wiley Online Library suggests that babies with fathers who abuse alcohol before conception could experience brain deficits that can affect behavioral development after being born. Another study from the Research Institute on Addictions at the University of Buffalo focusing on the cognitive development of kids with alcoholic fathers revealed that the infants of these fathers had more stubborn and persistent temperaments at 12 months of age and more internalizing problems at 18 months.

1 in 4 kids has a parent addicted to drugs or alcohol, which adds up to more than 18 million children total.

The sad truth is: Children of parents with alcohol or drug issues are at greater risk for emotional problems than kids who are not, according to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

Some of these emotional problems that can stem from a parent’s substance use disorder include:

  • Confusion – The parent in addiction may change suddenly from being loving to angry, regardless of the child’s behavior. A regular daily schedule, which is very important for a child, may not exist because bedtimes and mealtimes are constantly changing.
  • Anger – The child feels anger at the alcoholic parent for drinking and may be angry at the non-alcoholic parent for lack of support and protection.
  • Depression – The child feels lonely and helpless to change the situation.
  • Guilt – They may see themselves as the main cause of a parent’s drinking.
  • Anxiety – They may worry constantly about the situation at home. They may fear the alcoholic parent will become sick or injured and may also fear violence.
  • Embarrassment – Parents may give the child the message that there is a terrible secret at home. The ashamed child doesn’t invite friends home and is afraid to ask for help.
  • Inability to have close relationships – Because the child has been disappointed by the drinking parent many times, he or she often does not trust others.

Children of parents with alcohol or drug issues are at greater risk for emotional problems than kids who are not.

Help Your Family by Helping Yourself

The good news is that even for those fathers out there finding themselves in the worst bout of active addiction, there is hope and healing in flipping the script and taking your life back. Of all the great qualities the human condition has shown us all over the years, resilience is at the top of the list. Families do recover from the turmoil of addiction. We see it here every day in our Meadows Behavioral Healthcare treatment programs.

There are several options for fathers (or anyone!) to begin heading down a healing path:

Help Your Family by Helping Yourself - Rio Retreat Center

Treatment. Addiction treatment may be necessary for those who find their physical health may be in danger if they were to quit on their own without professional assistance. You may need medical detox, inpatient treatment (where you live in a facility for a while), or an intensive outpatient program that allows you to sleep at home while attending treatment during the day or evening. We even offer a Virtual IOP option for those who don’t require a higher level of care.

12-Step Meetings. If a parent finds that their issues aren’t severe enough for treatment, they may be able to enter AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) or NA (Narcotics Anonymous) right away. If a parent dealing with addiction was also a child of someone who struggled with substance abuse, ACA (Adult Children of Alcoholics) is a fantastic program to look into that teaches adults how to be their own loving parents.

Workshops. No matter how far you’ve already come, you can always be learning and improving. Our Rio Retreat Center workshops address a wide range of issues. While not a replacement for treatment, they can enhance recovery or provide personal growth opportunities for those without addiction issues. Topics like Purposeful Parenting or Family Matters are just a few of the options offered.

Therapy. Psychotherapy is something that should be explored regardless. It’s part of the treatment process in both inpatient and outpatient programs, but there will be much more work to be done during recovery. A qualified counselor can help you address emotional trauma, co-occurring disorders, and other issues attached to addiction.

Moving Forward

While you can’t change the past, you can certainly do things differently going forward. What happens today is what counts. You don’t have to let previous decisions affect who you are now. So don’t let those negative thoughts about yourself get the best of you — they aren’t even true. People heal. Families heal. It’s possible. The healing process can help you begin to become the dad you always wanted to be.