Melissa Swindell
JRNM 151 student   

Hathaway (who prefers not to give her full name), has had an ongoing battle with heroin addiction for years. As a mother of four, Hathaway sought help after seeing what her lifestyle was doing to her children. In the past, her addiction has led her to steal, manipulate, and befriend many who weren’t good for the family.

Most of Hathaway’s early and later adulthood was spent in the throes of addiction. She lived everyday without realizing the full implications of her actions. When her children were old enough to help their mother, she began to see a light at the end of the seemingly endless tunnel.

She gained hope and remained drug free by attending Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous meetings with her children, as well as going to fundraisers supporting addiction services.

With her children as a reminder of everything she has to live for, Hathaway has been able to develop a better way way of living. At press time, she has been clean for six months.

“The urge hasn’t gone away, but for the sake of myself and my children, I am fighting to stay clean,” Hathaway said.

In another case, a man (who wishes to remain anonymous) decided to get clean three years ago at the age of 39. His past was spent in several prisons for felony offenses. Despite doing time behind bars, he has accepted his past and is working to change his future. With four children (two in the custody of their mother), he is working to regain custodial rights to be a present figure in their lives.

Now 42, he claims, “There are tons of work programs, NA/AA meetings, rehabs, churches that will more than willing to help someone who is showing potential recovery.”

Coming from a family with drug problems, it’s hard to see what else life has to offer for the children’s and parents’ futures. A child raised in the custody of a drug addict faces many adverse situations. Moving around multiple times a year, seeing new faces in their home every night and overall basic needs may be absent from the child’s life.

Where typical children receive gifts like video games and barbie doll houses on holidays, children of addicts are just hoping for food on the table, a roof over their heads and a parent who is sitting next to them, sober.

These children will worry if they’ll be eating one day or left wondering if mommy or daddy will be home the next. Nothing in a drug addict’s life is stable, their life is based around when they need their next fix. Maltreated children of parents with drug abuse are more likely to have poorer physical conditions as well as social, intellectual and emotional outcomes due to the lack of parental stability in their lives.

Understanding an addict’s life is very hard to do if you don’t have the addiction yourself. Addicts can’t just say “I’m done”. The disease in their brain tells them if they stop, everything in life won’t be as exciting. It’s not just about willpower, it’s about the addicts realizing they need help. That if they keep using they will end up dead or alone with no one by their sides. Addicts get so used to how they function on a drug that when they aren’t using they don’t feel emotions like a normal person. They feel as if they need their drug in order to be happy in life, to get through the day or just to not feel at all in some cases.

As provided on elementsbehavioralhealth.com, expert parenting tips for recovering addicts include the following:

#1. Self-care.

A parent needs to take care of themselves, to continue in their recovery program before trying to be “super-parents” out of guilt for past actions during active addiction.

#2. Have fun as a family.

A parent needs to show their children how a functioning family works. So, take their children out for a walk with the dog, bake cookies, children need to learn they ca have fun without drugs or alcohol.

#3. Focus on the positive.

Parents tend to put out a lot of energy when a child does something wrong and not so much when a child accomplishes something or does something right. Praising children for positive behavior rather than focusing on negative behavior promotes healthy-behaviors and self-esteem.

#4. Build a sense of community.

Addictive families tend to isolate themselves to avoid airing “dirty laundry”. As a family, getting out and joining a church, sports teams for the children, any opportunity for the family to get out and gain life experience and get a sense of belonging.

#5. Accept and validate feelings.

Addicts tend to feel responsible for others emotions. To best serve an addicts children you must teach them that another person’s emotions is not of their consequence. Also, children can feel angry, sad, and frustrated without having to rescue them.