It is normal for your children not to trust you because of your drinking or using. This is one of the hardest things about recovery. It’s hard to talk about because when it’s your children, the pain is magnified. It hurts to hurt them. But they want you to acknowledge it. Sit down and talk to them about it.
For myself, my son stopped believing in me, he lost trust, it took quite some time to get his trust back…this really hits home for the way I treated my son. Now we have a good relationship, and we talk about it, and he understands.
You have to be honest
Help your children to understand that drinking or using a lot becomes an obsession of the mind. It changes your brain and becomes an addiction. You cannot stop or control it.
It’s like you deciding that you are not going to eat for five days. Your body will begin to crave food so much that it becomes overwhelming. You feel like you must have something to eat. This is the same for drinking or using— the obsession becomes overwhelming. You intend to stop, but you are not able to stop on your own.
It takes time to reconnect
I feel like when there’s that drama in their childhood, it’s not fixable, but you can work with it…it takes time, and consistency, they want to see a consistent parent.
It takes time to get into recovery and stop drinking and using. When you tell your children that you will stop drinking or using, you have the best intentions, but you are unable to stop. Because of the nature of addiction, relapse, and recovery, your children are likely to feel that they cannot trust you.
It is not your fault. If you could stop on your own, you would have done that. No one sets out to have problems with addiction. It happens and gets worse the more you drink and use. Trying to stop over and over makes you more upset. Your children see you are struggling. They realize you cannot control it.
Your children not trusting you causes pain. You suffer because of it. The important thing is to remember it is a part of recovery. It helps you to see how your actions and behaviors impact other people—especially the people that love you the most.
Remember that as your children grow up, they begin to realize you are not perfect. They start questioning your beliefs, choices, and behavior. This is a part of growing up. There is no such thing as a perfect parent.
Accept there will always be trauma
My child had trauma therapy for some of the things I did. I have a couple of decades now, but my child still worries and says, “I don’t want you to get sick again.”
About 25 percent of American kids grow up in households where there is substance abuse. It might be helpful for you to step back and think about what it’s like to grow up that way. A parent drinks a lot. They get drunk. They get angry. They throw dishes in the kitchen.
What does this do? The child becomes traumatized. They feel embarrassed. They’re afraid to bring friends over. Later in life, the children may continue to struggle. Become an adult child of an alcoholic. They might have trust issues and feelings of negative self-worth and need therapy. Your child learning to trust you again and rebuild a connection with you takes time. You need to be in recovery. You also need to get involved in your child’s life and be honest about your struggles.
Here are some tools and resources that can help your children find support:
- Community Reinforcement and Family Training (CRAFT)
- Co-dependent Anonymous
- Adult Children of Alcoholic & Dysfunctional Families
How relationships help us heal
For me this is a huge issue. I have two kids…it’s a huge process in recovery called asking for amends or forgiveness…there will always be scars…they are worried about relapse.
Children can play a vital role in helping you get into recovery. They can help you to see your problem. Your children can take on a parent role. They can help take care of you while you get better. They can become your healthcare agent. They can help you not feel so much shame. Your experience may help your children see the dangers of alcohol and substance abuse.
Ask your children for forgiveness–but don’t do it alone. Trying to ask for forgiveness on your own can be frustrating and can make things worse. Talk to a therapist, sponsor, peer supporter, or someone that can guide you through the process. Get them to help you with what to say and when to say it and practice it.
You want to ask for forgiveness just once. If you keep asking them over and over, it loses its power. It can make your children mistrust you more. Remember making amends is about you. It helps you to overcome resentment. Your children will begin to trust you when you admit your problems. And if you relapse, get right back into recovery.
Your children not trusting you can be the thing that helps you get into and stay in recovery. Emotions do arise. Listen to your children’s feelings. Acknowledge their pain and how it has impacted them. Teach them what you know about addiction. Stay in recovery. Do that for yourself.
- American Addiction Centers. (2022, September 9). Children of Addicted Parents Guide: How to Deal With Addict Parents. Guide for Children. https://americanaddictioncenters.org/rehab-guide/guide-for-children