The transformation of recovery has taken place, and now you are on the other side of addiction. A full commitment to health, sobriety, and wellness has been made. The return home is in sight, and you are ready to reclaim your life and rejoin your loved ones. It is incredible! Unfortunately, this joyous feeling can be accompanied by others as well: anxiety, fear, and uncertainty.
Experiencing nervousness around being back with your family is normal. At New Directions for Women, we are grateful to help addicted women along with their dependent children up to the age of 12. However, oftentimes our alumnae have older children at home. Feeling curious and concerned about how to best talk with your children about your recovery process is normal.
Then it happens. Your child asks you about you about what happened, and if you are okay. While there may be dread around these discussions, there are things you can do to ensure a more empowered and honest conversation.
How can I talk to my kids about my recovery?
- When a request is made to talk, but it doesn’t feel like the right time for you—or you aren’t quite ready—understand that is fine, but don’t put it off. Pick a day and time to have a conversation about it, and plan or prepare. Ensure that the time, place, and space to talk are secure, and that there won’t be interruptions or distractions. Setting a safe environment for the conversation will encourage a more thorough and thoughtful time.
- Share as much of your story as you feel comfortable with, and pause when you need to. Remember, you don’t owe your child, or anyone, every detail. Additionally, depending on the age of children, these details wouldn’t be appropriate to disclose. The intention of sharing is about re-establishing an authentic reconnection. Your children will feel respected and valued by hearing the truth from you, in your own words.
- Use “I” language to take greater ownership. “I” language encourages a reclaiming of personal power, and we move into a stronger sense of responsibility when we only speak for ourselves and about ourselves, and our experiences. Setting these limits and boundaries with language can gently guide or incline our children to reflect on their own true feelings and emotions.
Saying “You,” pulls us out of ourselves, separates us from our actions, and can lead to blame or accusatory tones that stifle, restrict, or cause tension in our communication.
- Take the opportunity to reflect on what you learned from your experience. Share the positive changes you have made, and the solutions you are committed to. Focus on where you are in life, and where you are going.
- Express an understanding that it will take time to rebuild the relationship and re-establish trust. Speak the truth from your heart, and hold space for any feelings that arise. Commend yourself, your bravery, and your courage in sharing.
It is so hard to see my children in pain. What are healthy ways to support their healing?
- Understand that you can’t heal their pain for them, but you can help them carry it by supporting their mental health and wellness. Individual, parent-child interaction therapy (PCIT) and family therapy are effective therapeutic modalities. If they are older, perhaps Al-Anon or Ala-teen meetings would be a good fit, or art/play therapy.
- Try not to put demands on your child or yourself or assume life will go back to normal right away. The relationship may need to be rebuilt, or redefined. Children may express frustration, rage, or heartbreak in odd or painful ways. If what your child is saying is making you uncomfortable or upset, know that trying to stifle or silence them will only make it worse. Instead, acknowledge and validate their feelings, and seek out the support of professionals. Be patient with the process, and honor the pain that needs to be healed. Having expectations of immediate normalcy will lead to more hurt. As much as possible, maintain an open heart, and accept how it is uniquely unfolding for your family.
- Hear your children, but try not to let their frustration and anger cause you to beat yourself up or lose sight of what you are doing. Remember, it takes time for trust to be restored. Children respond differently to heartbreak and trauma, so try your best to not take it too personally if you are faced with silence, grumpiness, or rage. Your child is processing and starting the path to healing. Grieving and letting it out is a necessary part of that process. Hold space for them, as you hold space for yourself. Acknowledge their pain. Honor the time that the whole family needs to heal.
- Start slow. Show them who you are in recovery, and allow time for them to see the real you. If your children seem hesitant or distant, it’s okay. Uncertainty or exercising caution are normal responses to painful and traumatizing Be patient with yourself. Your children aren’t the only ones getting to know you again, you are getting to know yourself, as well.
- Try to see spontaneous breakthroughs and rapid relearning as adventures, and unknowns as curious gifts to be enjoyed. Love, play, and remember to have fun. A whole new world is waiting to be experienced, and a new journey together is waiting to be shared—a new life is waiting to be built.
If you or a loved one is struggling with substance use disorder and would benefit from support in building a new life, contact us at New Directions for Women. We are a women and family focused treatment facility that can provide residency for both you and your children. We also serve women without children.
Additionally, we offer supportive outpatient treatment for addiction issues, and have a wide array of family therapies and resources. New Directions understands the importance of spirituality, meditation, and spending time in nature, and we have many opportunities for you to explore these healing modalities and activities. For more information, or to take the next step, contact us today.