The fact that I am a drug addict and an alcoholic makes my life a little more complicated than it would have been if I was “normal”. Going to rehab for addiction was challenging, but at the same an amazing experience that not only saved my life but gave me the tools and support I needed to change the way I lived my life.
When I left the drug rehab facility as a client after nearly a full year of treatment I was offered a job at the secondary care treatment facility as the house manager. I lived in the rehab with the clients and worked with the team of addiction professionals for a year.
I am so grateful for the opportunity that was given to me because it not only gave me an opportunity to give back to others in need, it also helped me to value myself again and it taught me even more about the disease of addiction that nearly took my life.
Now that I am 10 years clean and I have two children that were born in recovery I can’t help but notice how working in a rehab has prepared me for motherhood.
Here are some of the things I learned in the treatment center (both as a client and a staff member) that helps me with my parenting:
It’s A Consequence Not A Punishment
As a child I remember my mother handing out “punishments” and yes she called them punishments. Perhaps you do too?
So what’s the big deal and what is the difference between a punishment and a consequence? Honestly there may not be much difference other than the word used.
When our children do something “naughty” and break the rules they get a “punishment” and this usually entails something to try and correct the child’s behavior and to teach your child why they should not break that rule. The thing is that calling it a punishment implies suffering. It does not imply teaching does it?
A consequence is a result or effect that comes into being after a particular action or situation. It is important to teach our children that if they behave in a certain way or do certain things there are consequences that follow.
I am grateful that I have never told my children that they will be punished because of their actions. I have always told them that as a result of their actions there is a consequence.
I try and keep the consequences relevant to what they have done and I try to help them learn from what they have done.
In addiction treatment the therapy team hand out consequences to clients for rules that are broken and for certain behavior. This is an essential part of the treatment process because during active addiction addicts do anything and everything that they can to avoid responsibility and to divert any consequences, leaving a wake of devastation behind them. The sooner the addict learns how to take responsibility and to feel the consequences of their destructive behavior the better.
The same applies to parenting.
Look At Myself First
This is something that was hammered into me in rehab. Stop pointing fingers and look at myself first. This is not to say that nobody else needs to take some blame, it is just about always making sure that my own side of the street is clean before looking at the behavior of others.
People that are in active addiction do not take responsibility for their own actions and instead lay blame everywhere else.
And yes I am no longer in active addiction, but the tendency to blame others is always bubbling under the surface for me. I have to always check myself and ensure that I am behaving in the right way and not lose my cool with my kids.
My own mother has also helped me to see these things more clearly too. I was complaining to her a while back about how difficult my kids were being and how they were driving me crazy and she asked me when last I ate, what time I went to bed, what I’m stressed about and how my relationship with my husband was faring. And yes things started falling into place very quickly.
It is so important as a parent that you look after yourself – mentally and physically. Have you noticed how your kids probably perform at the worst possible time when you seem unable to cope? Chances are good that they are just reacting to your stress, fatigue or anxiety. When I am at my lowest my kids become impossible – there is a link there for sure.
By looking after yourself you are making yourself a better parent.
Let Them Learn
So often as a parent I have wanted to dive in and save my children from making mistakes or to make problems go away. This is a completely natural urge of course but it is not always the best thing to do. My kids get on like a house on fire… when they aren’t trying to kill each other that is. They need to learn how to sort out their differences and not have me jump in every time they have a little squabble.
There have been plenty of times my kids are trying to do something and I know they are going to make a mess or break their toy… and they just don’t listen. It really is just best to say it once and let them do it anyway and afterwards let them face the consequences of having their favorite toy broken or having to clean up the mess themselves.
Of course if they are attempting something dangerous jump in quick!
This is exactly the same in addiction treatment, clients are advised and left to make their own choices, some of which can have terrible consequences but you cannot control what others do. You can advise but then you need to step back and allow them to make their own decisions.