I ran across an interesting article published in the October 8, 2013, issue ofThe Partnership at Drug Free.org/, written by Phyllis Gardner, PhD, that discusses issues that arise when recovering alcoholics or addicts raise their own children, specifically some ideas about how to avoid behaviors that may trigger addiction in these children. The author notes that while genetics explains a significant percentage of development of addiction, clearly environment plays a role. The author lists three recurring themes that seem to morph into the destructive patterns associated with high-risk behavior in children:
1) Awareness: Think of the sort of tunnel vision that a lot of people suffer – not just people in recovery. They fail to see how they affect others with their personal approach to living. For example, they might be great at listening to the concerns of another person struggling to stay sober or make some other dramatic change in life, but they rarely listen to their own spouses. They can sit for hours with friends talking about their hopes and dreams for their children – but never ask those children what they want for their own futures.
2) Discipline: For some parents, the consequences of misbehavior depend more on their mood than the nature of the offense. Sometimes parents choose to avoid confrontation, or in other cases, they completely overreact to their children’s bad choices. Often they take their children’s behavior personally – reacting as if the child’s behavior was “done” to the parent, personally.
3) Modeling: Finally, many parents forget that they are role models for their children. They talk about personal responsibility then turn around and blame their problems on others. “Old ideas” creep into their conversations and their actions – despite their recovering status. They talk to their children about not letting their emotions rule them and then they yell in traffic and practically wreck the car trying to cut off the offending driver.”
My own views, based on anecdotal information from my own experiences, are that a parent in recovery from addictive disease should provide honest, age appropriate information about the fact that addiction can be inherited, the increased risks associated with such a family history, information about addictive disease and treatment and recovery (perhaps inviting older children to attend 12 Step meetings with parents), and state clearly that use of alcohol or other drugs by their children is forbidden. When the children reach the age where their peers will be using alcohol and other drugs, again, an honest discussion of the children's increased risk of developing a problem should be presented, along with an explanation of specific indicators of a drug or alcohol problem (for example, high tolerance, blackouts, negative personality change, behavior against values). I know from sad experience that doing all (or most) of the “right” things in parenting does not prevent children from developing addiction, but perhaps the honest exchange of information may result in earlier identification of addiction and treatment thereof.
As always, comments are invited. Jan Edward Williams, www.alcoholdrugsos.com, 10/19/2013.