A Guide to Being a Better Parent in Recovery

parent in recovery

parent in recovery


When you’re a woman going through addiction treatment and beginning your life in recovery, you already face immense challenges. 

Being a mother can compound those because you may want to repair the damage you feel occurred during active addiction. You may also want to make up for the lost time. Simultaneously, the recovery process is hard work, so prioritizing is critical as you navigate parenting in a new world for you.

The most important thing you can remember is that no one is a perfect parent. Despite your struggles with addiction or mental health, if you show your children love, that’s ultimately what will stand out to them throughout their lives.

You have to show love and compassion for yourself, too, particularly as you are navigating a new situation and new season in your life.

The following are some things to know about being a parent in recovery from a substance use disorder and how to become a positive role model. 


How Addiction Affects Families

While it’s emotionally challenging, a big part of true recovery recognizes how your addiction affects your loved ones. Loved ones can include your children, mainly if they are old enough to understand what’s happening. When you can confront these psychological effects head-on, you’re in a much better position to begin to work through them.

Once you leave treatment, you hope you can put the past behind you. While you may be able to put your substance abuse behind you, it’s essential to recognize the lingering effects of being an addicted parent and work to repair those as part of your recovery journey. 

It’s challenging to maintain a peaceful or loving home when you’re experiencing alcohol or drug addiction. There may be a lot of conflicts, erosion of trust, and communication can become frustrating. Along with these effects impacting your children, they could also affect your spouse or partner and other people who love you, such as your parents or siblings.

  • You might have behaved in a way that would otherwise be out of character for you when you were under the influence of drugs or alcohol or exhibiting addictive behavior. 
  • Psychology Today estimates 1 in 5 children grow up in a home with a parent who abuses alcohol or drugs.
  • Exposure to substance abuse is a form of trauma, and children who grow up experiencing substance abuse in the home are more likely to develop their substance use disorders when they’re adults.
  • Children’s personalities are developing during this time and are highly susceptible to what’s happening around them.

When you decide to get treatment, that’s an essential thing you can do to change these dynamics. 

  • As you choose a rehab program like residential treatment, look for one specifically for women and mothers.
  • These programs will allow you to participate in therapy that focuses on rebuilding your relationships with your children and family and reducing the trauma they might have experienced.
  • Look for a facility that emphasizes relationships and helps you connect with the resources you need to be a great parent in recovery.

Too often, mothers become discouraged. They feel the damage is done, and there’s nothing they can do; that’s untrue. While substance abuse by a parent can affect children, they’re also highly resilient. 

You ultimately want your kids to see you as someone who worked hard and overcame challenges. That’s what you have the opportunity to demonstrate after treatment.

Below are some practical tips to be a better mother in recovery.


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Forgive Yourself

Understanding the impact of addiction isn’t about continuing to hate yourself or feel shame, and parents in recovery have to know this. 

Instead, it’s about recognizing past challenges and then being able to move forward through that honestly. 

To be the best version of yourself for your children, forgive yourself. If you participate in a program with a 12-step foundation, there is a path to make amends for past behavior and start again as part of your addiction recovery. 

When you can forgive yourself, you aren’t just helping your children and family dynamic. You’re also reducing your risk of relapse. Shame and guilt are so interwoven with substance use and addiction. 

You have to work to rebuild your self-esteem and understand that you are more than your mistakes and addiction.


Set Boundaries

If you feel guilt for things in the past, you might try to be too permissive in your parenting. Permissive parenting is problematic for children, particularly as they get older. Not having firm, healthy boundaries can put your children at a greater risk of developing their own SUD.

Rather than making up for anything by eliminating boundaries, create a loving and healthy relationship with your children that centers on limits. Your children need that discipline and structure.

You want to be a role model rather than a friend. Along with setting boundaries, resist the urge to try and buy affection with gifts.

Your children are going to thrive when they have stability and consistency. You can create routines that focus on spending quality time together rather than buying affection.


Rebuild Trust

If your children are older, they may have lost trust in you during your active addiction. You may have been unable to keep your word, or you might not have been around or shown up for your children in the way they needed you to when dealing with a drug or alcohol use disorder. 

Now is when you can start to rebuild that trust. Again, consistency is key here. You should also show up when you say you will and prioritize family time. 

Consider going to counseling with your children, so you can relearn how to bond with one another.


Take Care of Yourself

Practicing self-care is vital in recovery. Parents in recovery may be dealing with so much physically and mentally during this time. Self-care isn’t selfish.

Self-care gives you the chance to take care of yourself to give more to your children.

When you practice self-care, you’re also setting an example for your kids about healthy coping skills. Self-care is one of the critical life skills you can and should integrate into your daily life.


Be Mindful

Mindfulness is something that every parent can benefit from practicing—it’s not exclusively beneficial if you’re in recovery. When you’re a parent, no matter the specifics of the situation, it’s stressful. You may have so many worries about the past and the future. Practicing mindfulness brings you back to the moment.

You’re able to remember how important it is to focus on one day at a time.

Everyone practices mindfulness differently, but bringing yourself back into the moment if you’re struggling is one of the best coping mechanisms you can learn in recovery. Being mindful is suitable for managing things that come your way in everyday life and dealing with symptoms of mental health issues. 


Ask For Help

Finally, there’s certainly no shame in asking for help when you need it, particularly for single parents. Maybe you have parents or friends who are willing to give you the support you need, even if it’s just providing a listening ear. Don’t be afraid or embarrassed to ask for help.

Over time, the more you put the steps above into practice, the more confident you’ll feel as a parent and the stronger your relationship with your children will be. In your parental role, you want to model healthy behavior and life experiences for your children, and knowing when to reach out for help is part of that. 

If you’re ready to start your recovery effort, please contact the team at Anchored Tides Recovery by calling 866-600-7709 to learn more about our specialized treatment center for women.

Future Scenarios: Pathways to Meet Your Goals

Pathways to Meet Goals

Pathways to Meet Goals


When you’re in an addiction recovery program, the future scenarios and pathways to meet goals is to prepare you adequately for what’s waiting for you when you leave the comfort of treatment.

Relapse prevention and an aftercare plan implementation should be in place as soon as you begin treatment. Evidence-based treatment requires that after-planning is an integral part of each step of your treatment.

Relapse is a gradual process that has specific stages. In treatment, you learn to recognize those early stages. When you can identify them proactively, you’ll have a higher chance of successfully navigating your life in recovery.

At our treatment center, we uniquely do things. We have a version of relapse prevention where we work to help you hold mental space for future scenarios. Then, when you face these situations in the real world, you’re prepared.

With that in mind, below, we’ll talk a little more about relapse prevention in general and how building pathways in your brain can help you meet your goals.


What is a Relapse?

When you’re in treatment, it’s a safe environment. You have the support of our staff and your peers. You have resources available, and there are few if any triggers. Having that controlled environment is essential in those early days of your recovery.

That type of environment can’t last forever, though.

  • You are ultimately preparing to re-enter the world but to do so without drugs or alcohol.
  • With the real world often comes triggers, including people, places, and things. 
  • Stress, problems in relationships, financial difficulties, and other adverse situations are all part of our daily lives. 
  • For someone in the early stages of recovery, coping with these stressors can be difficult.

While we can sometimes view relapse as inevitable because of the high rates, the reality is it’s not. Most people who often relapse either didn’t receive evidence-based treatment initially or stopped following their treatment plan. The work you do in treatment is what you can lean on when things get tough in your life, and maintaining your treatment plan can help you avoid relapse.

Relapse is a return to using drugs or alcohol following a period of sobriety. The particulars can vary depending on the person. For some people, drinking just once is a relapse. For others, someone falls deep into their substance use once again.

The three stages of relapse are emotional, mental, and physical.

  • During the emotional stage of relapse, you might find that you’re not participating in self-care practices, or you’re beginning to dread your recovery meetings. You might hide what you’re feeling or become withdrawn from friends and family.
  • When you reach the mental stage of relapse, you could be having cravings or glorifying when you were using drugs and alcohol.
  • Physical relapse is when you use drugs or alcohol, even just one time.


Relapse Prevention and Personal Action Plans

There are a few primary concepts that are important in relapse prevention and your pathways to meet goals. 

  • The first is what we talked about above—relapse is a gradual process occurring in stages. Again, in treatment, you should learn to recognize the earliest stages.
  • The second is that recovery is about personal growth, where you’ll achieve milestones.
  • The third is that the main tools you will rely on for relapse prevention are mind-body relaxation and cognitive therapy. You work beginning in treatment to change your negative thought patterns. You also learn specific, healthy coping skills.
  • The fourth element of relapse prevention is that a few core rules explain most of these scenarios. When you receive education in these rules, you learn to focus and prioritize what you need to be doing.

Recovery isn’t one event that ends when you’re sober. Recovery is a process that requires changes in how you think, react to situations, and cope with varying emotions. Mindfulness and consistency are critical, and you should work on approaching your recovery in a strategic, thoughtful way.


Creating a Relapse Prevention Plan

While the specifics may vary depending on your individual needs, some of the steps that go into creating a relapse prevention plan include:

  • Set goals for your recovery. Your goals can be anything meaningful and relevant to you, from improving relationships to growing spiritually.
  • Identify triggers. You’ll work in treatment to identify what your triggers are, and you’ll begin to think of them as your enemy, needing to be dealt with accordingly.
  • Be offensive in your thinking rather than defensive.
  • Know the warning signs and red flags for yourself.
  • Have pre-defined recovery tools. For example, conflict resolution, problem-solving, and relaxation techniques may be part of your recovery toolbox.
  • List the specific actions you’ll take when you see warning signs.


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Neural Plasticity and Recovery

When you’re participating in treatment with us, we work on a version of relapse prevention that focuses on you visualizing future scenarios. These are detailed situations that you’re likely to experience in recovery. Then, as part of that visualization of future problems or triggers, you’ll begin to outline how you’ll deal with them proactively.

There’s a reason this is going to help you immensely. 

  • You’re building the pathways to meet goals in your brain through this visualization, so you’ll be ready to deal with these situations when they happen. 
  • When you’re proactively visualizing what you’ll do, then when the actual situation occurs, you’re going to feel like you’ve already dealt with it. 
  • You’ll be less likely to be overwhelmed with stress or emotions that could increase the risk of relapse.

Elements of this relapse prevention approach build on the idea of neural plasticity. You can rewire your brain, which is a dynamic process. 

  • When you rewire your brain, you change the relationship and interaction between it and your body.
  • You can change millions or even billions of connections in your neural pathways.
  • When you focus on certain things, whether it’s happiness or remaining strong in the face of adversity, you’re strengthening the pathways that correspond with emotions and situations.
  • Once you know how to develop and strengthen your neural pathways, you gain so much control over your habits and who you are. Also, research shows us that as you create new pathways, you’re simultaneously weakening old ones that are no longer getting your attention. Each time you work on visualizing, for example, what your life will look like in recovery, you’re weakening those pathways that might glorify your days of substance abuse.

Otherwise, without taking action to change your neural pathways, you’re more likely to keep following the familiar, worn paths in your brain. When you’re in treatment for addiction, that’s the last thing you want to do.

With visualization, you turn hope into something that guides you. Your brain can’t always determine what’s a memory and what’s a vision of the future. That means envisioning what your goals are is going to help you create them in your life.

The more you consciously focus on building new pathways, the more you will make healthy new habits through repetition; aftercare at Anchored Tides Recovery can help aid this process. If you’re looking to learn more and develop a support group of people who successfully understand the process, call us at 866-600-7709.