Addiction to drugs and alcohol is as much a social problem as it is a personal one. So your addictive behaviours do not just affect yourself and your partner, but also any children that you may be closely involved with. This can include contact with children who are relatives or close family friends.
You, as an addict, are often rarely able to comprehend the extent of the damage that your addiction has on children.
As a therapist who treats both people recovering from addiction and those who suffer from the ill effects of having an addict around them as a child, I see both sides.
A child never forgets anything
Your relationships as an addict with the child is stored away in the minds of the children you have contact with for the rest of their lives. Effects such as witnessing violence, out-of-control behaviour, depression, absence, or negative mindsets can affect the child’s sense of self and ability to have a stable personality for the rest of their lives.
Children copy adults’ behaviour
This is known as modelling. Research shows that if children are exposed to addictive behaviours, addiction can become normalised in their minds and some of them are more likely to become addicts themselves.
You, during addiction, are not emotionally stable
The very nature of addiction promotes erratic behaviour because you have poor self-control or if you did have self-control before the addiction, you no longer display that ability. One of the most import skills that adults need to teach children for them to have a happy stable life is self-control. Without self-control people run into problems in the workplace, relationships, the law and often have poor financial prospects as adults.
Children need good examples of how to perform loving, intimate relationships
To human beings love is as important as food or water. Evidence shows us that people who are able to love and allow themselves to be loved have less illness, recover from illness faster, live longer and seem to have more rewarding lives.
Within a relationship love is largely expressed by respectful behaviour towards each other which you, as an active addict, have become unable to do. So, children of an addict often have greater problems forming loving relationships as they grow up.
One of the fundamental premises of having a happy life is for a person to develop the ability to have independent, motivated behaviours
When a child learns to model these thought patterns and behaviours, as an adult they are able to choose freely how to live their life well and to their satisfaction. You, as an active addict, do not teach a child to have independent behaviours because you have become dependent on a substance other than yourself to satisfy your own needs. You are teaching the children addictive behaviours.
Every week in my clinic I have people sitting before me who have been addicts for decades. The damage they have done to their lives and the lives of others because of their behaviours can be colossal. They come into therapy to change their behaviours, which can be very successful regardless of how long you have been an addict.
The first step I teach people is ownership and accountability.
It is your life, so start owning it and be accountable for how it is going. There is a direct correlation in therapy between the results you get and the effort you put into changing your life.
I am there to help guide you along those changes, not to make those changes for you.
If you are an active addict, for the sake of the children around you, get help to make those changes so you become a positive force in those children’s lives, repair those relationships and leave the children around you with the kind of resourceful life skills they need.