Father’s Day has been celebrated across the United States for many years. Celebrated on the third Sunday in June, this day that is set aside to recognize and honor fathers was made official in 1972—nearly 60 years after Mother’s Day was made official by Woodrow Wilson. Now, many years later, we come together or reach out to fathers to thank them and show them our appreciation and love.
However, for some fathers and for some children this sentimental Father’s Day celebration doesn’t occur. In some cases, a father is deceased, unknown to the children, or living in active addiction. For those individuals, Father’s Day can be a painful reminder of a missing part of their lives. And while we think of most times of the children who are going without a father or celebrating their father, for many dads in active addiction, they feel the pain too.
According to the latest U.S. census, in 2020 there were 72.2 million fathers in the U.S. What’s more, statistics show that about 16% of all single parents are men. Parenting can be stressful and oftentimes both moms and dads lean on substances like alcohol or other drugs to help ‘take the edge off’. However, for many, this can lead to full-blown addiction over time.
If you know a father or are a father who is struggling with a substance use disorder (SUD) or alcohol use disorder (AUD) it’s important to know there is help and there is hope. Thousands of fathers and parents like you have gotten the help they need to recover from alcohol or drug dependence.
And, if you are a father (or mother), it’s important to seek help. Research shows that children who live in homes with addiction have odds stacked against them when it comes to living healthy, fulfilled lives. Addiction is a family disease impacting many more than just the person with the issue.
Understanding the Impact Addiction Has on Children
According to a report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), about 8.7 million children in the United States 17 years of age and younger live with at least one parent who has a SUD. Additionally, this report found that 7.5 million children in that same age group live with a parent who has an AUD.
The impact on children who live with one or more parents with an AUD or SUD can be serious. From an increased risk of developing an addiction of their own to delinquent behaviors, these children are at high risk for developing painful issues much like their caretakers.
And while this is a concerning issue and more help is needed in both addiction treatment and mental health treatment for parents and children, there are many parents who have recovered from an AUD or SUD. As June is not only the month for celebrating fathers but also Men’s Health Awareness Month, it’s important to recognize fathers who are now living in recovery and being healthy fathers for their beloved children.
If They Loved Me They’d Change
One of the fallacies associated too often with addiction, an AUD, or SUD is that if the person with the issue really loved their kids, or their spouse, or their parents, they would stop drinking or using drugs. However, anyone who has or who has had an addiction to alcohol or drugs knows all too well how false this belief is. Addiction is a disease. Fathers don’t pick up a drink or drug knowing they will become addicted and wreak havoc on their lives and the lives of their loved ones. No one chooses to have an AUD or SUD. And once addiction occurs, it is very difficult, nearly impossible to stop on one’s own.
However, with the right support, recovering from an AUD or SUD is possible for anyone who truly wants it. And for some, the motivation can come from wanting to be a better parent.
Living with addiction and being a parent can be very difficult—for the parent and the child. And while the children are innocent victims of the disease of addiction, it’s vital to realize that many times the father or mother is living with tremendous guilt at their inability to parent. Often during the haze of an AUD or SUD, this may be hard to tell but for those who have gotten sober or clean, this pain of not being a good parent surfaces quickly.
For many, they feel it is too late to be a good parent or they feel so bad about their past mistakes with their children that they simply cannot face them. However, it’s crucial to realize that it’s never too late to be a better father or mother. Finding forgiveness for one’s self and others is a vital part of recovery.
If you are a parent, father or mother, with an alcohol or substance use issue, reaching out for help is the first step to becoming the parent you want to be and that your child deserves. When you are actively using alcohol or drugs, it may seem like this will never happen. Perhaps your children aren’t with you, won’t speak to you, or have told you they hate you. Yes, this can be very painful but what you need to know is that recovery heals not only the person with the addiction but in time, families heal, friendships heal, and life becomes worth living again.
Futures Recovery Healthcare offers help for those who want to stop drinking alcohol, using other substances, and for mental health problems. Many of our experienced and compassionate staff are parents and in recovery themselves. They know firsthand the pain of addiction and are passionate about helping others experience recovery too.
Sober Dads and Parenting in Recovery
For many fathers in recovery, they are trying to make up for lost time and be the perfect dad. And while this is admirable, it’s important to realize that no one is a perfect parent. But striving to be the best you can be for your children is important too.
If you go to a 12-Step meeting like Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous being a sober dad or mom often comes up. When you listen to the stories, you hear tales of going from being an absentee parent or a parent always under the influence of something, to an engaged, devoted, and loving sober dad or mom.
Listening to these fathers, you hear stories of what kind of dad they were while actively using drugs or alcohol as well as what their parenting lives are like today. Most of these stories reveal complete turnarounds in parenting since they got sober.
Some of the stories include parenting during addiction that included putting kids in danger by doing things like taking children with them to obtain drugs, drinking and driving with kids and their friends in the cars, showing up drunk or high to their kids’ games, school events, etc.. For some fathers, they hadn’t seen or spoken to their children in many years and weren’t part of much of their childhood.
The stories of abuse, neglect, and pain are real. As you listen to their stories you can hear and feel the regret they feel as well as the deep love these fathers have for their children—whether those children have forgiven them or not.
Sober fathers who are living the principles of recovery practice acceptance, surrender, and patience. They also have tremendous faith in either God or a Higher Power. For many, this approach and practicing these principles when it comes to their children and their relationships with them heal all involved.
So what is it like to be a sober dad?
Sober dads often talk about how grateful they are to be able to be fully present with their children—no matter what age the children are. From coaching their children’s sports teams to reading them bedtime stories and being there when they are sad, scared, or angry, sober dads feel blessed to be a part of it all.
Yes, there are struggles for sober dads too. Not only does staying sober take commitment and work, being a parent takes commitment and work. As mentioned, many children who have a parent with an AUD or SUD go on to have problems of their own with addiction. This can be excruciatingly painful for any parent.
However, sober dads (and moms) are able to relate to their children in ways others who haven’t experienced an AUD or SUD cannot. Sober dads get support from other sober dads and moms. They learn about how to handle certain situations and challenges with their kids—and stay sober!
For many who get sober, they want all of life’s problems to go away. Often, that’s part of the reason an AUD or SUD developed, not being able to cope in healthy ways with some of life’s pains. However, with the right addiction treatment program and support after leaving treatment, healthy coping skills are learned. For sober dads, these much-needed skills become part of their lives and are modeled for their children.
Sober dads all have one thing in common, they are grateful for the chance to parent and be in the lives of their children. They feel they have been given a second chance to be a dad and do it right.
If you are a sober dad, you know firsthand the enormous rewards of being a sober parent. If you are a father who is struggling with an AUD or SUD, you too can find healing and recovery and go on to be the parent you want to be. No matter how much despair or shame you may feel now, you (and your children) can heal and recover.
Contact Futures to learn more about our three addiction treatment programs as well as our Mental Health unit. At Futures, we invite family to be part of the recovery process from day one. We know how vital family healing is in order to truly recover and live a happy, sober life.
Call us at 866-804-2098