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Balancing Priorities: Should Your Recovery Come Before Your Kids?

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Balancing Priorities: Should Your Recovery Come Before Your Kids?

Addicts aren’t just drug junkies, living on the street with nothing to their name but the clothes on their back. They’re real people with real lives. That includes families, spouses, and kids. We’re told time and time again that our recovery needs to be our top priority. But how can we make sense of that when we have kids?

kidsWhen you’re a mom or a dad, you’re the one in charge of those humans. You need to raise them, care for them, and show them the ways of the world. A good parent puts his children first. But, as we learn in sports, costume contests, and relay races, there can’t be two first places. So, what should be your top priority? Your sobriety or your kids?

Why Are We Told that Recovery Comes First?

Every recovering addict will tell you that their recovery is their top priority. And they explain that that’s the only way you can stay sober. But why is that?

Take yourself back to high school for a moment. It’s the end of the year and you have finals coming up in six classes. You’ve been maintaining a solid B grade in each of your classes except for English. You have a D in English. The thing is it’s your senior year and you need to pass English to graduate. Your low grade in that one class is affecting your whole high school career and will affect your whole life if you don’t fix it and graduate. Your good grades in other classes won’t matter if you don’t graduate. So you decide to put the most time and effort into that class, moving the rest of your classes behind it. Sure, those classes will get a little less of your attention, but you’ll still be able to maintain those grades even if you focus on English.

High school isn’t the whole world – as much as we thought it was at the time – and it can’t really be compared to recovery. But the priority theme is essentially the same. Your addiction can and will affect your whole life if you don’t do something about it. It won’t matter how great your job is, how solid your relationships are, or how healthy you think you are. If you’re struggling with addiction, everything else will eventually suffer. So, the solution is to put most of your attention and effort into your recovery so that everything else can thrive too.

But My Kids are My World!

kidsIt’s likely easy enough to understand that a recovering addict needs to put his recovery ahead of his marathon racing hobby so that both priorities can thrive. But it’s a little harder to justify putting recovery ahead of your kids, especially if they’re young. Kids rely on their parents for stability, support, and guidance. If you’re not there for your kids, who is? However, how can you possibly provide stability for them if you’re constantly living in a state of addiction-induced chaos? What guidance can you offer if you, yourself are lost to the call of your drug or drink of choice?

Okay, so maybe it’s not too hard to understand putting that initial recovery ahead of your kids for a short time.

“I need to seek help and get clean so I can be a good parent to my children. But that’ll only take, what… 30 days? Then I can go back to being Super Dad again.”

Unfortunately, that is not the case. Recovery isn’t just a short-term quick fix. Recovery lasts for life. The importance of putting yourself and your recovery first when you initially get sober so that you can be a good parent is essentially the same in long-term recovery.

You Are Your Recovery

Perhaps we should stop saying “your recovery, your recovery, your recovery” and start saying “you, you, you.” You are not defined by your addiction. But you are your recovery. Yes, you can totally have hobbies, beliefs, and thoughts outside of recovery, but those all stem from the life you make out of your recovery. Letting something have that much power over our lives may not sit comfortably with some people. But that’s not really how it is. Recovery just touches and enhances all aspects of our lives. Even hobbies that you carry with you from your life before recovery are enhanced by this new, clean, healthier life. You’re your best when you’re sober.

Putting Yourself First

Parents want to be the best they can possibly be for their kids. In order to do so, they have to put their wellbeing first. Think about it. You can’t build someone up to be happy, confident, and amazing if you, yourself are struggling and suffering. But we get it. Putting yourself before your kids still doesn’t sound like something a good parent would do. So, here are a few bits of advice to help you see that putting your recovery first will actually help your kids rather than come at their expense.

  • Learn to say “no“

    This includes saying no directly to your kids as well as saying no to other things involved in your parenting life. If it’s going to be triggering, stressful, or detrimental to your sobriety, it’s okay to say no. For example, if your kids were invited to a birthday party at a restaurant where the other parents are going to be drinking, you can say no. Eventually, your triggers will start to become easier to manage but your kids need a sober parent more than they need to go to every peer’s birthday party.

  • You can have more than one priority

    Putting your recovery first does not mean your kids aren’t a priority. They can – and definitely should – make the list too. You just have to remember that being a good parent means being present for them. And the best way to be present is to be clean and sober.

  • Let your recovery seamlessly weave through your life

    If you’re actively participating in your recovery, it will naturally become your priority. There shouldn’t be a clear division between your recovery and the rest of your priorities and lifestyle choices. If you accept and embrace your recovery, the rest of your life will make way for it.

  • Be honest with your kids

    Children are very aware of what’s going on in their world, even when they seem to be distracted or aloof. It will be much easier to be comfortable putting your recovery first if you explain it to your kids. Let them know about your new lifestyle, even if it’s just in basic terms.

Life isn’t a one-size-fits-all frame. Humans are all individual people with different hobbies, favorite meals, goals, and dreams. We all also have different parenting styles. But we can all agree that our kids benefit more from our sobriety than they do from our addictions. Fortunately, that sobriety is maintainable if we learn to keep our priorities in check.

If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, call us at 855-737-7363. We can help you get clean and sober so that you can start working towards being Super Dad (or Super Mom) again!

Posted in For Loved Ones, Recovery