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Dr. Steve Frisch, Psy.D. is a clinical psychologist in private practice in
Chicago, Illinois and Northfield, Illinois.

You can contact Dr. Frisch, Psy.D. at
(847) 498-5611.

Recover from chemical dependency and its toxic impact on family members. Raise your children to choose to be alcohol and other drugs free. Learn how to in Dr. Frisch’s, Psy.D. Recovery book series.


How a Recovering Parent Can Heal Their Relationship With Their Children

Dear Dr. Steve:

I have been in recovery for six months after drinking and drugging daily for the last fourteen years. Although I am truly grateful for sobriety and what my life is today, my life is not without its struggles. At the top of my list of what I’m struggling with is how to rebuild my relationship with my children. I feel like they resent me and my sobriety. I know I put them through a lot. I know that they spent many years without the kind of father that they deserved. Nonetheless, I’m at a loss. I don’t know how to reach them. I feel like I’m starting all over at this, learning how to be the parent they need and deserve. Any advice that you can send my way, would be greatly appreciated.

Recovery is about rebuilding lives, rebuilding families, and rebuilding relationships. There is no more important relationship to be repaired than the relationship between a recovering parent and their children. I feel so strongly about the need for the recovering parent to learn how to [re]connect with their children that I wrote a book, Entering the World of Your Child: How to Nurture the Spirit of Your Child. Please read it and practice it! It was written for people just like you who are in search of how to [re]connect with their children.

Given the limits of the space of this column, let me address one aspect of the answer to your question—how best to get reacquainted with your children and begin rebuilding trust.

First, explain to your child about the disease of alcoholism and drug addiction to your children. No child is ever too young to hear the truth about something as important one’s emotional, spiritual, and mental health and the disease of alcoholism. Please see my column where I explain the disease concept of chemical dependency as a helpful resource.

There are a few points I would want you to make to your child as you explain the disease concept of alcoholism:

1.) Alcoholism is a chronic disease that can be managed. Explain to them what you intend to do in order to manage your disease.

2.) Alcoholism is a bad thing that happens to good people—no one is to be blamed for having the disease or causing the disease.

3.) Validate and affirm the feelings that your children have about you, your drinking and drugging, and the impact that your disease has had on their well-being. This is not the time to get defensive with them, although you will feel extremely defensive.

4.) Emphasize that no matter how important your children may be to you, you must make Recovery a priority in order to successfully manage your disease.

Although talking to them is a good start, what your children are most starved for is your time and attention. Don’t try to buy your way back into their good graces. Be physically and emotionally present in their lives. Be where you’re suppose to be when you say that you’re going to be there. But don’t just show up. Participate!

Regularly scheduled family meetings are a must. Your family has been fragmented for years. Rebuild cohesiveness by giving your family members a forum to safely express their feelings. Listen to what your family members have to say to you. Open yourself up to understanding what their feedback means about you and them. Your family has spent most of their lives organizing their lives around you and your disease. Fear has dominated their world. Family meetings can be a powerful forum for empowering each family member to [re]claim their voice and express all that they need to say.

The next suggestion applies to your words and deeds. Be consistent!!! Consistency should be applied to every area of your life. Your family is watching you, in many respects they’re testing you. As much as they want you to succeed, they’re waiting for signs that you are failing. It may not seem fair to you but you’re on trial my friend. The best way to pass their test is to say what you mean, mean what you say and never forget to do something that you said that you were going to do!

The last suggestion I have for you is to introduce your children to the 12-Step world. Take them to open A.A. meetings. Encourage them to attend Al-Anon and/or Alateen meetings. By participating in their own support groups, they can explore and express their anger, fear, hurt, guilt and shame in safe ways with people who can safely facilitate their exploration. This is as important as anything that you can do with your children for your children!

Consider getting your children involved in Al-Anon and Alateen.

You can contact Al-Anon at:

Al-Anon Family Group Headquarters, Inc.
1600 Corporate Landing Parkway
Virginia Beach, Va. 23454
Tel # 757-563-1600
Fax # 757-563-1655
www.al-anon.alateen.org
1-888-425-2666 for meeting information
Monday-Friday, 8am to 6 pm ET except holidays

You can contact Alateen at Al-Anon Family Group Headquarters, Inc.:

Al-Anon Family Group Headquarters, Inc.
1600 Corporate Landing Parkway
Virginia Beach, Va. 23454
Tel # 757-563-1600
Fax # 757-563-1655
www.al-anon.alateen.org
1-888-425-2666 for meeting information
Monday-Friday, 8am to 6 pm ET except holidays


Recover from chemical dependency and its toxic impact on family members. Raise your children to choose to be alcohol and other drugs free. Learn how to in Dr. Frisch’s, Psy.D. Recovery book series—From Insanity to Serenity.

Pathfinder’s Checklist

1.) Explain the disease concept of chemical dependency to your children.
2.) Give your children permission to express the feelings that they have been experiencing.
3.) Be aware that as much as your family is rooting for you to succeed, they will test you every bit of the way.
4.) Be consistent in what you do and say.
5.) Introduce your children to the 12-Step community.
6.) Read Entering the World of Your Child: How to Nurture Your Child’s Spirit.

G.B.U.

Steve



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