Letting Go Of The Past: Advice For Reconnecting with a Recovering Parent

Teresa Greenhill is a respected writer and advocate for families with relatives struggling with addiction or in recovery. As a family therapist, I am pleased to have her as a guest blogger to share her wisdom on reconnecting with parents in recovery. 

Addiction has a lifelong lasting impact on children and families

When you grow up with a parent who’s battling addiction, you may have experienced disappointment and anger with your parent. He or she may have missed your soccer game, your first date, and other important events. Even worse, your parent may have used around you or put you in dangerous situations. These behaviors have impacted you, your feelings about yourself and your world. Children of addicts have more difficulty trusting, are more anxious, tend to be self-critical. As a result, eventually your relationship became estranged. If your parent is now a senior and has recently entered addiction recovery, you may be thinking of letting go of the past and trying to reconnect. However, it is difficult to trust let alone forgive your senior parent after experiencing being a child of an addict.

Before you try to work on mending the relationship with your parent, you must first work toward gaining a solid understanding of addiction. Addiction is a lifelong disease. Recovery is process, taken one day at a time. Substance abuse in the senior population is quite prevalent, especially in regards to prescription medication, and misuse of prescription medications among older adults is estimated to double by 2020.

Tips for Reconnecting

Once you have an understanding of addiction the process of separating who your parent is from their addiction may assist you in the process of reconciliation. If you decide to go forward and make peace with your parent, remember that addiction isn’t curable, but it is manageable. You must accept that your parent isn’t perfect and that all relationships require work.

It’s also advisable to seek help from a professional. According to chemical dependency counselor Russell Goodwin, “It’s difficult to heal a relationship without professional help, especially if the damage to the relationship has progressed quite a bit.” It will be extremely helpful to have guidance as you proceed down the road to reconnection to help discover what you both want and need in order to have a healthy relationship. Healing can start by simply knowing that you aren’t alone. Groups like Al-Anon and ACA (Adult Children of Alcoholics) provide free support and recovery for family members of addicts.

At first, it’s best to start slowly when beginning the healing process. Do whatever makes you feel comfortable. When speaking with your parent, you can express how the situation makes you feel, but avoid placing blame or accusing your parent for creating the situation. Discuss what can help to make things better. For example, some ways to start small are writing emails, texting, face-time and slowly work into more interactive forms of connection. As you spend more time with them plan for uninterrupted time or start planning to connect over common interests (i.e. community events).

Having an estranged relationship with a family member, especially a parent, is a difficult circumstance. You may find that now is not the time you to reconnect or the relationship is too toxic to repair. Don’t blame beat yourself. Take reassurance in knowing that tried, you made healthy choices and set healthy boundaries for you.

However, you may be able to mend a relationship with an estranged parent. Just because the relationship was toxic due to addiction doesn’t mean it has to stay that way. If your parent has recently entered addiction recovery or looking to enter recovery, it may be time to consider trying to mend fences and work on reconnecting. Be sure to follow the tips above and seek professional advice to ensure you’re ready for the challenges that lie ahead.

By: Tersea Greenhill

Teresa is the co-creator of http://www.MentalHealthForSeniors.com, which is dedicated to providing seniors with information on physical and mental fitness so that they can be active and happy in their golden years.  Visit her website for more information. 

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