Fatherhood in Recovery

June 21, 2019

If you’re a father in recovery from drug and/or alcohol addiction, you face a unique set of struggles. Parenthood in general is an enormous responsibility, but fatherhood comes with a host of social expectations that become particularly difficult during active addiction. For example, rather than providing for your family financially, you may have found yourself spending more money than you intended on your drug of choice, taking long periods of time away from your family, or were unable to hold down a regular job for a consistent period of time. If your addiction got too out-of-hand, you might even have separated from your partner, and/or lost custody of your children. Now that you’re in recovery, you have the opportunity to repair your family connections—including the relationship with your children.

Embracing fatherhood while in recovery won’t be easy. First, you have to deal with the psychological shame attached to your perceived failure as a provider or breadwinner. Even if you don’t buy into those stereotypes about fatherhood, or have enough knowledge about addiction to understand that your disease is not your fault, it can be hard to fight against the entrenched beliefs of the people around you. Try to remember that addiction is not a moral failing, and that fathers are allowed to be sick as much as any other person. You can’t change what you did or did not do during your untreated addiction. You also can’t control how others perceive you—but now that you’re in recovery you can commit to being the best version of yourself possible, including as a father. That might not mean taking on the stereotypical duties of fatherhood; jumping into full-time work too soon, for example, might cause enough stress to jeopardize your recovery. But you can definitely ensure that your children and family know that you care and love them.

Don’t expect your family to immediately embrace your healthy self. Addiction is a highly stigmatized condition, and because of that, many people harbor deeply ingrained distrust against those who struggle with it. Often, this stems from love. Humans naturally fear losing the people we love, or being hurt by the people we love, so when we see someone we love behaving in a way that could be dangerous to themselves or others, we often protect ourselves by distancing ourselves from that person. If your family does not immediately begin showing you love and affection, give them time. Your children might feel particularly abandoned, especially if your active addiction involved prolonged periods of absence. Allow your children to express their feelings fully, and continue to show them that you are committed to fatherhood no matter what.

Fatherhood can be daunting. It is a huge responsibility to nourish, nurture, teach, and inspire a young person. If your addiction went on for many years, taking care of someone else—and even taking good care of yourself—will likely feel alien. But don’t let fear of the unknown stop you from experiencing the joy and love of fatherhood. You can recover, and you can make fatherhood a meaningful part of that recovery.

The Ammon Foundation believes that when individuals are holistically and strategically supported to build purposeful lives, the likelihood of them maintaining their recovery substantially increases. We provide this support via our two core programs – Ammon Recovery Scholars Program and Ammon Empowerment Workshop Program. To find out more about our programs, or to apply for an educational scholarship, please click here.