“Fatherhood” may not mean the same for all families. For some, the concept of fatherhood may bring up happy and warm memories of growing up with a person they look up to. However, for those who grew up in a household where a parent, particularly a father, has an addiction, the case might be a whole lot different.
For adults who grew up living with dads who struggled or are still struggling with addiction, the concept of fatherhood may be filled with bitterness, shame, anger, and resentment. After all, as kids, these adults had to live with the fact that their dads are more preoccupied and invested in drinking or using than spending time with his kids.
What most are not aware of, however, is the increased risk of an adult to develop substance use disorder when they are exposed to substance use early on as a child. There is also the genetic factor that applies to all addiction disorders, on top of the glaring environmental component.
For those who are struggling with mental health issues or their own substance or behavioral addictions, it can be hard for them to forgive their fathers for how they grew up and how they have been shaped to be the persons they are today. The missed birthdays, the dysfunctional household, the exposure to violence and manipulation, as well as broken homes and abuses…these can all be painful.
However, forgiveness is a critical pillar in recovery.
Forgiving Your Father and Your Recovery
Whether you’re still in touch with your father, or are estranged; or whether or not your father is alive today, forgiveness is still a big part of your recovery. Holding on to negative feelings such as anger, bitterness, or low self-esteem due to childhood neglect is even a relapse trigger. You have to let go of these painful emotions and free yourself from your past so that you become more grounded and balanced in your recovery.
In fact, even if you’re not in recovery, holding on to these feelings will continue to make you a prisoner of your past and will not make you happy. It may even lead to negative coping habits that may eventually lead to destructive behavior or even addiction.
However, we understand that forgiveness is easier said than done. Forgiveness is a very personal journey. It can be difficult to accept the harm done to you in the past, and it can be even harder to let go. However, it must be done if you are to live a sober, more positive life.
Inching Closer to Forgiveness
Consider these things:
- While the past can’t be denied, holding on and dwelling on them can be harmful to your mental health. If you are in recovery, it may also ultimately lead to relapse.
- Forgiveness is a process. It doesn’t happen overnight. While there are those who may not understand this, trust that there are those that do, and they are the ones who matter.
- If your father is still alive, you may want to connect with him and involve him in your healing process. It could be a life-changing opportunity for both of you. However, if you’re still in recovery and your father may still be using, it could be best to do this on your own.
- Forgiveness doesn’t mean you have to create a new bond and foster a new relationship with your father. It just means that you are letting go of the hurt and other negative feelings from the past. Instead, you are focusing on the positive things that are happening today.