Dads on Drugs: Healing from a Father’s Addiction

Published on June 19, 2020
Mountainside Canaan Aerial Shot

Canaan, CT – Father’s Day is June 21st, a time to thank father figures everywhere for their strength and commitment to their families. While the holiday is certainly a cause for celebration, it can also be a vulnerable time for those who have strained relationships with their fathers. Mountainside not only offers support and recovery resources to addicted fathers but also to family members who may need help healing from a father’s addiction.

“Fathers who struggle with problematic alcohol or drug use often have trouble connecting emotionally with their families,” says Bruce Dechert, Senior Clinician for Mountainside’s Family Wellness program. “Many who suffer from addiction are tempted to conceal their behavior, causing them to act in secrecy and isolate from their loved ones. For sons and daughters trying to reconcile their relationships with their fathers, it can be difficult to separate the person from the behavior, therefore making it difficult to trust.”

On top of family tensions that may have already existed, the COVID-19 pandemic has created an environment in which problematic behaviors, such as drug use or excessive drinking, become more difficult to disguise in front of family members living and working in close quarters. All of the different health, social, and financial challenges associated with the coronavirus can further amplify stress in households where a father may struggle with addiction and turn to using drugs and alcohol to cope with his potentially increased anxiety.

In general, the children of addicted fathers often grow up in stressful environments characterized by a lack of stability. According to a 2019 study in the Journal of Addiction Research and Therapy, those who were raised by addicted parents are more prone to aggression, sleep disorders, and mental health issues. Researchers from Frontiers in Psychology similarly note that a father’s struggle with substance misuse can have a traumatic effect on his children, leaving them susceptible to developing substance use disorders later in life.

For the children of parents who struggle with alcoholism, the chances of developing alcohol use disorders are four times higher. A 2016 study in the journal Drugs: Education, Prevention, and Policy found that sons of fathers who consumed alcohol more frequently were more likely to be hospitalized for alcohol-related causes as adults.

While this cycle can be challenging to break, recovery is possible. “Many family members do not understand that their own needs should come first,” says Dechert. “For those with addicted parents, setting aside time for self-care can be life-changing. They can offer to support their addicted loved ones, but they should never lose sight of the importance of balance with others and their own well-being.”