Two people in Florida were reportedly under the influence of Molly, a version of the club drug ecstasy, and found to be chasing ghosts with a machete by Volusia County deputies, according to the Palm Beach Post. The couple self-reported use of Molly to law enforcement, and said they were chasing ghosts because their house was haunted. Officers found a machete in the front yard of their house. The sheath that went with the machete was in a room where two children, ages 6 and 8, were sleeping. The deputies said that both adults were displaying “erratic and paranoid behavior” and arrested both for child neglect.
Drug use and abuse that cause erratic and aggressive behavior based on paranoia can be dangerous not only to the person struggling with the issue but to those around them as well. Especially for young children, unexpected and unstable behavior from caregivers and parents can be very frightening.
Though extreme behavior like running around after ghosts with a machete due to drug use is rare, neglect of children when a parent or caregiver is struggling with addiction is not. In recovery, it can be difficult to mend the parent/child relationship, but it is an essential part of helping the entire family to heal.
If you are a parent in recovery, one of your greatest challenges will be working to help your children understand your addiction. Here are a few tips to get you started.
- Ask for help. You are not expected to be an expert in child psychology or recovery. You are still working out how to stay sober on your own terms, and you are not expected to be a mind reader and know exactly what it is that your child needs at every moment. It is a good idea to talk to a substance abuse treatment professional who specializes in family therapy and children. This person should be able to give you some guidance as to how to approach discussions about your addiction with your child, how to manage your child’s anger, and tips on dealing with issues that are specific to you and your family’s experience.
- Be patient. Your child may not feel like talking about the details or even acknowledging that you were “sick” or any of the troublesome events that took place when you were living in active addiction. On the other hand, your child may have quite a bit to say and a great deal anger pointed directly at you. It can be difficult, but no reaction is abnormal. It is important for you to remain calm and allow your child to respond however comes naturally.
- Ask questions. Though you may feel the urge to explain yourself and reframe difficult experiences in a more positive light, you will not be able to change the past for your child. Instead, it may be more helpful to ask your child questions about what was seen, felt, experienced, etc., letting your child be the one to lead the conversations and get their questions answered and needs met in the process. This act alone demonstrates that you care and will mean the world to them.
- Listen and support. Choose a time that is free from distractions and simply listen to what your child has to say. Affirm that what they are feeling is not only okay but very normal. Let them know that your addiction is not their fault. Recognize that what they went through was very difficult. Apologize and help them to see that they are a great kid who did nothing wrong and that there is no need to be embarrassed about what happened or worried about the future. Let them know that you love them very much and that you are in this together.
- Process your emotions elsewhere. It can be heartbreaking, angering, frustrating, depressing, horrifying, and shame-inducing to watch your child struggle with the impact of your addiction. But addiction is a medical disorder, and it does not help you or your child to live in guilt, shame, or fear that it will happen again. Instead, take all those emotions to your therapist, a professional who specializes in recovery and treatment, and process how you are feeling completely, then begin the process of moving forward with an actionable plan.
- Give it time. Helping your child to heal after your addiction will take time, just as it will take you time to heal. Keep focused on your recovery and taking each day as it comes as you and your family move forward toward a place of balance and stability.