Parenting Your Inner Child for Lasting Recovery
Nobody starts drinking or using drugs hoping to develop a substance abuse disorder. While addiction is a complex disease involving many interwoven components, many people who develop a drug and alcohol problem do so due to lingering emotional effects from their childhood. Whether your upbringing involved abuse, trauma or parental substance abuse, these negative experiences can follow you into your adult years.
The person you were as a child doesn’t disappear once you reach adulthood. Instead, it stays with you, reminding you of unresolved pain and turmoil. Mental health professionals refer to this concept as your “inner child,” and parenting your inner child is an essential part of self-care – especially in addiction recovery.
How to Parent Your Inner Child
What do we mean when we talk about parenting your inner child? Sadly, many people grow up in less-than-ideal surroundings. Perhaps you witnessed your parents going through an acrimonious divorce, or the adults around you struggled with unaddressed mental health challenges that made them emotionally unavailable. Feeling unloved, unsafe or unwanted can have severe psychological ramifications on a growing child.
Parental harm can include:
- Physical, emotional or psychological abuse
- A lack of praise or positive reinforcement
- Teaching children not to express emotions
- Being overly critical of a child’s appearance, attitude or academic performance
- Pressuring a child to achieve at a high level
Ideally, parents and other role models should set excellent examples for how to have healthy, loving relationships, set boundaries, communicate honestly and make good decisions. However, if you lacked that leadership in your childhood, you may grow up to have low self-worth and engage in self-destructive habits like addiction. One way to understand parenting your inner child is as the act of giving yourself the joy, love, freedom and kindness you didn’t receive in your youth.
Your Inner Child’s Role in Your Recovery
If neglect, trauma or other pain marked your childhood, your inner child might be emotionally stunted and vulnerable. This phenomenon can worsen when people rely on denial to cope with inner anguish. However, your subconscious will eventually alert you to the fact that you are still carrying unresolved issues around by expressing the need to find a path to healing.
Many people with substance abuse disorders end up with two overlapping addictions – one to drugs or alcohol, and another to the feelings of numbness and release they use in place of healthy coping mechanisms. As unwilling as you might be to revisit your childhood after years of suppressing memories, getting in touch with your inner child is the first step on your road to lasting recovery.
Understanding and Acknowledging Your Inner Child
Even if you had a relatively happy and well-adjusted childhood, you may still look back and find places where your needs went unmet. Nobody is perfect, and parenting is one of the most challenging tasks anyone can accept. Acknowledging your inner child does not mean you’re searching for ways to blame your parents. Instead, the goal is to bring your awareness to any leftover pain and emotional upheaval you are still holding deep inside, so you can start releasing it.
Parenting your inner child involves admitting where your parents fell short of meeting your needs, and accepting the responsibility for caring for those yourself in adulthood. Becoming a parent to your inner child will give you a new way to express yourself and a lens for examining how you relate to others.
Many people find it beneficial and highly comforting to speak to their inner child as they would to a friend or family member, so don’t feel intimidated to try this technique. Consider using affirmative phrases like “You are safe and protected” and “I love you the way you are.”
Find Freedom at One of America’s Best Addiction Treatment Centers
If you don’t do the work necessary to heal your inner child, you might have trouble navigating the world as an adult. Becoming the parent you wish you had can help you develop life skills you may be lacking and enrich your relationships. If parenting your inner child is a struggle, a therapist can help you with evidence-based counseling techniques. To learn more about recovering in Beach House’s environment of medical and clinical excellence, please call our admissions counselors today.