Your Work and Your Family Will Wait: How to Overcome Guilt When You Need Addiction Treatment
Struggling with an active addiction is hard enough. Admitting that you need professional help can be even harder. But when you’re a parent with a career, the idea of leaving your family and your work responsibilities behind to seek treatment might also fill you with guilt.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, once an addiction develops, professional help is almost always needed to recover for the long-term.1 Getting help for an addiction now will improve your life on many fronts, and letting go of the guilt and putting your mental energy into recovery is essential for ending the addiction for good.
What’s hard to do now—commit to treatment—is quite possibly the only thing that can protect your career and your family in the long run. Here are some ways to cope with any guilt you may feel about committing to treatment, and why you might be experiencing those emotions in the first place.
Why Women in Particular Sometimes Have Trouble Seeking Treatment
While women become addicted to drugs and alcohol more quickly than men do—and their addiction typically causes more problems in their lives than men’s do—women are less likely than men to seek help for an addiction. This is due to a number of unique barriers they face, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.2 These barriers include:
Economic obstacles. Women make less money on average than men do, and single mothers are particularly disadvantaged when it comes to being able to afford to take a leave from work to seek help for an addiction.
Family responsibilities. Traditionally, women are the caretakers of the home and the children, and they’re more likely to have trouble finding the time to attend regular outpatient treatment sessions or attend an inpatient treatment program, due to family responsibilities.
Shame. Women are more likely than men to report feelings of shame and embarrassment for entering treatment. This is especially true for women who have children.
Women who are able to overcome the barriers to treatment may still struggle with negative emotions surrounding seeking help, including self-doubt, guilt and shame. If you’re struggling with the decision to leave your job and your family behind while you get help for an addiction, these tips can help you process those emotions.
1. Plan ahead, and seek support.
Having a strong support system in place can make life easier for you and your family while you’re in treatment. Plan ahead, and appeal to friends and family members for practical support for your household while you’re away, such as helping with meals, the kids, transportation and other needs. If you’re taking a leave from work, ask your co-workers to step in as appropriate to help cover your duties while you’re away. Knowing that everything is under control at home and work will give you peace of mind so you can focus on treatment.
2. Focus on why you’re going to treatment.
Addiction is a chronic and progressive disease. Without help, it will get worse, taking a serious toll on your physical and mental health, relationships and finances. Children of addicted parents are the highest-risk group of children to develop cognitive, emotional and behavioral problems and substance use disorders down the road. Families affected by addiction have higher levels of conflict and dysfunction than families not affected by addiction.
Getting professional help is the best thing you can do for yourself and your family. You should be proud—and very kind to yourself—for taking the initiative to seek treatment.
3. Involve the family.
Family involvement in treatment improves its outcomes. Most high-quality treatment programs offer family programming to involve your loved ones in the treatment process. Workshops for family members help them understand addiction and recovery and how to best support you after treatment.
Family therapy helps you repair damaged relationships and restore function to the household. Having your family involved in your treatment plan can help reduce any feelings of guilt for getting help.
Most people who fully engage with their treatment program enjoy long-term sobriety after treatment. The most important thing you can do for yourself and your loved ones is focus entirely on recovery while you’re in treatment. Treatment works, and it can dramatically improve your and your family’s quality of life.