Myth: I Can’t Go to Treatment Because I Have Kids

Worried mother with child

A common reason a person will give for not being able to go to treatment is that they have kids. While this is certainly a barrier to getting treatment, this is actually a very good reason to go to treatment—not a reason not to go. The fact of the matter is that a person will be much better able to effectively take care of their children if they are in recovery than if they are in active addiction.

While being away from a child for a few months is certainly difficult for everyone involved, it is actually much less difficult than the alternative options. When a person is actively using drugs or abusing alcohol they run the risk of losing their child to the system, causing life-long trauma to their child, going to jail or even dying from an overdose. When comparing a few months to any of these options, the better choice becomes clear.

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) the negative impacts that a parent’s substance abuse can have on a child include, but are not limited to:

  • Increased threat of abuse or neglect.
  • Increased difficulties in social, family and academic settings.
  • Increased odds of developing a substance abuse problem themselves.
  • Increased likelihood of developing emotional, mental and behavioral problems.

A 2017 SAMHSA report states that in 2017, 1 in 8 children in the United States aged 17 or under were living in a home where at least one parent had a substance abuse disorder (SUD). This pans out to an average annual amount of 8.7 million children. Looking at these numbers, it becomes very apparent that this has become a wide scale problem.

While each person should ultimately get sober for themselves, it is also true that family can be a huge motivation for someone to get better. Most people genuinely want to be a good parent but it is very hard to be there for a child while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. In order to develop a healthy relationship with someone, we need to be present and available for them. Getting sober paves the road for someone with an addiction to do this for their children.

It can be difficult to work out the logistics of who will take care of the children while someone is in rehab. Oftentimes the full responsibility of taking care of the children and household will fall on one of the spouses during this time. While this is challenging to do even for a short while it is much better than having it become a permanent lifestyle. When left unchecked addiction can lead to incarceration or death—both of which take away more time than going to rehab.

There are several different child-care options to consider before going to rehab. Oftentimes the best solution is to assign the care of one’s children to a trusted loved one. Oftentimes these would include a spouse, significant other, parent, sibling, or a close friend. If none of these options are available, it would be worthwhile looking into other treatment options with child care accommodations.

While it is certainly true that going to treatment can be a stressful time for everyone involved, it provides the best opportunity for success. It is important to remember that having children is never a “good excuse” not to get help. If anything, it is perhaps the most important reason out there to make a positive change. The best thing that a parent with a substance abuse problem can do for their children is to do what is necessary to get sober and live a life of recovery.




Certified Addiction Counselor and Staff Member at Narconon Colorado.