Moving on from Painful History of Family Substance Abuse

People tend to carry the weight of emotional pain from their pasts. In many cases this pain is caused by family history of substance abuse, where one or both parents were struggling with abuse and addiction. Children who grow up with parents who are addicted are burdened with the events of their past, and find it difficult to get past it as adult individuals.

Getting Rid of Past Pain

It is possible to be rid of the pain from the past and to actively heal. The individual needs to let go of any resentment they may still hold towards their parents. Holding on to the resentment only hurts the individual, not anyone else. It also prevents the individual from forming close relationships. And the emotional damage continues to get worse. Once the individual has let go of the resentment and past hurt, they have acknowledged their own suffering, and now they can take that first step towards taking care of themselves.

Exercise for Letting Go

While going into therapy or attending support groups can go a long way towards helping the individual heal, there are also exercises the individual can do on their own, that will help. One very effective exercise is:

  1.  Physically holding a pebble in a closed fist for as long possible, and as tightly as possible. After a minute or a few, dropping the pebble and observing the hand that held it. Did the pebble cause an indent? How deep is the indent, how red? what is the level of pain the individual experience? The pebble becomes a metaphor for the emotional damage inflicted by substance abuse.
  2. Picking three things that cause the individual pain in the present moment that are related to substance abuse. The individual should then ask themselves how they can put these things down, metaphorically speaking. Then they should find three things, no more, that they can do every day to stop from feeling that resentment and pain.
  1. The individual should commit to doing these things for 30 days, with the promise that on the 31st day the individual reward themselves. This could be anything from going to watch a movie, to treating themselves to dinner. Whatever makes them happy.

The point of the exercise is for the individual to be compassionate with their own self. If they miss a day of the exercise, that’s fine, they can just continue the next day until 30 days are up.

In learning to care for themselves, the individual will find ways to care for people around them, and perhaps even forgive their parents.

Sustain Recovery offers a safe and structured environment for adolescents to learn about living substance free. Our long term residential programs help make the transition to sober living. Contact us to find out how we can help you.