Out of last chance saloon

Angela Deegan watches Addicted Parents: Last Chance to Keep my Children.

At times throughout my career, I have found it difficult to empathise with addicts. In my current post working with looked after children, many of whom come from homes ravaged by addiction, it can be hard to understand how someone can put a substance before the needs of their own offspring. However, Addicted Parents: Last Chance to Keep my Children offered a rarely seen insight into the struggles – physical, mental and emotional – faced by parents attempting to put their children before their addiction.

Phoenix Futures Family Service offers an intensive rehabilitation programme set within their own therapeutic community, where parents can reside with their children for a period of three months, allowing them to overcome addictions together. Individuals who come to the centre are often facing a last resort – their choices are to get clean or to give up care of their children.

Throughout the programme we are offered insights from residents at various stages of recovery and a glimpse into their background and how they came to use drugs in the first place. Tracey, a mother of eight, admits to first using opiate based painkillers to help her to cope with the pressures of parenthood. Others like Natalie A experienced childhood sexual abuse at the hands of an uncle and began using crack and heroin to block out painful memories.

It is clear that the individuals within the service experience enormous amounts of guilt due to failing as a parent. This is often the part they find most difficult to move past. Following an initial one-month detox, key workers share that it is often during this second month that most addicts drop out of the program. They lack the coping skills to deal with the intense emotions they are feeling.

Although the documentary shows that there can be positive outcomes for some individuals, I could not help feeling that it raised more questions than it answered. Whilst in the service, addicts are afforded the support of key workers and other service users to help them get through their lowest points. However, it did little to enlighten about the support available once the three months were complete. Also, it would be interesting to see the long-term outcomes of such a programme when the service users feel that they have to be successful and get clean of their addiction rather than desiring to do so.

Angela Deegan is an Assistant Psychologist.

Watch the programme now http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b08ywk12/addicted-parents-last-chan...

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