In recovery, it is necessary to heal the body, mind and spirit from the ravages of addiction. This type of holistic healing can be achieved in many ways and through various treatment and recovery programs. However, not all options offer healing for the inner child, but it is vital to successful, holistic recovery.
In active addiction, the inner child is neglected, abused and/or exploited. Typically, this experience is one that reiterates or mirrors that of childhood. In other words, in active addiction you become your own worst parent.
Whether the mirroring of childhood experiences applies to every active addict or not, the inner child is suffering in active addiction and in need of nurturing and healing in recovery. Therefore, individuals in recovery must begin to address the needs of their inner child, become their own best parent and repair the relationship between themselves and their inner child.
And, though not everyone agrees that this work is needed to maintain sobriety in recovery, there are at least five reasons to consider inner child work an integral part of successful, holistic recovery.
1. You become your own best parent.
When you begin doing inner child work in recovery, you start to recognize and internalize the abusive relationship you have had with your inner child in active addiction. In fact, in many cases the relationship mirrors that of the dysfunctional and/or traumatic one you had with literal parents. As such, it provides an opportunity to take accountability, make amends to your inner child and become your own best parent; one who nurtures, honors and respects the child within.
2. You repair the relationship with yourself.
In combination with becoming your own best parent, inner child work allows you to repair the relationship with yourself. The personal inventory typically taken during this process – like that required to become your own best parent – highlights the toxic, abusive and/or self-sabotaging nature of the relationship you had with you in active addiction. This allows you the chance to heal and learn to love, honor and respect yourself; all aspects of you.
3. You become more aware and respectful of your needs and boundaries.
The child within is often exploited and abused when the disease goes untreated. The inner child’s needs are ignored and boundaries are violated. Often, this process leads to an overwhelming amount of guilt and shame which only adds to the cycle of pain and the perpetuation of active addiction.
Inner child work addresses the needs and boundaries of the child within that have been ignored and violated in active addiction. As such, the work allows you to become more aware and respectful of those needs and boundaries, giving you the opportunity to make different choices, let go of the guilt and shame and begin to honor the inner child.
4. You prioritize your health and serenity.
Because inner child work shifts the focus to becoming your own best parent, repairing the relationship with self and becoming more aware of your needs and boundaries, it also shifts the priorities. Your holistic health and serenity (inner peace) become prioritized over anything else.
You learn that it’s okay to say no, if it protects your health and serenity. Additionally, you become comfortable with setting healthy boundaries in other ways and areas of life to maintain overall wellness and inner peace.
5. You prevent relapse.
Of course, the main reason to consider inner child work an integral part of successful, holistic recovery is that it potentially prevents relapse. By calling attention to the child within – the one that has likely been suffering for years, long before chemical dependency developed – inner child work allows recovering individuals to heal every aspect of the self, addressing past traumas and resulting triggers, shame and guilt, family dynamics of addiction and the relationship with self.
In this way, inner child work creates a strong bond with and love of self, a desire to respect and honor the inner child— your core needs and authentic personal boundaries—and prioritizes your holistic health and serenity over all things. When this is internalized through the work, relapse is no longer an option or a necessity.
If you are wanting to learn more about inner child work or you wish to begin the work, there are many books and online resources on the subject. More importantly, there are counselors and life coaches who offer or even specialize in the process.
Remember, you have the right to advocate for yourself and request the specific help you need. So, don’t be intimidated by the professionals. It’s your recovery. Make it your own.