Friday, June 25, 2010

Insight Please!

To those of you who have some insight on the subject of blaming yourself for your child's addiction, would you share it with me?

A brief conversation with my son's counselor today, which included the comment, "Carolyn, it sounds like you're blaming yourself" sent me off to my lunch hour with the primary aim of regaining my composure so I could return to work for the afternoon.  What I really feel like doing is going home to cry, because he is right. Somehow, I feel responsible.

When people see 'successful' children, don't they often say, "they came from a good family"?

Don't we congratulate parents when their children graduate from college "Good job, Mom & Dad!"?

We are very quick to credit parents when children are doing well. I know, I received lots of kudos as I was raising Daniel.

Intellectually, I understand that Daniel made his choices, but emotionally, I am struggling with feeling like I must have done something wrong.

I could use a little help, here.


  1. I have been guilty of blaming myself and feeling guilty for my son's addiction. I started asking myself if any of the "stupid" things I had done in my life could be blamed on my own mother, and the answer to that question was always no. I did the best I could with what I knew at the time. Often we are in denial in the beginning of our kid's addiction and we don't have any idea the degree the addiction level is, or even understand it. It takes a lot of trial and error with most things in life before we learn. It is a process, we do what we know to do the best we can. The guilt and blaming myself only causes me harm and has NEVER solved or helped me or my son, actually it has caused me more harm and sorrow. But truly, ask yourself, "is my Mom at fault for my mistakes in life".

  2. You sure opened a can of worms with this one.

    I could write about the 3 "C's" or many other things that have gone through my own mind countless times. Intellectually it is easy to grasp that it isn't the parents fault but societal pressures from all that have not been there imply there must be someone at fault and you articulated exactly why we take it on as parents.

    If outcomes were dependent on Dad and Mom we would all have Einstein's. But as I look at the family dynamic within our own family and this has been related many times from others in the same situation. Why would 1 child out of 3 become addicted? They were raised the same, they went to the same schools and quite frankly they even shared friends from some of the same families, younger and older siblings.

    I have done alot of deliberating about ths very question of fault. One of the conclusions I have reached is our children are individuals, they become individuals much younger than parents recognize or allow. They begin making decisions younger than we want them too but we don't recognize it because in our minds they are our "babies".

    Happily, we parents take credit for our childrens successes. Our oldest daughter was the first person in either side of the family to graduate college, she is now 7 hours away from getting her Masters Degree. Dad and Mom are proud, of course we must have done eveything right with this one. Our middle child, a daughter gave us our first grandchild, how much better could she be, our youngest is an addict. Praise for one, praise for two and you really screwed that last one up! Just how in the world does that make sense. Well truth is it doesn't make sense in anyone's world that has been around addiction. The sad thing is that logic makes perfect sense to those that have no clue about addiction.

    If you ask our daughters about our son they will both tell you our son was brillant. He had a memory that was photographic. Our oldest that graduated college told him once after rehab that she wished she had his brain, why is he destroying it?

    This isn't dad and mom's fault. We take it on because that is what we are conditioned to do. Societal pressures along with generational pressures make it our fault, only if you chose to accept it. I look at my son and I think; I taught him not to steal, yet he steals, He was told by countless people do not do drugs since he was 2 foot tall, yet he does drugs. He has been preached at to live a life of honor, yet he is dishonorable. His life wasn't filled with my decisions, his life is filled with his decisions.

    Often I read alcoholics and addicts blogs and invaribly on some blogs at some point I read about how their parents were crap, their parents were addicts or alcoholics or they were physically or emotionally abused. Truth is many have gotten past the point of blaming their parents but some have not. So, see it comes from all angles.

    Everyone of us have played the woulda, coulda, shoulda game. You will get no place fast doing that. Sometimes it is OK to play the pity game as a parent, done it myself. But the key is to know ntellectually and emotionally that there is nothing you can do about the past, even if you were a shitty parent. Shitty parents can have really great non-addicted kids, and great parents can have addicts. There are no definitive answers.

    You want to feel good about being the parent of an addict? Then here is exactly what you do. You learn all you can handle about this disease. You do whatever you believe is right for yourself and your son. Every single day you cheer the successes and mourn the defeats. You never give up hope for yourself or your child. And then tomorrow you get up and you do it all over again.

    That makes you a good parent, addiction is not your fault, it is a disease. (if your had son liver disease, would that be because you were a bad parent? a bad parent is one that would not help a child that has a disease.)

  3. I agree with Ron and Renee. Good kids = good parents. Bad kids = bad parents. Its just not that simple. Its just not true.

    I remember when I just could not release the guilt or the obsession with blaming myself. I just couldn't let that idea go. My counselor's insight was that I almost *wanted* it to be my fault. Then it would be within my realm of control. If it was my fault then surely I could figure out what to do to fix it. I could change, I would twist myself inside out if I had to, to make this all ok.

    Unfortunately that wasn't the answer. I wasn't a perfect mom, but I was a good one. I was there, I was affectionate, I loved and adored each of my kids, I did the absolute very best that I knew how to do.

    For me it came back to acknowledging my powerlessness...yet again. Have you heard the 3 C's that Ron referred to....I didn't cause it, I can't cure it, and I can't control it. That is the truth.

  4. I could not say it any better than Ron (Dad and Mom) said it above. The only other comment is that I have said out loud to my son things like, "I can't help it, I feel like I'm responsible for your choices," and his response (whether he was high or not) has consistently been, "Mom, this has nothing to do with you. There is nothing you could have done to change the decisions I made." I have chosen to believe him, even though I sometimes still sit and play the blame game (which of course, you usually play by yourself)!

    Take care and keep good thoughts. You didn't cause it, you can't contol it and you can't cure it!

  5. I can't top what Ron has said in his comment, so I won't even try. He is right on! Just know we have ALL blamed ourselves to some degree or other at one time or other. I still have moods where the 'what if I had done this or that or not not done this or that' creeps in. I've gone from 'why my child, God?' to 'why me'? Hang in there, you aren't alone. Praying for you and your son!

  6. Oh Sweetie, we have ALL felt that way!!! BUT the important thing is to let the feelings go right on by because its NOT true. Like Ron and those above me said, there is no way its our fault. I still want to blame myself sometimes (and as a single parent who brought her son into the world without a father I had plenty of angles to blame myself from). You are a wonderful mother who loves her son with all her heart. Please don't blame yourself, it was nothing you did or didn't do - I promise!

  7. We have most likely all done some of this, at different points. However, Ron is right....those that have no clue about addiction are the ones that most likely think simplistically, blaming us for our child's disease and choices. It is no more our fault at the most basic level for our son's addiction, than is it our credit for our oldest daughter's always outstanding academic performance and accolades. We taught our son to avoid drugs and live an honorable life,(my husband is a retired Marine colonel)...he knows right from wrong, as do his brother and sister, who also have endured pain from his behavior. This has been such a painful journey that we're still on,....and all I can say is that I'm SO thankful for all of you people, that I feel such support from. I don't even have my own blog,...but feel connected to you and your children. You understand what we live every day. Thanks for a great post that hits a nerve with many of us, especially as we deal with others that certainly wouldn't want to be in our shoes.

  8. oh yeah. i'm a little different from Ron & Mom and the other's. I don't actually believe this is a disease.

    My daughter told me, after the first time (years later) that she tried it because she could, and she liked it. It was the most wonderful feeling in the world. So, she kept doing it. Pretty soon, it became more important than us, than her children, than anything at all.

    So,, out of 4 kids that were actually ours, and a host of others who were in and out as foster kids, was it our fault?

    I've traveled that road, reinforced by my daughters mean statements that it was because of this, or that, and how she felt unloved and maltreated (which sends her sibling into gales of laughter, they all admit that she was actually the favored one, the one with the best grades, the best friends, the least amount of trouble all through childhood and high school.)

    The ONLY part I think I can take ownership of this that we didn't allow her to have the consequences of her behaviors. When she had trouble with a teacher at school, (she was a straight A student) we of course, jumped in and straightened it out. When she had trouble paying her rent, with a new baby, etc, we jumped right in and helped out.

    she never had consequences. The other three kids did. When they got bad grades, they got grounded. When they were late and missed curfew, they lost their cars.

    We thought we were being good parents, by not letting her suffer, because she was SUCH a good child.

    In actuality, we were hurting her and didn't even know it. We were allowing her to learn that someone, either us, or her, could always get her out of any situation.

    We learned our lesson. She hasn't yet. Every bad thing that happens to her is ALWAYS someone else's fault, never hers.

  9. You can blame yourself for enabling, for not seeing the signs or ignoring them, for focusing on his addiction and not your own recovery. You can blame yourself for not understanding enough, caring too much, loving without action, detaching without conviction. But NEVER for the addiction. He is the only one to blame!

    I hope this helps!

  10. Thank you, everyone. I can feel your compassion and hear that you speak from your heart.

    I am tired of this roller coaster ride. Can I get off now?

  11. Many wise comments here. I can only say that blaming keeps me stuck in a bad place and it isn't helpful to anyone. The past is over, it can't be redone. What I find most helpful is to concentrate on this day and what I can do to live it well. That has helped me to move out of the despair of the "what ifs" of the past and move into gratitude for the present.