Parents with children suffering from addiction often wonder, “Am I to blame for my loved one’s addiction?” One of the most painful, trying challenges in life is enduring a child’s addiction. Instinctively, parents feel compelled to take responsibility for their child’s actions. It’s common for parents to embody their child’s issues and feel guilt, shame, and as though they did something wrong.
If you’re feeling guilt about a loved one’s addiction, and your child is suffering, it’s imperative to first realize that you’re not alone. According to a 2014 report by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH):
- Approximately 5 percent of adolescents (aged 12-17) in America – about 1.3 million teens, or 1 in every 12 – suffered from a substance use disorder.
- Approximately one in every six American young adults (aged 18-25) battled a substance use disorder – representing the highest percentage out of any age group at 16.3 percent.
As you carry the weight of the world on your shoulders, you must next understand that in many cases, your child’s substance abuse is not your fault.
But where do you go from here? Find support and guidance with four strategies for parents of children struggling with addiction.
4 Tips for Parents Dealing with Guilt Over Child’s Addiction
It’s time to stop asking yourself, “Am I to blame for my loved one’s addiction?” Instead, utilize these four strategies to navigate exactly how you feel and take the first step in healing and finding peace.
Understand your feelings.
Before you can overcome feelings of shame and guilt, you must first understand the extent of your emotions. This may seem overwhelming to do, but don’t over think it. Start here:
- Label your emotions. Get out a sheet of paper and write down every emotion you feel when you think about your child’s addiction. Step outside the box and try to identity exactly what you’re feeling. For example, you’re probably feeling sad, but could your emotion be labeled as more disappointed or mournful than simply ‘sad?’
- Rate the intensity. Once you have a list of the emotions you’re feeling, rate each emotion on a scale of 1-10. Sit with each emotion for a moment and dig deep. How strong is the feeling? How urgent does it feel?
- Define your why. When you have a firm grasp on what you’re feeling and how deep the feelings go, define why you’re feeling each emotion. This should round out the exercise of understanding your emotions by giving you clarity as to why a particular emotion lives within you when it comes to your child’s addiction.
Talk with a therapist.
After you’ve searched your soul to understand your feelings, take the next step and discuss what you’ve uncovered with a therapist. We understand that going to talk with a therapist is a substantial step, but if you’re serious about learning, growing, and forging a better life for you and your loved one, removing the stigma around therapy and finding a good therapist is essential.
Therapists are unbiased, professionally trained sounding boards that can help you further understand your feelings, navigate your situation, and start to release the guilt and shame you feel.
Take care of yourself.
As a parent to a child who is contending with a substance use disorder, it’s easy to place their needs ahead of your own. Overtime, however, this can lead to several physical and mental health concerns, such as stress, anxiety, burnout, depression, a weakened immune system, etc.
It’s not selfish to make yourself a priority. Think of it this way: If you don’t take care of yourself, you can’t take care of anyone else. Make sure your needs are met – eat well, sleep well, exercise, take time to do things that make you happy and fulfilled – and your child will receive better care and assistance.
Improve communication with your child.
Addiction weakens relationships, but there are ways you can combat this. Communication is fundamental to all healthy, prosperous relationships. Take the lead with your child and employ assertive, open, nonjudgmental communication every day.
- Ask open-ended questions.
- Listen intently.
- Respond appropriately.
By effectively communicating with your child, you’ll be more apt to catch issues before they arise and better prepared to offer your child the insight and support they need.
At Ranch Creek Recovery, we’re addiction recovery experts, but most of us are also parents. We understand your innate feelings and acknowledge the burden you carry.
Let us help you lighten the weight you feel. Discover our Family Education on Addiction program or contact us today to learn about our recovery programs. You can release the guilt, and your loved one can overcome their addiction.
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Behavioral Health Trends in the United States: Results from the 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Accessed March 9, 2018. https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/NSDUH-FRR1-2014/NSDUH-FRR1-2014.pdf.