If I never again have the opportunity to speak to the parents and families of addicts, what is the most pressing thing I want them to know? What is the one great insight, the liberating truth, the greatest gift I’ve brought with me from my journey through my daughter’s addiction?
Well, it is this: It is not your fault.
That’s right. Your child’s addiction is not your fault. I don’t have to know you to know this to be true. There is nothing you did, or didn’t do, that made your child an alcoholic or a drug addict.
Addiction is a brain disease and the abuse of substances is one of its symptoms. Addiction is no more anyone’s fault than cancer is. Whether it’s alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, meth, heroin or pills, dependence on these substances is part of a disease process. Yet a place of self blame is where parents first go when a child falls to this ugly disease. We ask, “What did I do wrong? What did I forget, leave out or do too much of? Where did I fail?
And our neighbors are often quick to agree with us. The perception is that we are somehow sub par parents.
Given that this is my first blog, I’m late in responding to the highly publicized comment made by Kathie Lee Gifford last summer. In an interview she was asked about family traditions.
“We had a sunset alert at home,” she said, “where we stopped everything to watch it. After I’m gone, I hope my kids and their kids will keep watching the sun go down and think of me every time. I’m not a perfect mom, but my kids haven’t been arrested, in rehab or kicked out of school, so I must be doing something right!”
My response to Ms. Gifford is this. She’s right…she’s not a perfect mom. None of us are. And she has undoubtedly done a lot of things right. Most attentive and caring parents do. But she’s apparently also been lucky. Very lucky. Possibly the disease of addiction has spared her family. And for that, none can boast.
If you love an addict, have parented an addict, have tried to save an addict, please hear me when I say, “It’s not your fault.”
Freeing, isn’t it?
It’s not your fault.