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To the Parents of Addicts and Alcoholics

We often talk about guilt and shame in the addiction recovery process, but most of the time we focus on those directly struggling with an addiction.  Unfortunately, guilt and shame don’t only affect your daughter.  As parents, from the time children are little, there is an instinct to protect them.  When things go wrong you may feel shameful and ask, “What could I have done differently?”  And when your daughter struggles with substance abuse, the pattern for parents becomes increasingly shameful.

Here is advice for parents of addicts on how to overcome the feelings of shame that accompany every addiction.

1. It’s Not Your Fault

The cause of addiction is incredibly complex and not the result of one source.  You did the best you could with what you had and “placing blame” for your daughter’s struggles with substance abuse won’t help her heal.

2. You Can’t Fix It.

Only the person – in this case your child – suffering with addiction can make the choice to do something about it.  Addiction is hard to beat.  It just is.  So it will take a lot of resolve and hard work for them. But that is their work, not yours.

Another way to put this is, you can’t force someone to get or stay sober, even if you have her best interest at heart.  You can, however, let your daughter know that when she is ready to change, you will be there to support her in any way you can.

3. You Are Only Responsible for Taking Care of Yourself

Part of being supportive is making sure you are around to help your daughter when she decides to change.  Because a child with an active addiction can rip a family apart, you must set and maintain healthy boundaries.

Make sure you are taking care of your physical, emotional, social, mental & spiritual self as well.  Join a gym, schedule a night out with friends, practice meditation or start seeing a personal therapist.  If you don’t take care of yourself, you will not be around to help your daughter.

What Can Parents do for their Child?
  1. Schedule a family session with a therapist, your daughter and both her parents. Remember that as a parent, you can’t “fix” an addiction.  You need the help of a professional.  Therapy can help your daughter develop the “personal resolve” necessary to start the healing process.
  2. Attend an Alcoholics or Narcotics Anonymous meeting. You and your family are not alone in the recovery process.  It helps when you reach out and connect with families who can truly understand how you are feeling.  They can offer suggestions on how to take care of yourself and how to best help your daughter.

Addiction is hard. There isn’t any way around that. But if parents can remove the shame and guilt that comes with having a child struggle with addiction they will be on their own path to healing.