Parents and Self Blame: Why Your Child’s Addiction is Not Your Fault

A common and unfortunate belief held by many parents of addicts is that they are at fault for their child’s addiction. Many parents who believe this will berate themselves for the path that their child has taken, believing that something they did or didn’t do, directly caused their child’s addiction. They will spend many sleepless nights going over their parenting, attempting to find any minute detail that will back up their claim. They will say things like if I had only been there for them more, or if I had only intervened earlier, maybe things would be different.

As understandable as feeling this way is, it is nonetheless not based in reality and something that every parent of an addict should know, is that they are not at fault for their child’s addiction. I want to repeat that so that it really sinks in: your child’s addiction is in no way shape or form your fault.

Knowing this will not necessarily make that much of a difference, nor will it even be that much of a comfort for the parent, who at the end of the day still has to deal with the fact that their child has become addicted to substances, but with that said, maybe understanding they are not to blame will help bring a sliver of peace in an otherwise impossible situation.

Why You Are Not To Blame For Your Child’s Addiction

I’d like to start this off by saying that yes, addiction has an environmental component. Meaning that if a child grows up in an alcoholic or addicted household, they run a much greater risk of becoming addicted themselves, but environmental factors are only a single part of what creates addiction. They are only contributing factors and are greatly outweighed by the biological component, and even further diminished by the spiritual component of addiction.

What this means, is that even if you yourself currently suffer from, or have in the past suffered from addiction, you are still not at fault for your child’s addiction. Genetically, you may have passed down the trait that led to their predisposition, although we still don’t understand how that works, and environmental you may have set the stage for addiction to grow, but you did not cause your child to become addicted.

You have to think of it in terms like this. Addiction is an illness, so with that understanding, would you blame yourself if your child were born with another illness? You would maybe try to find reasons to blame yourself, but at the end of the day, you’d understand that illnesses are something that just occur and that no one is really to blame for them. You would fight hard to try to help your child in any way you could, but you would more than likely not carry the burden of guilt that parents of addicts carry.

So the same applies with addiction. Your child may have been born with the genetic predisposition to become addicted. They may have grown up in a household where addiction was present, and if this is the cause, then own your difficulties, but this does not mean that you caused their addiction to start or that you caused their addiction to continue.

dissapointed mother

Personal Story of a Child’s Addiction

I think in this particular case, a personal story might better help illustrate this point than talking in abstracts and generalizations and so I talked to a friend of mine who gladly shared his story with me.

My friend grew up in an alcoholic household and from as early as he can remember, his mother would be drunk and passed out by 6 o’clock. He remembers that growing up, this really scared him and he was embarrassed to have his friends over the house because he wasn’t sure what shape his mother would be in, or what was going to happen at night.

For pretty much every night of his youth, his mother would come into his room and wake him up to ask if she had done anything stupid the night before. She would say things like I am going to just leave the family, or I am going to kill myself, and while none of that is okay, it did not cause my friend to eventually become an addict.

For years, my friend said that he would never drink, use drugs, or smoke cigarettes, and if he had been able to stick to that, I wouldn’t be writing his story now, but the first time he was offered any of these things, he jumped at the opportunity and was off to the races. He told me that it was an instant love affair and he began using drugs on an almost daily basis soon after trying pot for the first time.

Now I guess the argument could be made that the impossible situation that he grew up in helped to contribute to his initial decision to use drugs, but even in that, there is a fallacy because anyone without the predisposition to alcoholism or addiction would never go near alcohol or drugs after witnessing what it did to his mother.

For instance, my friend’s sister stayed away from substances and because of this, she didn’t have the problems that my friend had. She was able to avoid the pitfalls of addiction, even though she does drink, and this is because she does not have that predisposition to addiction.

My friend told me that his father once asked him what they could have done differently so that he wouldn’t have become an addict, and my friend responded that there was nothing that they could have done. That if his addiction didn’t present itself in his youth like it did, it would have come out eventually and that nothing that his parents did or could have done would have changed that.

So if you have a child that is addicted to drugs, please do not spend time beating yourself up over this. It is not your fault and your believing that it is, actually does nothing but hurt your child in the long run. You will be unable to effectively help them if you are carrying around a burden of guilt that is not yours to own, so just focus on how to you can help them, and leave those feelings of guilt for the guilty.

Seeking Treatment for Alcoholism and Addiction

If you or a loved one has a problem with alcoholism or addiction, and want to experience recovery in a thriving community with lots of people just like you, then call the professionals at Dream Center for Recovery today at 1-877-978-3148.