If i only knew!! Ah yes, the old ‘would of, could of, should of’ question. It can plague us parents of addicted kids until we can’t stand it anymore. It’s like that fly, mosquito, or gnat that just won’t stop bugging us no matter how many times we try to swat it away. What a nagging pest.
As parents of addicted kids, we constantly search for answers about why and how we got to this point, and what we might have done differently so that it all wouldn’t have happened the way it did. It’s downright agonizing really, because at the root of all of those questions is parental guilt. We ask ourselves, ‘Is it my fault? Is there something I did or didn’t do that caused this?’
So, if we had known then what we know now, could we have prevented our child’s addiction? That’s hard to say. Maybe, maybe not, and we will never truly know the answer to that question. We might have sent them to grandma’s house for that fateful summer, not allowed them to hang out with a certain very influential friend, or disallowed party going – if we had known then what we know now. But the reality is that the clarity of hindsight is 20/20, and since we have yet to figure out time travel, NO ONE gets the benefit of actually knowing then what they know now, no one.
When something bad happens, it seems like it is second nature that people will try to find someone, something to blame. It happens with most everything, and we as parents of addicted kids will tend to do the same, and blame ourselves. But in the end, we must eventually, seriously, contemplate the notion that ‘we did the best we could, with where we were in our own lives, with what we knew and didn’t’ know, in the circumstances that we were living with – at the time’.
And that is it, period. Without a doubt, this is so much easier said than done. But once we get to that point, we and our kids both will be better off. Why is this true? Because first and foremost, once we release the parental guilt, the burden is lifted from us. Our load is lighter, we are free of the stress, and we are then more able to look forward at what constructive things we can do to help now, instead of looking backwards and lamenting the past. And let’s face it; we need all of the willpower and wit we can muster in order to make good decisions and act optimally for ourselves and our kids.
For instance, it is pretty tough to hold solid boundaries when we are plagued with guilt. And what’s more, if we have a lot of guilt, our kids will know it, and therefore try even harder to push the limits with boundaries. This puts us in an even more difficult position. Simply stated, with guilt we are less likely to be successful in holding healthy boundaries because we want to make our kids happy and/or make things ‘easier’ for them.
Also, guilt invites us try to make it up to them by doing too much for them, or giving them too much. If we feel guilty and think it is our fault, then we may be tempted to try to ‘make it up to them’, by buying them that car, those fun electronics, etc. that they have always wanted, thinking that it will ‘fix’ the problem, that those things might make them happy enough that they won’t want to use anymore. In essence we may be trying to buy their forgiveness. Since not having these things didn’t cause the addiction, having them definitely won’t fix it!
And finally, if we are willing to blame ourselves, inadvertently taking responsibility for what they are doing, then our kids are likely to let us do just that. Unfortunately this scenario will rob them of the chance of taking responsibility for themselves and their own actions, which is absolutely essential in every recovery modality! Effectively this gives them another place to put responsibility other than on themselves, if we are willing in any way to accept it! Ouch.
So finally, my wish for you and your child then, is for you to somehow find a way to tame the guilt monster and thereby tame the ineffective consequences of it. Please remember that ‘you did the best you could, with where you were in your own life, with what you knew and didn’t know, in the circumstances that you were living with – at the time’. And that NO ONE gets the benefit of knowing then what they know now.
Leslie Ferris is a Certified and Credentialed Life Coach Serving the parents of
kids in treatment. You can connect with her via her website at www.phase2foryou.com