As both a parent and an Addiction Treatment provider, I totally understand how hard people blame their kids’ addiction on themselves. When our kids go down unhealthy paths, it’s really easy to convince ourselves that it’s our fault and that we’ve failed as parents when our kids become addicted to drugs and alcohol. But the truth is that every single person on the planet is responsible for themselves and, especially in America, we have choices, even if limited by circumstances, to choose the paths we follow.
The reality is that individual psychologies are layered and complex. There’s so much about those psychologies that are formed by people, places, and genetics that there’s no way ANYONE is responsible for ANYONE else’s path. Because each personality exists ONLY in a respective mind, no one can account for another’s mental constructs and perceptions. That being said, I know how hard it is for a parent to separate himself from his kid’s behavior, whether “good” or “bad.”
As a parent, I’ve beamed when my son has won awards and I’ve hung my head in deep shame when my son’s “messed up” I blame myself and say things like, “If only I didn’t get angry and yell, then he’d be more inclined to listen to me.” But, in either good or bad situations, my son’s world exists in his mind and NOT in mine and although we might share some circumstances, the reality is that he doesn’t know my inner world any more than I truly know his.
We all have that limitation: No one knows our values and meanings and no one really knows how someone else perceives his or her own reality. We all only know ourselves, and even then, most people don’t really take the time or spend the energy to understand their own inner reality.
Because of that simple truth, I do my best to separate myself as a parent from my son’s reality. He has his world, and I have mine. Parents of addicts also have to separate themselves from their kid’s addictions because there’s no way they’re responsible for it or are to blame for its development. Although we, as parents, HATE seeing our kids suffer or struggle, we can do our best to help them find health, but we can never, ever own their addiction or allow ourselves to be blamed for it.
Addicts who are active in their addiction know how to exploit love. They also know that their parents can be targeted for resources to maintain the addiction. But we have to find the courage and strength to let our kids live the lives they build for themselves. Otherwise, we place ourselves at risk of fighting battles we can’t win and forsaking those which we can. No one’s life is EVER someone else’s responsibility.