Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Do You Ever Blame Yourself?

Do you ever blame yourself for what you son is doing?

That was a question a student ask during on of my presentations on Friday. My answer, "Every single day." As a parent I have that thought in my mind constantly. Rationally I know his adiction belongs to him and I didn't cause it but never the less at times I take ownership in the actions of all my kids, not just the addicted one.

How do we keep from making mistakes of the heart? Doing an honorable thing and having the result become a dishonorable event seems to be something that happens with parents of an addict.

Last week my son began his new job. He has been living with his girlfriend her two daughters and a friend he grew up with that lived across the street. At one point none of them had work, girlfriend and friend had been laid off and son hadn't found a job yet. Last week my son started working, the neighbor boy from across the street got called back to work and this week the girlfriend got called back to work. The bad part about it was that rent was due and girlfriend's parents had helped them last month so our son called and ask if I would loan him money for rent. They were all working but none had gotten a paycheck yet so I felt good about loaning him money.

We had already been sending down some care packages of food and stuff, this is nothing different than we had done for each of our girls when they were that age. So on Wednesday last week he came up to ask for a loan. He had been doing well, staying clean and excited about his new job. We were happy for him even if it had only been less than a month since the last time he relapsed. I gave him the money. Plus I added some extra and told him this was for groceries. His friend was with him. I specifically said, "This extra money is for groceries, no cigarettes, tobacco, alcohol or drugs!" They were both very appreciative and left happy.

I don't know what happened after they left but the next evening I heard that he used. The rent money was now $30 and no groceries. Girlfriend took him to our oldest daughter's and she refused to take him and I think they knew not to come to our house.

I am still so angry I can hardly see straight. Angry at him but angry at myself too. I fell into that trap again. It's not like I don't know better! Can someone volunteer to kick me in the ass my leg is getting sore from kicking myself.

Do you ever blame yourself?

How much do we really own? I do own a small piece of last week. I know better. I gave an addict a handfull of twenty's. It's time to learn from the experience and move on.


Jan said...

I often blame myself for Stevie's relapses. Every time, before his felony arrest, he would go to detox, and I would take him home and let him start over. I would monitor and watch for signs of relapse. After 4 weeks, still clean. Maybe I can stop searching his room every morning and evening. 5 weeks. Maybe he can have a phone now, so I can keep tabs on him with the GPS tracking system in the phone. Maybe he has learned this time. "I need money for the bus mom." All I have is a $20. Week 7. It never fails. He starts not answering his phone. He sleeps all day and is gone all night. He stops eating. He needs more money for the bus, cigarettes, the movies. Amazingly, he always needs $20 or $40. Buying him the cigs or the movie pass is not good enough. I check the phone logs- Money's* number is there. He is using again.

This relapse was about 6 weeks in the making. Maybe I need to hold out until week 8 before I start letting my guard down?

I feel for you all- I really do know what you are going through.

(As I re-read this, there is a blog in the making!)

Mom trying to Detach with Love said...

Oh boy, I am not sure my leg is well enough to kick you as I have been a bit busy kicking myself also:) I have paid my son's share of the rent before, but I find out exactly who the landlord is, write a check and give him that. I won't be doing that anymore either, but at least he knew where I stood and even if I was trying to help, I was not doing it with complete faith that he would do the right thing. I think we all blame ourselves at some point, maybe every single day, but it is useless, keeps us stuck. You were just trying to be supportive knowing you son had been clean and working, don't beat yourself up, you are an awesome Dad and he is lucky to have you.

Barbara said...

I am kind of numb as I write this. Just found out someone I love very much has started using after three years clean. I am so disappointed, angry, worried, hurt and sick. Its like we (loved ones of addicts) have lost our lives in a way. No matter what, no matter how many years, its always lurking there. I am so sorry to hear about Alex. You trusted him, he let you down, he let the drugs win...again. I am just sick. Sorry if this is not very articulate.

Cat said...

Sometimes, I feel backed into a corner as a parent knowing that if I dare to trust my son and give in, I will most likley run the risk of feeling bad after it is all said and done, ultimately everytime I have reached out to help in the same way, trusted and held onto hope that he was changed, different even, I have been disappointed in the outcome.

And it was my own fault that I was disappointed because I expected him to behave how i would, and not like an addict.

It is hard, I do understand. Almost as if my position as parent now is not giving anything but support and love, because anything more will be taken advantage of.

Annette said...

We have become big proponents of gift cards. I buy a 50.00 gas card every couple of weeks or a grocery store gift card every now and then. Now technically, if she wanted to use drugs or to buy something not covered by those cards, or something she knows I wouldn't approve of, she could sell them, trade them, she would come up with something.....you know how resourceful our addict kids can be. But when I look at that, I think that would be on her. Her choice. I did my best to be a responsible giver, a safe giver, and if she manipulated that somehow and used it to her "advantage" then so be it. I can't control what she does with my efforts. If I *knew* she did that though, there would be no more offers of anything coming from me.

Its so hard when you feel like you got taken...especially from your own child. But its never personal. Its all about addiction, not pulling one over on us. Its about being in bondage to something that is stronger than his will power. :o(

Gledwood said...

I'm so sorry to hear that...
... spent all the rent money bar $30~??!? Even by addict-standards that's horrendous... A horrendous breach of trust, both to you and himself. What on earth is he on? Does he even feel guilty? He ****ing well should.
$10, $20 I can understand, but he must, even in his addict's head, have realized what a stupid and ridiculous thing he was doing...
I'm a heroin addict and I think that's appauling.
I don't know how you can ever trust him again ~ or how he can ever trust himself. I can't pretend any kind of superiority, but I will say anyone behaving like that is in serious need of help.
Hasn't he thought of getting a sponsor at NA? At least that way, next time he feels like blowing a whole pile of rent money there will be someone there who's probably done the same thing and can talk hin forward, to where he is now ~ probably in shame and regret, surely. And stop history ever repeating itself again :-<...

Bristolvol said...

As long as we keep giving, they will keep taking. I quit this game 2 years ago. Only because they claim to be clean, does not mean a thing. When does a drug addict lie? When his/her lips move. We want to hear and believe so bad what they are telling us, but we should not. Tough love must be on the agenda now.

Brother Frankie said...

geez dad.. ya wrote this cause you knew you needed a good kick in the arse..

what are you thinking..

you relapsed, you picked up, you are so codependent..

ill ask ya again, how does it feel to suffer the consequences for someone elses addiction?

make a meeting, then another one, then another one..

if you were in my group of merry men i would strongly advise you to stop giving the high-school lectures and the other way you self medicate to ease the pain and frustration yo feel and get sober, work on yourself..

then, when you are 12 months clean (from enabling, codependency,and pity parties for not enforcing your boundaries) start giving back..

but then again, i am just an addict. i am also a spouse of an addict, a child of an addict,a parent of an addict ..... you get the point..

you are loved
Brother Frankie
A Biker for Christ

Anna said...

OK< It is time to quit kicking. Live and learn. Take care of yourself! Hugs

Syd said...

Ron, I'm certainly not going to kick you. I suspect you have done that enough. I don't know what it is that makes those of us who live around addicted people want to believe them. But we do and we get the same shit over and over. That is the definition of insanity in Al-Anon--doing the same thing over and over hoping for different results. I don't do that anymore. The leopard won't change his spots. But I can change what I do around that dangerous animal.

Fractalmom said...

i'm sorry Ron.

Stop having expectations.

Stop hoping.

stop helping.

Stop investing emotionally.

then, and only then, you won't be devastated each time he relapses.

Heather's Mom said...

Yikes :( You know, I read the title of your post and before going any further said out loud, "Uh Yeah, Duh". I don't know how we truly/forever stop feeling that way, but it isn't our fault and I can let myself off the hook for periods at a time. I recommend the book "Beyond the Yellow Brick Road: Revised" by Bob Meehan (if you haven't read it already). I go back to that book every time I am taking responsibility. Some think Bob is controversial, I personally love the book though.
I pray for you, Mom & Alex everyday.
God bless.

Her Big Sad said...

Oh Ron, I'm so sorry. No kicks coming from me.... I too have sore feet from years of doing that myself! You tried to enable recovery. The fact that it was misused, is ON HIM.

That said, you know what you need to learn from this. Same thing we all have to learn from this sort of thing. They have to do this for themselves (and if at some point, we are going to help, it has to be in a way that can't backfire -and, trying to think like an addict and make sure there's no way for something to backfire is exhausting!). I'm still sorry you and Mom had to go through this. Really, the rent is inconsequential to the fact that he's using again. That's the heartbreaking part, to me, not the fact that the rent money made it happen X-number of days sooner than his paycheck would have. Hold each other close, you and Mom...Hugs to you both!

Dad and Mom said...

The thing I really don't get is his merry-go-round. He used that night and now he is back to not using. I don't get that because it really goes against what I have learned about this disease. But I am the first to admit I don't know it all about this addiction crap.

I just know I'd rather live in perpetual hope than live in endless despair.

LisaC said...

I blame myself all the time for Bryan's choices; and even though he is clean for 6 months, I now find myself taking blame for his life choices not related to his addiction. I wonder if it ever stops. But I do agree with your last comment...I too would rather live in perpetual hope than live in despair.

laura said...

Ron, I am so sorry. This roller coaster ride sucks. Along this journey we have to remember as parents we are called to protect our children. Your choice was from the heart. You wanted to help (protect). You can’t blame yourself for what God gave you to be. I also have given and regretted. It has to be one of the toughest things we do as loving parents. You’re awesome. Keep doing what you were called to do. You’re in my prayers. Laura

Fractalmom said...

Ron. Living in perpetual hope is a recipe for disappointment, disaster and heartbreaks. I'm really sorry, I DO know what it is like to have a child as an addict.

None of it makes sense. It never will because YOU are not an addict.

To keep hoping that Alex gets and stays clean is ridiculous, self defeating and stressful. It can also ruin your marriage, ruin your relationship with your other children, and ruin your health.


Let Alex live his life. Say hello to him when you see him, give him a hug.

do NOT ask if he is clean. Do NOT bring up rehab, drug use or the past.

Do NOT give him anything except a father's love. No money, no food, no rides, no phone calls to facilitate rehabs or court or anything.

Alex got himself into this. YOU did not contribute. You and Mom raised how many children? How many are addicts? How many are successful, loving, giving productive members of society?

So, where did YOU go wrong? Answer me that. You didn't.

Alex made STUPID and WRONG and DISASTROUS choices.

Give up control. You cannot CONTROL HIS ADDICTION.

In fact, to truly help him, you should do NOTHING.

In a way, it goes back to warm fuzzies and cold pricklies (remember those from parenting classes in college?)

It's called natural consequences. If your five year old wants to wear shorts to school in winter, you let them. Then, when they come home with cold legs, you say "Well, sorry, but that is what is going to happen every single time you wear shorts in the winter. If you don't mind the cold legs, go for it. If you do, don't wear shorts in the winter."

It sounds simplistic and in a way, it is.

If Alex doesn't like the fallout (loss of family, loss of respect, loss of job, loss of home, sleeping on the street, being filthy, prostituting for drugs, being in jail) consequences of using..then he can and will stop.

Apparently the consequences of using do not bother him enough.

you have GOT TO LET GO or you will go insane.

Brother Frankie is right. It is time for you and Mom to work on yourselves. forget the talks at school for now. It is just keeping it all fresh and painful to you. It is making you introspective and keeping you bound to the 'what if's' and the "maybe if's".

Your son is a heroin addict. he is no longer just your son. FIRST he is a heroin addict. NEVER FORGET THAT NOW. Second to that, he is your son.

But never forget...first, he is a junkie.

Said with much love and compassion, Been there, done that, Got the t-shirt.


addictionstinks said...

I have sworn to my son that I will NEVER hand him cash, ever again. My reasoning, and this is exactly what I said, "Its NOT gonna be MY dollar that kills you." I wouldn't be able to live with myself if it was MY money that he used on drugs, and then he killed himself. Think of it that way, and I guarantee you will never make that mistake again.

Sure, you want to help him out when he needs it. Then take your cash, and hand it directly to the landlord. Take him a bag of groceries if you feel compelled to help. NEVER give cash.

There, I kicked you in the ass. LOL

Sober Move said...

Wow, I can relate to that story. I guess we have to remember that they've had years of experience doing and saying whatever they can to get their hands on their drug of choice. It's pretty easy for them to pull the wool over our eyes, especially when we think they're doing well.

We've been through that exact scenario many times and I still can't say that we have learned our lesson.

It's hard to know which way to treat them. On one hand I think, I can pay my rent on time they need to learn how to as well and on the other I think, they're living with a disease and maybe they need a little extra help.

But at the end of the day, are they doing everything they can to beat this disease? If we were living with a diabetic and we watched them eat sugar all day and skip their doses of insulin, I think we'd have a lot less patience than we do with addicts who don't attend AA or get themselves a sponsor.

Great post, it obviously touched a lot of people :)

Anonymous said...

Stop being so hard on yourself. Guilt does nothing but fuel our obsession.
No kicking allowed!

Gledwood said...

I disagree with fFactalmom: you should never stop hoping.

It's not HOPE that's the problem, it's unrealistic expectation.

That's one big reason why addicts lie so much by the way. They end up in situations where people are expecting "news", so they feel pressured to tell how "well" they're doing, when they're not doing well, they're an addict and in chronic addiction nothing much tends to change for a long, long time...

Her Big Sad said...

I will never give up hope. I have NO expectations. "Expectations are premature resentments."

So these three things remain: faith (trust), hope, and love. But the best one of these is love. (I Corinthians 13:13)

I am trusting God to love her even more than I do. I will never give up hope, both for my/her remaining time on this earth, and for whatever next life there is. And I will always love my daughter.

More hugs to you and Mom...

Fractalmom said...

Good Point Gledwood!! Mea Culpa, I guess I really did mean give up unreasonable expectations.

Don't expect your addict to ever get clean. Then, you won't be disappointed if it doesn't happen, and you will be thrilled if it does.

And, don't ever ask them either. It's just easier that way. Then they don't have to lie and you don't have to hate them for lying.

Gledwood said...

Yes! That's exactly it.

Anonymous said...

I think no matter what we do or don't do, if they are going to relapse they will. It's truly about them not us or anything we do. Sure, I have made it easier for my daughter by enabling, and I try not to today, but what I do is not what her using or not using hinges on. Give that back to the addict, I say. I still feel the guilt and anger at times.. the why did this happen to me and my child?

SoloGrl said...

Let me start by saying I have almost a year clean. I'm not sure if my mother blames herself, I'd hope not. We never talked about drug use, it was kind of like the pink elephant thing. I could say I hid MY use well, but there were times I'd be nodding off in the dvd collection, and she would announce to the room "you must be tired"... how could she not know? I remember her looking at my arm funny. but she NEVER said anything. It was more obvious that my partner was using. again, never said anything.

I don't blame my mom for my using. Although, I do believe my mom gave up on raising me and my brothers, after my sister died. she was there, and loving but never pushed us to do ANYTHING. I wish she had.

A Mom' Serious Blunder said...


Anonymous said...

Definitely. I am giving you a big kick in the ass, hahahha!
I went through the same thing many years. I learned my lesson. Now my daughters are doing good, but when they were in that stage, I sent them supermarket gift cards that were not able to buy alcohol or cigarretes only food.
If your son needs to pay the rent, pay the rent personally to the landlord, do not give him one cent. The temptation is too big for them when they have a couple of dollars.

Momma said...

I blame myself all the time. My son has been clean a little over a year, and I'd like to think it's over, but I know that relapse can happen at any time, even after several years. Thank you, I've just started reading blogs like this, and it's really helpful.

Anonymous said...

I am new to this blog, not new to being a parent of an addict. In the past year I have added the title of enabler to the title of mother. I too have fallen into the trap of giving money to my kid thinking I was being helpful to him. When I finally started refusing money he began to pawn all of his stuff for drug money and when all of his stuff was gone he began stealing from his dad, his younger sister and me. This has led to where we are now. After he stole 3 guns from a locked closest and pawned them, we felt that we had no other option than to file a police report and press charges. He admitted to doing it, which is different. In the past he has lied to us even when the truth would have served him better. There is warrent for his arrest. We are heart broken but that is a given when you are the parent of an addict.