Let the Guilt Go—Find Your Mom Power
by Sandy Swenson
June 10, 2019
From VOICES at MomPower.org.
Oh, the guilt. It’s a terrible burden. All the could’ves and should’ves. All the what-ifs and what-if-nots. All the mistakes and missed clues and second-guesses piled like rubbish inside of our brains and our hearts. We do the best we can when raising our children, but when things go wrong, every single thing we’ve ever done—every word, every action, every thought, every look—becomes fodder for the fire of maternal guilt.
So when addiction grabs a child, it’s natural to inspect and evaluate our past behavior. It’s natural to start turning over every leaf. And we’ll probably uncover some things we deserve to feel guilty about—things for which we need to make amends and changes in our course. We’ll also uncover some things we might think we need to feel guilty about but, in fact, do not. Sometimes bad things just happen. And addiction is one of those things. Addiction is a disease; how and why it develops in one person and not another is out of our control—much like diabetes.
So let the guilt go.
As moms, we don’t have the power to cause addiction.
Once we truly believe this—once we’ve heaved ourselves over this gigantic hurdle—everything changes.
Sure, we can annoy, embarrass, interfere with, and neglect our children in ways that could probably “drive them to drink,” so to speak. We can make them mad and sad and hurt their feelings (and sometimes do things that are even worse). Yes, we can push them to the point of seeking comfort in a bottle or bag in myriad ways. But addiction is what might or might not happen later, once a sip or sniff mysteriously goes rogue. Once choice becomes obsession. This is the point at which use becomes disease, but it doesn’t happen to everyone who sips or sniffs. And there’s nothing we as moms can do to push substance use over that edge; this is out of our control.
Even when we know this, understand this, we torture ourselves as we wonder: Maybe addiction would have left our child alone if only we hadn’t gotten divorced. Or had gotten divorced. Or hadn’t worked so much. Or hadn’t been unemployed. Maybe if we hadn’t enjoyed our evening cocktails so much. Or weren’t so strict. Or weren’t strict enough.
For the sake of our well-being and the well-being of our beloved addict and family, the self-flogging must end. We need to forgive ourselves for what we didn’t know before we knew it—or before we knew how to do it, or how to do it well, or how to recognize it, stop it, or change it. Only then are we empowered to move forward with healthy new resolve.
So let the guilt go.
Imperfect parenting does not cause children to become addicts. If that were so, every child in the world would grow up to be one.
This job isn’t easy, so we mess up a lot, all of us, even when we’re trying not to. And some of those mess-ups are huge. But our mess-ups don’t cause addiction—if they did, not one of us would remain unscathed.
Take a look around. Some children are lucky enough to be raised in the most wonderful of circumstances, surrounded by a loving family and attentive parents, living in a beautiful home in a safe neighborhood, with food on the table and a bed with clean sheets—but even drenched in advantage, some of those children will, for some reason, become addicted when exposed to alcohol or drugs (medically necessary or not).
And, sadly, some children are raised in the most horrendous of circumstances, abandoned and abused, passed from home to home where they’re not always wanted, and without the benefit of positive influences, regular meals, good health, and financial security. Seemingly doomed by the weight of their tough lives, some of these children will engage in substance use similar to that of their better-off peers, but for some reason they won’t become addicted—because addiction is not a reflection of bad parenting, just as being an addict isn’t a reflection of being a bad person. No, something else is going on.
We’ve been held in the clutches of guilt—misplaced guilt—for too long. Just as with shame and blame, this emotion is poison, and it keeps us from dealing with addiction like the disease that it is.
So let the guilt go.
Find your Mom Power at MomPower.org
MomPower is dedicated to educating, enveloping and empowering moms with addicted children. We’re here to connect you with everything you might need to find strength, wisdom, perspective, sanity and hope during a most confusing and scary time. We’re here to help you come to understand addiction as a disease, not a moral or parental failure. Not a disgrace. Helping you to put the stigma, shame, blame, guilt and silence behind you so that healing may begin.
One by one and one after another, we’re helping moms with addicted children to change the way addiction is perceived—in our homes, in our communities, and in the reflection our beloved children see in our eyes. Together we are changing the dynamic of the place where love and addiction meet. Together we are stronger.
By moms and for moms, MomPower.org is the place for moms with addicted children to turn when love and addiction meet. A place where empowerment blooms from helplessness and pain.
MomPower.org is unaffiliated with any recovery-based organization and is solely responsible for the site content. MomPower.org is grateful for the generous support of Hazelden Publishing which underwrote the development of this website. MomPower.org is mom-driven and created out of recognition that a healthy mom can change the dynamics of the place where love and addiction meet.
Sandra Swenson is the author of The Joey Song: A Mother’s Story of Her Son’s Addiction (Central Recovery Press 2014), Tending Dandelions: Honest Meditations for Mothers with Addicted Children (Hazelden 2017), the Readings for Moms of Addicts app (Hazelden 2018), and her Dandelion Strong blog. Sandy also manages the MomPower.org website.