There’s something missing from the treatment programs that I have encountered dealing with a family member going through addiction recovery. Recovery is all about the patient. I get that. But as the patient moves through the program, there is not (or, in my case, has not been) any treatment for the family members.
Living with someone addicted to drugs or alcohol or gambling is hard. Really hard. If it’s a spouse, you can walk away. But that, too, creates collateral damage, especially when the addicted person refuses to admit his or her role in the demise of the family unit.
But when it’s a child or adult child, it’s even harder. You can’t really walk away.
These recovery programs and their post-recovery support programs get a big fat F in my book. They do not consider the collateral damage left behind by their patients, nor do they work with those patients to deal with the fact that relationships have been destroyed along the way. Everything is about the patient…and not the people who lived through years of torture, abuse, emotional distress, and worse.
After a particularly gruesome weekend dealing with the further demise of a relationship, I was talking to my mother about this.
“Why don’t they work with the families? I mean, the destruction that was done needs to be addressed.”
My mother made a comment that, while it seems glib, was actually very astute. “That’s because they don’t need family therapy to realize that it’s always the mother’s fault.”
Ain’t that the truth?
The divorce was my fault. The bad grades were my fault. The poor behavior? You guessed it. My fault. And when addiction came along…yeah…I don’t need to spell it out.
It’s so easy to blame other people for your failures. It’s a rare person who can stand up and say, “I’m an adult and, despite things not turning out the way I wanted, I have the power to change it.”
In her life, my mother has gotten the brunt of the blame game from numerous people–maybe that’s why I’ve always been so protective of her. However, I’m going to continue the blame game.
You see, I blame my parents. For everything. That’s right. They are 100% to blame.
I blame my parents for teaching me to work hard. On weekends, we had to weed the front beds and help mow the yard while other kids played. We had chore lists and let me tell you, you didn’t want my mother coming home from a long day at work to find out the dishwasher hadn’t been unloaded or trash cans brought in. And my parents lived by example. Maybe we didn’t get to do a lot of after school programs, but that was because my parents were working. Plus, I liked to read and later write anyway so I was just fine with not being forced to do soccer or basketball or Girl Scouts.
I blame my parents for showing me the value in paying off my bills and not accumulating debt. That was a horrible lesson to learn.. My first house was a hovel…a falling down yucky house with black and white snake skin wallpaper in the dining room. But I could afford it without being house poor. Terrible lesson to learn. And I’ll do without rather than acquire huge debt. My dad also taught me to squirrel away money, to save. While I’ve been a little lax in that department recently, I have a plan and will work it.
I blame my parents for making me finished what I started. My undergraduate degree, my masters’ degrees, and then my PhD (although Marc is also to blame for that one). I never walked out on a job, even when I dreaded going to it. I took a deep breath and went until I could find something else and I always gave proper notice.
I blame my parents for teaching me compassion. It’s gotten me into a lot of trouble in my life but I can look myself in the mirror and know that I’ve never purposefully hurt someone. I brake for squirrels (sorry) and I love caring for animals. Perhaps too much.
I blame my parents for showing me how to appreciate life. My father traveled a lot and my mother did her best on her own while working a grueling full-time job. But when we vacationed or went away on weekends, we say other ways of life. I’ll never forget seeing the shacks on a muddy hill outside of Caracas, Venezuela. People LIVED there. It wasn’t a movie, it was reality. How fortunate we are. And, of course, there is never a gathering where my Dad doesn’t belt out a Frank Sinatra song or my mom give a warm, heart-felt speech. They live life large…my own motto.
And I blame my parents for teaching me to take responsibility for the good, the bad, and the ugly. I’ve learned to stand on my own two feet and never ask anyone to do something that I wouldn’t do (except for the dead mouse in my closet that I’m going to ask Marc to dispose of). When I mess up, I admit it. When people accuse me of messing up and I don’t agree, I used to just take the blame like a scapegoat but not anymore.
So you see, my mother was right. PARENTS always get the blame. And while I wasn’t the perfect mother, I did my best. Clearly the child has to be willing to understand the lessons being taught. And God gave us Free Will. So my choice is to blame my parents for all of these things and wish that, one day, my own children will blame me for the good in their life and not shift responsibility to me for the bad choices they have made.
Now, if only the recovery places could get this straight and work it into their program…to help their patients “process” the damage they have done to others and give others a “voice” instead of making their voice the only voice while running away from their responsibilities. It’s a shame. I really thought I was as horrible a parent as my mother and father.
Guess I missed the mark on that one. I’ll just have to try harder…