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Addiction – The Mother’s Shame

If motherhood is an emotional rollercoaster at the best of times, being the mother of an addict is a rollercoaster ride without the safety harness.

When we become parents we expect and anticipate a great many things, including tough times, tantrums and battles of will.

No parent, however, expects their child to develop an addiction to drugs or alcohol.

No matter how realistic you are when it comes to your child’s flaws and struggles, addiction always comes as a shock.

The hope that our children will do well, ideally even better than us, transcends all boundaries.

No matter your socio-economic standing, your family background, your own relationship with drugs and alcohol, any mother wishes for their child to make it through life untouched by addiction and its many side-effects.

Unfortunately, addiction also transcends all boundaries.

Addicts come from all walks of life and their struggles are by no means a reflection of their families’ love or efforts.

Parents become aware of their children’s addictions in many different ways.

In the best case scenario the child admits there is a problem and asks for help.

However, many parents are not that “lucky”.

You might find drug paraphernalia in your child’s private space.

You may receive that dreaded phone call from the police, informing you your child has been arrested on drug-related charges; or from the hospital, alerting you that your child has suffered injuries or an overdose.

Some parents retrospectively recognise all the symptoms of addiction and wonder why they did not put the pieces together sooner. These signs include:

  • Distracted behaviour
  • Inexplicable emotional outbursts
  • Chronic shortage of funds
  • Refusal to engage
  • Slurred speech
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Diminishing attendance and performance at work/school

No matter how long a child has struggled with addiction and no matter how this struggle has come to light, the aftermath of discovering a child’s addiction is invariably painful and intense.

Sadly, one of the most prevalent emotions parents of addicts experience is shame.

Shame at not having recognised the symptoms of addiction sooner.

Shame at having failed to prevent their child’s descent into addiction.

Shame at having a child addicted to drugs or alcohol.

Shame at being ashamed of their child, when “decent” parents would offer nothing but unconditional love and support.

When you are the mother of an addict shame can be your worst enemy, as it is shame that often prevents mothers from reaching out and getting help for their child and themselves.

No one wants to admit that their child is an addict.

‘No one wants to announce to a third party that their child is an addict.

No one wants to explain to friends, neighbours, teachers and employers that their child is absent because they are receiving addiction treatment.

However, if your child is to recover you must do all of these things.

Recovery from drug or alcohol addiction is not a matter you can handle discreetly within your own four walls, yet the impulse to do so is very common.

Many parents believe that they can prevent their child from using drugs and consuming alcohol by sheer force of will and through imposing and enforcing strict rules.

This is simply not the case.

If you want your child to get better, and there is no question in anyone’s mind that you do, it is essential to seek professional help.

Put your shame aside.

When you contact a rehabilitation facility, no one will judge you.

When you get your child admitted at residential treatment, no one will look down on you.

When you attend family therapy sessions, no one will blame you for your child’s addiction.

In fact, you might be surprised at the amount of support you will receive.

Yes, substance dependency first and foremost affects the addict.

However, their families are affected just as deeply, albeit in different ways.

If you overcome your shame and seek help for your child, you will get help as well.

Family therapy is an integral part of addiction treatment and family counsellors are intimately acquainted with the emotional war addiction wages on all parties involved.

No matter how alone you feel, drug treatment professionals have seen it all before.

It might seem hard to believe, but many parents of addicts feel the weight of their shame lifted off their shoulders as soon as the addiction treatment process begins.

If you are the mother of a child struggling with addiction and are overcome with shame, hear this:

  • Everything you are feeling is normal
  • You are not the first parent to experience this, nor will you be the last
  • This is not your fault
  • Addiction can happen in any family
  • Help is available

Take a deep breath.

Pick up the phone.

Yes, the road ahead is rocky and treacherous, but it is not going to be a walk of shame.

If you are willing to support your child through this struggle, you have nothing to be ashamed of.

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Addiction – The Mother’s Guilt
I’m a mother, wife and daughter of addicts
Our son is an addict. What do we do?
Nature or Nature? What Causes Addiction?
Breaking the Cycle of Addiction – A Parent’s Story
Establishing Family Boundaries
Are You An Enabler?
Family Therapy
Addiction Treatment

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