What Do Parents Of Addicts Look Like?

It happened again; the same comment I had heard before. The look that did not need words to convey the message:

“I can’t believe you would have a daughter who’s a drug addict.”

When I told a friend about this, she asked sarcastically what a parent of an addict is supposed to look like. It made me wonder if people half-expect me to have a needle sticking out of my arm.

Truthfully, these comments or looks of surprise do not offend me. It is likely the reaction I would have had before all hell broke loose in my life. More than once, I had been on my soapbox proclaiming that if a child went astray, it was the parents’ fault. I judged and condemned parents of addicts, assuming it was bad parenting. I summarily discounted both free will, and addiction, standing sanctimoniously in judgment of grieving parents, who had lost their children over and over. Then my brilliant, athletic, artistic, quick-witted daughter became addicted to drugs, and I fell off my soapbox. I fell hard.

Friends and relatives will remind you that you are good parent. Society will tell parents of addicts that they empathize; that they understand how hard it must be. In the next moment, they will ask themselves, “How did they let their kid end up that way?

”When someone goes off the rails, we are all guilty of jumping to conclusions about the family. Everyone is curious about the parents of a school shooter, a serial killer, or an addict. After an unimaginable event, it is natural to look for answers in an attempt to reconcile what has happened, and the entire family ends up under a microscope.

Parents of addicts live with a tremendous amount of shame. Countless live in constant guilt, most of it unfounded. Society adds stigma like a cherry on top of our shame and guilt pie. The stigma that surrounds parents of addicts is suffocating. It is what keeps us in the shadows, rarely reaching out unless it is anonymous.

Many addicts or others who make very bad choices come from good homes. Unfortunately, people continue to jump to conclusions without understanding the complicated disease of addiction, or other factors involved. Addiction can and does happen to any family.

What do parents of addicts look like? We look like doctors, lawyers, factory workers, accountants, actors, and receptionists. We look like single moms and dads, Boy Scout leaders, loving parents, struggling parents, softball coaches, and Sunday school teachers. We come from all socio-economic groups, ethnic backgrounds, and all cultures. We are blondes, brunettes, and redheads. We have black hair or no hair. Most of us have some gray hair.

When people want to know what parents of addicts look like, our reply should be, “We look like you.”

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