Beating myself up over the damage I've done to my kids

Old 10-06-2009, 05:39 AM
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Unhappy Beating myself up over the damage I've done to my kids

from my struggle with sobriety over the last three years or so. I never wrecked the house or brought home strange men or anything so devastating, but still wonder how much damage I've done to my kids from my "stay at home drinking mom" career.

My kids are all older, the youngest was about 15 when I realized I had an addiction to alcohol. She's got serious depression and anxiety issues, which are getting worse, and I blame myself for some of these problems. I am on Step 8/9 now, making amends to those I've wronged. But I feel like my kids will never trust me again and it's all my fault.

I never thought my life would turn out so badly and am just "stewing in my own juices" right now, wondering what to do next and whether or not I can ever "make it right".

I struggle with forgiving myself, feeling that I don't deserve anyone's forgiveness. I feel I've done irreparable damage to my kids' lives and not knowing how or what to do to repair the damage.

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Old 10-06-2009, 08:48 AM
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This is a toughie, and you're very brave to post it here in the ACOA forum. I hope many others will come with more insights.

I can tell you right now that you are doing the right thing by taking responsibility for your drinking and actions. What's done is done. You are allowing a whole lot of healing to start by casting aside any denial. No, this won't stop a lot of the negative impacts that already have momentum, but it will help healing accompany the motion of those negative impacts. It will be messy and complicated for a while.

The tough thing with loves ones, unfortunately, is that just because you are ready to move forward, it doesn't automatically mean that they are. A lot of us ACOAs long to hear our alcoholic parent apologize. Very few of us have actually received this apology, only to find that it really doesn't make the relationship "good" because the damage is still there. It would be nice if apologies could fix everything, but as powerful as they are, even their effect is limited.

Please please please have loving patience for your kids. Their journey with their anger / forgiveness / frustration / grief is their own. It will become their choice whether to forgive you or hold a grudge. But I can tell you that if you are truly working back towards sobriety, this will be your best bet to re-connecting with your family. Kids need to see a consistent change in their parents in order to stop believing old lies.

As I imagine you already know, trust takes time. Trust takes a lot of consistency. No amount or "right combination" of words can help you truly win this back. Show them that your first priority is being the parent that they deserve to have, and trust will grow back. But it will take time.

And if you get frustrated, believe me, this time spent re-earning their trust is MUCH BETTER OFF being spent now while they're with you and able to see/remember your efforts than years later when they're moved away, started their own families, and may not have the desire to re-visit old wounds. You had a lot more at stake than your childrens' relationships - alcoholism has a terrible cascade effect on generations. You are making a real stand by stopping it here and now.

I was hurt a lot by my AF's drinking. Emotionally I'm stuck wanting him to even acknowledge how his behaviors have hurt me, but alas he is still in denial. Even if he were able to apologize to me today, I would need to hear/see/feel it over and over again to believe that it's even real. I would need a lot of time to see it reinforced in his every action to really believe. After years of disappointment, a child's brain is too well trained to protect itself from any more disappointment.
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Old 10-06-2009, 12:32 PM
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i agree.. i hear some ppl say their addict always says their sorry.. I WOULD KILL FOR AN APPOLOGY!! in my 35 years of life I have NEVER got an applogy from my ACOA mother, addict father or drug addicted sons father... Just once for them to acknowledge that they caused me pain .. .. even if it was unintentional...just to give me some Valadation would be a blessing... in my eyes...
the ppl in my life.. are so freekin self centered and narcissistic that if I have a problem.. its my fault.. NEVER theres..
I say Brava!! for appoligizing the next step is diffently follow thru to make that appoligy solid..
yes.. you may have to do something 20 times before you get acknowlegement in return but thats the hard work you will need to put into this appology..
Now that your head is clear and you know better,, do better...
If I was your child I would be very appreciative of your effort and committment to living healthy..
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Old 10-06-2009, 12:34 PM
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Is it possible to take your youngest to alateen and letting your other children know about ACOA meetings when you make amends? My father was the alcoholic growing up and I went through a period of anger and cut off contact for two years. I can tell you that no matter what he did I love him and forgive him and do not wish any harm to him. I was able to find compassion and forgiveness. Please, please don't beat yourself up. You can make amends and the past is the past. Every day is a chance at a new and healthier you. It's okay to look at the past, but don't stare! God loves and forgives you, so move forward from there.
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Old 10-06-2009, 01:51 PM
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least - you are to be applauded for acknowledging what happened. I think dothi's advice of having patience and acting consistently is your best way forward. Show that you care and love your children through quiet, honest, consistent, reliable actions. Personally, I wouldn't share your personal pain with your children, I would keep that to yourself, they are still looking for you to be their Mum and to put them and their pain first - just MHO.

My AF and codependent mother have never acknowledged their responsibility for the damage my childhood did to me. Denial and self-pity still exist in spades. I have had to go to the other extreme and let go of the fact that I will never get an apology and never get the parents that I wanted and deserved.

Your way is better because I have moved forward to the point where I don't like my mother as a person and I'm not interested in having her as a part of my life.

You are a brave, courageous person to look at the effects of your actions and I admire you for that. Well done, IWTHxxx
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Old 10-06-2009, 02:42 PM
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I seen this and I just want to say first I am an addict myself but also my mother turned to crack when I was 17 years old and she really done a number on me, put me through so much stuff that you could not believe. My father was absent from my life until I was 17 (my mother and him got back together) and the first time I met him he was drunk. I don't care how badly my mother hurt me and all the pain she put me through and what she has put me through recently I love her so much. I love her so much that I worry everyday that she will get back on drugs because once again she just recently got back (with what I like to call) my sperm doner. So I am scared to death she is going to relapse. But for now I need to worry about me. I just want to say, don't think your children don't love you. They might hate the things you have done but I would say talk openly about it. It does help both ends! They will always love you so don't ever think they don't.
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Old 10-06-2009, 09:35 PM
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Hi Least,

You show a great amount of integrity and honesty by posting here and accepting the work that must be done on yourself and your relationships. I never got an apology from either of my alcoholic parents, and my mother never pursued recovery (pretty much stopped at Step 1 - powerless). I attend an AA meeting in part to see the recovery in others that I never saw in my parents. So, I am really impressed by one like yourself who is diving right back into parenthood, warts and all.
As much as it is necessary to make amends, please stay focused on your own recovery. I think your kids will appreciate the hard work you are doing on yourself, and it is a good model for the work they have to do on themselves. Yet, expect some disappointment, anger and bumps in the road from them - patience is and will be a necessity.
You might also consider talking to counselors experienced in alcholism in families. It may be helpful to look into family counseling. And Alanon/alateen are very helpful groups. There may also be ACOA-specific meetings in your area. And keep posting whenever you need feedback!
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