Ask Dr. Drew: My children have had to witness my roller coaster ride with alcohol for 20 years. I'm sober now but how do I learn to forgive myself? Guilt has always been my trigger.

Dr. Drew Q&A series

Guilt and shame are two common and completely unnecessary and inappropriate reactions to addiction. It’s natural—I understand it—but in my opinion, there’s no place for it. Any more than somebody with cancer should feel guilty about having cancer. I understand that there are issues with addiction—things that you can be responsible for, things that are outside of your control—but being guilty about being an addict is dangerous. Being ashamed is dangerous.

Instead of dumping those feelings [of guilt] on yourself or trying to take action by saying or doing things to relieve yourself of the guilt or shame, you should take those feelings instead to your sponsor and go to your therapist.

Now, believe me, I will tell you after having worked for years and years with children of addicts and alcoholics, the only thing the children really care about is that their mom or their dad is sober, in the program and getting better. That’s what really matters to them. Yes, there will be repercussions of your disease in that child’s life, but there are repercussions of all sorts of things that come into play for every mom and dad. That’s on your children to manage that; they need to be encouraged to take their own measures to take care of themselves.

Feeling guilty is dangerous and it’s an attempt to make you feel like you’re a good person—a good person who wouldn’t have behaved the way you did. So don’t try to relieve your guilt by doing anything. Just stay with your guilt and, again, take it to your sponsor.

Dr. Drew

The Ask Dr. Drew series will be running for five consecutive weeks. All questions have been submitted by members of the SR forums, and selected based on diversity and relevancy. To read Dr. Drew's response to our next question, please click here.

For more of Dr. Drew's expertise, tune into his This Life podcast, watch his show Dr. Drew on HLN at 7 pm EDT or visit his website at

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