I stopped blaming myself for my son’s drinking

I started going to Al‑Anon in August of 2012. By then, my son had been drinking for nine years. At my second meeting, I heard, “I didn’t cause it, I can’t control it, and I can’t cure it,” and it changed my life. “How profound,” I thought, “I’m not responsible for my son’s drinking.” I had been blaming myself for nine years, wondering where I had gone wrong, and thinking I should have done this or that differently when he was growing up.

Many people do come to Al‑Anon to find a way to stop their alcoholic from drinking. What I heard is that I can’t stop my son from doing anything, and to focus on myself instead. Some of the issues I wrestled with were very self-destructive and made my life miserable—controlling behavior, anger, anxiety, guilt, sadness, and fear. I thought that I could try to control my son’s drinking, but my son’s drinking was controlling me. My emotions were out of control. I was ready to give up.

I’ve learned through Al‑Anon that my son doesn’t drink because of me, he drinks because he is an alcoholic. I can’t change that, but I can change my own issues—my controlling behavior, sadness, and fear.

I didn’t cause my son’s alcoholism. My son cast a lot of blame on me trying to justify his drinking. Nothing I did caused my son to drink; a disease, alcoholism, was the problem. After years of blaming myself, I was relieved from guilt.

I can’t control my son’s behavior. I am not responsible for my son’s behavior and decisions. I can share my thoughts and feelings with him. I can even impose certain consequences and boundaries if he drinks. But his actions are his own. The decision to seek treatment is his to make, not mine. I can’t keep manipulating situations so that he won’t drink, or make excuses for him when he does drink. I have to detach and let him struggle with the consequences of his choices and behavior.

I can’t cure my son’s alcoholism. The decision to abstain from drinking is my son’s decision and his alone, not mine. I don’t have to keep doing the same thing over and over hoping for different results, when in fact there won’t ever be different results. When I stopped exhausting myself with resentment, anger, and fear, I realized that I needed to take care of myself. I took the focus off my son and put it on me.

I didn’t cause it, I can’t control it, and I can’t cure it. But, I can control myself. I can change myself. I can cure myself.

“Never let me imagine that my satisfaction with life depends on what someone else may do.” One Day at a Time in Al‑Anon (B-6) p. 234.

By Mary H., Colorado
The Forum, September 2013