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A phrase that hurts parents of addicts

I wrote this 11 years ago today:

“I am grieving. I am grieving the loss of the years we lost to drugs, to the person he once was, to the future that may never be.”

My grief began 13 years ago when his addiction took over his life, and I knew back then that Keven may not survive.

Parents of addicts experience the unimaginable. Whether or not our child lives with us, we watch the drugs take over. Drugs make our kids steal, lie, cheat, do immoral things they’d never do before.

We visit our children in rehabs, jails, prisons, hospitals, mental health facilities, detox centers and sober living homes.

Our beautiful children live in a dark world. Most of the time, they’re harder on themselves than we are. There’s a good chance they feel hopeless, alone, unworthy, and guilty. They know we worry ourselves sick over them.

Parents of addicts often start grieving while their kids are still alive. Our kid is buried under a mountain of addiction-related issues and we are helpless to save them. If love could save, there would be few fatal overdoses or suicides. We would love our kids into lifelong sobriety and mental health.

The last thing a parent of an addict deserves is judgment. We are suffering enough without hearing the whispers about our parenting or cruel remarks about our children. But ignorance lives on. There are still parents out there that think they can prevent their child from ever trying a drug, convinced that they “raised them right”.

I once had a friend tell me that to my face - comparing his three kids who all went to college with my dead son. He said he and his wife “raised our kids right” implying that it was my fault Keven turned to drugs, had mental illness and took his own life.

I was always the type of person who hates conflict and doesn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings or make anyone mad. But after losing Keven and Anthony - I basically don’t give a crap if people don’t like me or what I have to say. Yet, I still feel nervous sharing this, but it needs to be said.

This is for all the parents who have lost children because of fentanyl:

PLEASE DON’T SAY THIS: “My child was NOT an addict.”

What us parents of addicts hear when you say that is:

  • They think their child didn’t deserve to die, but mine did because he’s an addict.

  • They think their kid is an innocent victim of murder and my child asked for what she got.

  • They think being an addict is equal to being a bad person, a loser unworthy of the empathy their children receive.

  • They are judging us as parents.

  • They think they raised their kids right, and we didn’t.

  • They think laws should now be changed because “good kids” are dying even though opiate overdoses have been going on for decades.

  • They think they deserve sympathy, and we don’t because our kid chose death, and theirs didn’t.

Being defensive and assuring everyone knows your child was NOT an addict keeps the stigma going. Instead of uniting in our losses, we are divided because you don’t understand that addiction has nothing to do with how someone is raised or that it’s a disease, not a choice.

So I humbly ask that you think about this.

If you can’t stop saying it, please try to say it in a tone that doesn’t make “an addict” sound like a lower life form than your child. We love our children just as much as you do. We have suffered more than you because we’ve lived through years upon years of horror, fear, financial burden, anger, hopelessness, hell on earth.

Few parents of addicts will say this to you, but we talk about it among ourselves. It hurts us. It makes us feel the need to defend our children. Our children are just as special as yours.

Thanks for trying to understand.


Jenna Tighe
Jenna Tighe
Nov 07, 2022

This is such a great article, thank you so much for publishing and for sharing this truth!


this makes sense.


LEE Varon
LEE Varon
Nov 04, 2022

Thanks for sharing this important message.


Theresa Collins
Theresa Collins
Nov 03, 2022

Nobody should be mad at you for stating this! All my love and appreciate you educating me.


Margie Allman
Margie Allman
Nov 03, 2022

Yes! Thank you for pressing ‘publish’. ❤️

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