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I just posted a bit of my story in the "Testimonies" forum and now I've come here to post about my other biggest life issue. The hurt and guilt I feel over my eldest son. I won't go into details but suffice it to say that he is 25 and he's in a huge mess. Most of his struggles center around the fact that he's an alcoholic, and suffers from depression. It began in his teen years. My problem now is that as I look back I feel terribly guilty because I feel that I am responsible for much of the anger he had as a teen, and many of the problems he encountered. I just feel that I was so brainwashed by the way I was raised that I was completely black and white, and did nothing that really helped him when he was younger. I thought he best thing I could do was pray and seek God to change his heart. So I did, and I constantly harped at him about the prodigal son, and getting right with God, and Jesus is your answer blah, blah, blah, blah... Because that's what I firmly believed was the answer! In the meantime I worked my ass off in the church. In other words I did nothing at all to really help him. Instead of being a man, stepping in, and doing what needed to be done I waited on God. Now he's in a mess and we are indeed still trying to help him (and he may even be getting somewhere...) but I feel responsible and so awful. I feel so bad it's almost crippling and I fight feelings of loathing myself over the whole thing. Oh how I wish I could go back and do it all over again with some proper life instuction and not religious brainwashing.

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I can totally relate. And really, I think all parents can...we've all made mistakes, whether related to religious issues or not. My oldest son is my biggest worry too, as he blamed me for the breakup of our marriage and his father's death. The only advice I can give is keep looking forward. Apologize to him for the past, and continue becoming the person you want to be now. It does absolutely no good to beat ourselves up over past mistakes. That's just life...live and learn. Hang in there and keep moving ahead!!

 

Deb

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I can totally relate. And really, I think all parents can...we've all made mistakes, whether related to religious issues or not. My oldest son is my biggest worry too, as he blamed me for the breakup of our marriage and his father's death. The only advice I can give is keep looking forward. Apologize to him for the past, and continue becoming the person you want to be now. It does absolutely no good to beat ourselves up over past mistakes. That's just life...live and learn. Hang in there and keep moving ahead!!

 

Deb

 

 

Thank you Deb. I'm trying, it's just very hard to do sometimes!

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As a former alky, I'd tell you to lighten up on yourself a little. You did what you were told was best at the time. Since you now know that neither gawd nor prayer are going to help, you can begin to offer your support and love, but your son has to beat it himself.

I'm sure you know it's not a character flaw or lack of self control. I'm not sure how I would classify addiction but the best definition I ever heard was from a former girlfriend: when I said she didn't understand what alcoholism was, she said "it's when every cell in your body screams for booze.

HE has to make the decision to get help in whatever form works for him. I wish all concerned all the best.

BTW, as a former rock star (in my own mind) love the Avatar.

--Larry

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Thank you Deb. I'm trying, it's just very hard to do sometimes!

 

I know, it is perhaps one of the most difficult struggles I face! My husband died over 4 years ago, and my struggle with guilt is still not over. Although I can say it is MUCH improved and getting better as time goes by. So like I said, just keep doin what you're doin :)

 

Deb

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I just posted a bit of my story in the "Testimonies" forum and now I've come here to post about my other biggest life issue. The hurt and guilt I feel over my eldest son. I won't go into details but suffice it to say that he is 25 and he's in a huge mess. Most of his struggles center around the fact that he's an alcoholic, and suffers from depression. It began in his teen years. My problem now is that as I look back I feel terribly guilty because I feel that I am responsible for much of the anger he had as a teen, and many of the problems he encountered. I just feel that I was so brainwashed by the way I was raised that I was completely black and white, and did nothing that really helped him when he was younger. I thought he best thing I could do was pray and seek God to change his heart. So I did, and I constantly harped at him about the prodigal son, and getting right with God, and Jesus is your answer blah, blah, blah, blah... Because that's what I firmly believed was the answer! In the meantime I worked my ass off in the church. In other words I did nothing at all to really help him. Instead of being a man, stepping in, and doing what needed to be done I waited on God. Now he's in a mess and we are indeed still trying to help him (and he may even be getting somewhere...) but I feel responsible and so awful. I feel so bad it's almost crippling and I fight feelings of loathing myself over the whole thing. Oh how I wish I could go back and do it all over again with some proper life instuction and not religious brainwashing.

 

Have you talked to your son about this? Far be it from me to give advice, but I think it would help both you and him if you explained that you thought you were doing the right thing at the time but now you realize that there was another way. You might say that you are sorry about not being there perhaps in the way he needed you at the time but you're here now and that you will get through these problems as a family.

 

That sort of thing.

 

One of the powerful things about Christianity is that it always gives you hope. I've often thought about Luke 15 in that regard. It's a very powerful image. You don't have to cast it away just because you don't literally believe it the theology that inspired it. Maybe you're the prodigal son coming home to him because you now see the need to meet him on his own terms.

 

The most important thing, I think, is to tell him. I'm not close with my father but I think any communication from father to son is precious.

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I cannot tell you how deeply and painfully I wish that my own parents were as willing as you are to reflect on the genuinely serious mistakes they made in raising me (their own alcoholism, neglect, and abuse). But such an effort takes a courage and honesty that I must simply realize they lack. What they will never understand is how shallow and estranged our relationship is, nor how easily the gulf could be crossed if they had the integrity to admit where and how they really were wrong.

 

I say this because I feel compelled to tell you: there are a multitude of sins that an honest assessment - and an honest, open acknowledgment and apology - can heal. Children can forgive a great deal. It may be a rocky, difficult, painful process, but there is hope.

 

At the same time I also realize that parental self-recrimination can be crippling and counterproductive. It is a good thing to weigh one's mistakes, better to address them and try to repair them where possible - but there comes a point beyond which reasonable responsibility becomes hyperresponsibility. As the daughter of two very, very flawed, human parents, I would not wish to see them disembowel themselves emotionally over their own inadequacies, if they could acknowledge them. I wouldn't wish the same for you either. I'd hope that your son wouldn't, either, in the long run. It doesn't serve anyone if you loathe yourself forever.

 

Understand, too, that your son is an adult. He may be the man you helped make him, but the man he becomes from here on out is up to him. Not knowing what kind of help you are offering him, I would only caution that any help you give is crafted to help him stand on his own two feet, not to create a dependence that assuages your guilt about your mistakes.

 

In any case, I think you've made a good and honest start. I hope it goes well and I hope that you and your son are able to work stuff out. So much is possible. Hang in there.

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I just posted a bit of my story in the "Testimonies" forum and now I've come here to post about my other biggest life issue. The hurt and guilt I feel over my eldest son. I won't go into details but suffice it to say that he is 25 and he's in a huge mess. Most of his struggles center around the fact that he's an alcoholic, and suffers from depression. It began in his teen years. My problem now is that as I look back I feel terribly guilty because I feel that I am responsible for much of the anger he had as a teen, and many of the problems he encountered. I just feel that I was so brainwashed by the way I was raised that I was completely black and white, and did nothing that really helped him when he was younger. I thought he best thing I could do was pray and seek God to change his heart. So I did, and I constantly harped at him about the prodigal son, and getting right with God, and Jesus is your answer blah, blah, blah, blah... Because that's what I firmly believed was the answer! In the meantime I worked my ass off in the church. In other words I did nothing at all to really help him. Instead of being a man, stepping in, and doing what needed to be done I waited on God. Now he's in a mess and we are indeed still trying to help him (and he may even be getting somewhere...) but I feel responsible and so awful. I feel so bad it's almost crippling and I fight feelings of loathing myself over the whole thing. Oh how I wish I could go back and do it all over again with some proper life instuction and not religious brainwashing.

 

Have you talked to your son about this? Far be it from me to give advice, but I think it would help both you and him if you explained that you thought you were doing the right thing at the time but now you realize that there was another way. You might say that you are sorry about not being there perhaps in the way he needed you at the time but you're here now and that you will get through these problems as a family.

 

That sort of thing.

 

 

I completely agree. My situation is opposite of yours; I'm the child whose religious brainwashing parents negatively affected. My problems are different from your son's, but still, I would LOVE an apology from them.

Good luck :)

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Well, being an eldest son, I'll comment anyway. Though I don't have any problems like this, I still get the shit end of the stick and blamed for almost everything my siblings fuck up with because I'm the oldest.

 

Anyway, you could try a heart to heart and explain that perhaps you do have at least something very much in common. An addiction to a drug. Be it alcohol or the endorphins produced in the brain via religious faith. Both are an escape from reality. I suppose you could try to explain that you, too struggled with the addiction of pushing aside reality in favour of a distorted state of mind. You can explain how you beat it and why it is important for him to beat it. Emphasis on how alcohol can also be much more physically destructive may help too.

 

In the end though, you can't lay all too much blame on yourself. Drugs and other forms of addiction/abuse are entirely the choice of the user. No matter how shitty the circumstances of the persons life, it's ultimately their choice in the end. It's only their choice to quit too. You have to talk some sense into him and attempt to use some reason with him to get the idea.

 

Good luck, again

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There's so much good insight in the comments posted here. I can only add to encouraging you to realize how very, very important sincere apology is to a wounded child. An apology with specific acknowledgments of actions or inactions shows the child that it's not a by-rote apology, but one reflected upon.

 

When my husband and I adopted a six- and seven-year-old birth brother and sister out of the foster system, their ongoing deepest longing was for what they called, "a 'sorry'" from their birth parents. Unfortunately, they never got it. But your son can be the recipient of this great gift.

 

Beyond that, your obvious caring and commitment and better judgment will guide you in what moves to make.

 

I wish you all the best with your son.

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I want to thank each and every one of you for your replies. As Pitchu said: "There's so much good insight in the comments posted here" and she wasn't kidding! They are all very thoughtful and I appreciate you guys taking the time to reply. I sense a real heart to heart coming up with my son very soon (with those specific acknowledgments!). Thanks again.

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