Why You Should Never Ask 'Where Were the Parents?' When It Comes to Kids & Addiction

Katie Donovan

I see this comment so often when it comes to addiction: "Where were the parents?" That REALLY infuriates me. It adds to the stigma that is already present in cases of addiction, and it's a big reason why so many families keep the struggle to themselves. We feel judged. People cast downward glances, unsure of what to say.


Where was I? When you were born, I stayed up all night long, feeding you, changing your diaper, reading the latest books on parenting. I rocked you to sleep singing lullabies, holding your little body close to me.

Where was I? When you were 5, I helped you learn how to ride your bike without training wheels. Memories are flooding in of running down the driveway, holding on to the seat of your bike, while you laughed like crazy with joy.

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Where was I? When you were in second grade, I taught your Catechism class and watched with pride while you made your first Holy Communion, surrounded by the love of family and friends.

Where was I? When you lost your teeth, I was the tooth fairy, sneaking money under your pillow while you slept, and ran into your bedroom in the morning, as I couldn't wait to see the smile on your face when you discovered it.

Where was I? When the thunderstorms came, you were scared and we snuggled under the covers while I rubbed your back to ease your fear.

Where was I? When you were involved in sports, I came to every game, cheering for you at the top of my lungs and going out for the celebratory ice cream after.

Where was I? When you were 16, we had a code word, "Bible," that you could text me at anytime, if you were in a situation you were uncomfortable with, and I would pick you up, no questions asked.

Where was I? When you were 17, I rushed to the ER when I got a call that you had flipped your truck, with a very high level of Xanax in your system. I didn't understand how this happened and we got you into therapy right away, hoping we could "nip this in the bud."

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Where was I? Frantically driving around the streets of Detroit, trying to find you, with tears streaming down my face, fear in my stomach, yet determination in my heart.

Where was I? When you came to me in tears, saying that you had become addicted to heroin and didn’t know how to stop. We cried together, me rocking you in my arms again, promising you that we will get through this together.

Where was I? When we searched for rehabs together, my head whirling that this was even reality, my sole focus on saving you, as you were in the bathroom vomiting from withdrawals.

Where was I? For the next 10 years, I was by my daughter's side, never giving up on her, riding the roller coaster of addiction that practically tore our family apart. Twenty rehabs, detoxes, psych stays, four different states, countless overdoses, sleepless nights, jail stays, etc. As a parent, when your child is sick with a disease, you never give up.

That's where I was. Go ahead. Judge me.

This post originally appeared on A Mother's Addiction Journey.

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