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Raising a Teen with Mental Illness While in Recovery

Nothing has challenged my sobriety, sanity, or mom guilt as much as watching my teen daughter struggle with her own mental illness.

I’ve been sober six years. I’ve often faced hardships, but nothing has challenged my sobriety, sanity, or mom guilt as much as watching my teen daughter struggle with her own mental illness. She was such an easy tween but three years ago something happened that tipped the scale in her life. The kid we knew wasn’t quite there anymore and I questioned everything we’d ever done as parents.

We started therapy, we tried to make sure she knew we were there, we watched everything she did, and every time we thought we’d gotten over the hump we took twenty steps back.

As I watched my kid go through this I struggled with my own guilt. I asked, “what did I miss, was it my drinking when she was younger, did I really cause this, how do we help, how can I fix this?”

The reality is I can’t fix this, there is no magic cure, and I can beat myself every day (believe me, I have) but it won’t change things and it won’t make it better.

There are times I let my resentment get the best of me. I questioned if she even wanted to get better. I lacked the empathy to help her in the ways I knew I should because I’d been there, maybe not in the same ways and with the same issues, but I too had felt that emptiness. I knew what it felt like to not feel good enough, to think I should be perfect and I knew more than anything the feeling that I’d failed and I might as well give up. So how, as her mom, could I be so angry at her? How as someone who’s dealt with my own issues be so so damn angry? Why? Because I’m human and I don’t always know how to handle every situation. I have feelings too, they don’t always make sense, but I have them.

Raising a teenager is hard—mental illness or not—it’s damn hard and there were so many times I wanted to drink those feelings of resentment and guilt away, to just shut them off just for a minute. Her anger always seemed to be aimed in my direction and I had nowhere to hide, not physically and not emotionally.

We still haven’t passed that hump, and as a parent, I try to take this day by day. I try to give her space and let her take control of things and figure this out her way with the help of her therapist. I can’t fix this; I don’t even seem to help make it any better.

At some point, I had to step back, or try to,  because I just can’t completely step away, but I have to let her sink or swim.

I can’t always be the safety net; she has to want to be better for herself and no one else. That is one huge thing getting sober taught me—I have to want it.  I had to hit my own bottom, and if and when that ever happens for her, I’ll be right there to help her pick up the pieces.

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  1. Hello and thank you for sharing your story. I am sitting here depressed and constant crying because I feel that guilt. All 3 of my teenagers have Adhd and I keep thinking that if I saw the signs earlier but I, too, would drink. Thank you for the motivation of not giving up!

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