This past week on Celebrity Rehab, the theme was what addiction does to parents and children. We saw a very interesting dynamic between Frankie Lons, the addicted mother of seven children, and Rachel Uchitel, the daughter of an addict who died of an overdose when she was 15. Each struggled to help the other understand her point of view. During one group therapy session, Rachel very poignantly said to Frankie, “I am your child.”
Because addiction has a genetic component, addicts are very often the children of addicts. The pain and shame and neglect they experienced as children is often what drives them to their own addiction. They have children who grow up the same way, and addiction then becomes an endless cycle in that family.
It is very, very difficult to see a parent as a person separate from yourself and the effects they had on you. When you think of an addicted parent, likely all you see are your own needs that were not fulfilled. You can’t see what that parent’s life was like, what set them on the path to addiction, the pain and regret they may have for what they put you through. And if you can’t see your parent as a separate individual, you can’t have compassion for that parent.
What does it matter? Why have compassion for someone who caused you so much pain? Because that pain keeps hurting and hurting you—even if your parent is long dead, as Rachel’s father is. The only way to end that pain is to have so much compassion that you can no longer be angry. Then you can let the pain go; then the pain your parent caused you won’t keep wounding you every day.
This is why compassion and forgiveness are such important pars of the Law of Sobriety. And, as we saw on Celebrity Rehab, compassion for those who have hurt us seems to flow from a kind of disconnecting. It’s something that might seem to be the opposite of what you’d expect.
Sherry Gaba, LCSW, is a Psychotherapist and Life Coach on Celebrity Rehab 4 on VH1 and author of "The Law of Sobriety: Attracting Positive Energy for a Powerful Recovery". Contact Sherry at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn about her psychotherapy practice, life/recovery coaching, teleseminars, workshops, speaking engagements, and conference.