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My Kids Confronted Me

May 16, 2024

I talk about addiction all the time, and I do it from the experience of addiction because I’ve learned that when families, loved ones, and friends of someone struggling (who are not addicts themselves) learn from those in recovery, they can learn to respond in a whole new way.

The experience I’m sharing today was from back in 2012. I got sober in 2013, so at the point of this story, my addiction was really, really, really bad. I was separated, going through a divorce, and I was a mess.

I walked into the kitchen with a big Dunkin’ Donuts cup filled with wine at 10 am, and my three kids, who were teenagers at the time, were sitting at the kitchen table.

Lined up on the table were eight empty wine bottles they had found in my closet.

My kids were confronting me.

A few things it’s important for you to know at this point in the story:

  • A year before this, I had started to get sober and told my kids I was an alcoholic. Then I relapsed and slipped back into the sickness. It’s from that sickness I was operating during this conversation.
  • The only thing I ever wanted in the whole world was to be a mom. And I was a really good mom. Until I wasn’t.

Now, back to the story…

I was feeling great that morning before I walked into the kitchen. Then I saw my kids, I saw their expressionless faces, and I saw the wine bottles lined up.

What do you guess was the first thought on my mind at that moment?

The only thing I thought when I saw my kids confronting me was, How am I going to get to the fridge to refill my cup with wine?

My second thought? How one of the bottles had about half a glass of wine left in the bottom.

When you’re in your addiction, it is the only thing you think about.

Remember, these are the most important people to me in the world. But from that place active in my addiction, I only saw them as one of two things: a resource—what can I get from you to get me what I need?—or an obstacle. At that moment, my kids were obstacles.

I sat down at the table with an attitude and said, “What?”

They just looked at me.

“Those bottles are old,” I said.

And Jenny, my youngest, said, “No, Mom. They weren’t in your closet last week.”

At only fifteen, Jenny had taken on the role of investigator. Have you ever taken on that role with your loved one? It’s not a role any family member should have to fill, especially not a child.

I realized then that the jig was up, and two different voices spoke up in my head for what to say next.

One voice was saying, “What the fuck are you doing? What’s your plan here, Kate? Are you really going to treat your kids this way?”

The other voice was snarling, “They’re so disrespectful. How dare they talk to me this way. So rude.”

It was like the angel and the devil were on my shoulders, except it was recovery and addiction; the small part of me that wanted to get better and the addiction that was willing to do anything to defend itself.

I remember more than anything wanting to say, “Help me.” But it was as if a hand came up over my mouth and blocked it. The words that wanted to come out were stuck in my throat. 

Which part of me do you think won out and finished the conversation?

Here’s what I said: “You guys are so disrespectful to your mom. How dare you talk to me this way?” And I walked off. 

My addiction chose to shred my children. My addiction was winning.

My kids were confused. They were hurt. They were mad. They were sad. They were terrified. There was no one who understood addiction in my family system. There was no one that could call me out on this.

This is just wrong. Families should never be stuck in the dark the way mine was when their loved one is active in addiction.

I wrote a book called Dear Family, Why Your Loved One Won’t Accept Help and How to Help Them Anyway, and it’s meant to bring families to the recovery conversation and get them out of the dark. To help others in the same situation my children were in so they aren’t alone and confused.

I realized as I wrote the acknowledgements for the book that I wrote it for my children. I sent them an early copy and said to them, “If I ever relapse, please follow this book.”

Because if I do ever relapse, I’ll be back to the sick person I was in that kitchen. In fact, since addiction progresses even when we’re sober, I’ll be even worse. It won’t sound like I want to get better. It won’t sound like I care about anything but my next glass of wine.

Not because that’s what I want but because that’s what my addiction would need. 

But there will always be a part of me that wants to recover, to get back to the person I really am. 

There’s a part of your loved one who wants that too. No matter how impossible it seems.

And the best way you can help them is by knowing they do want it, by learning about addiction, learning about how it’s a family disease, and understanding the ways you are responding that are harming you and not helping them. Then learning a new way to relate, respond and connect.

I lay out the framework for how to do just that in the book. It’s available now, and my team is available to talk if you’re interested in diving deeper.

I’d love to hear from you—what is your reaction to this story? What surprised you? Resonated with you? Triggered you? Whatever it is, there’s room for you to share it here.


You need education about addiction, you need education about the family disease, you need to understand the ways that you’re responding to it that are harming you, and not helping them. And then you can create a new way.

Leave a Comment

2 Comments

  1. Shirley Fertig

    It seems unreal. How can any parent put alcohol first? It’s true, when you’re deep in addiction the only thing you think about is your next fix. We lived with this for a long time until our loved one passed away. Now we are going through this with my brother. He’s angry and will deny his addiction. Everyone is the problem except him. It’s not just a family disease but affects everyone around them but family gets hurt the most.

    Reply
    • Kate Duffy

      I’m sorry to hear about your experience Shirley. It’s incredibly challenging for families, and the pain and frustration you feel are completely understandable. We hear you and are here for you. Berenice TPR.

      Reply

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