Is it normal to blame myself for someone else's actions?
I'm a teenage girl, and my dad is an alcoholic. I hate being at home with him because he just stresses me out. He can be picking me up from basketball practice or piano lessons, and half of the time, I don't even know if he's sober or not. I refuse to get into the vehicle with him and walk home sometimes. I've either been barely sleeping or I over sleep, so I'm always tired. I live in a small town, so there's no one I can really talk to because I'm not really that close with my family.
Hello, and thank you for your question. You are clearly a resourceful young person to reach out like this to find help. Good for you. I have a few ideas and perhaps some other counselors will add some thoughts, too.
First, good for you for taking care of yourself and making really good decisions – such as not getting into the car with dad when he is intoxicated. It is really important that you consider your safety above all else.
To answer your heading question, yes, it is quite common for people to blame themselves for other people’s actions. There are various reasons why we do this. For one thing, someone may tell us that their behaviors are our fault. And depending on things like our relationship to that person, past experiences, and our self-esteem, we may actually start to believe it. What is important to remember is that your parents have the responsibility to be sure that you are safe and cared for, not the other way around.
As for the other things you mentioned, I am concerned about both your physical and emotional safety and well-being. It sounds like your father has an alcohol abuse problem, and living with someone who is struggling with addiction can be hard for anyone, let alone a teenager who is also trying to deal with things like school.
You may want to see if your school has a counselor or someone you can talk to about what is going on. I will tell you that in some states, what you have told me may be something that a counselor would have to report to child protection services, but not necessarily. If you are concerned about that, ask the counselor what they are obligated to report.
If you don’t know a counselor, think about any other adult that you would feel comfortable talking to. They may have some ideas.
Sometimes individual states have non-profit chat lines or hotlines for teens to call if they are struggling with things. You may be able to find something like that in your state. I do warn your about doing random searches, not every website is good, so be careful.
This is clearly a tough spot for you to be in, so one of the things that I encourage you to do while searching for support is to focus on taking care of yourself. Sometimes things like this can really bring us down and we stop doing the things we enjoy. Try really hard not to let that happen. If you have interests, do them. If you catch yourself thinking too hard about things, try to find something fun to do to distract yourself. Try to take care of yourself in other ways, such as eating well. Exercise can really help when we get stressed.
I hope some of this was helpful. Good luck.
Robin J. Landwehr, DBH, LPC, NCC
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