That’s What I’d Like to Know. What Did You Do Wrong?

shameA young woman from my church sent me a text message, asking questions about addiction.  I don’t really remember what her questions were.  I just remember that when I responded to one question, I did so with sarcasm that only those who are in my situation, might pick up on….at least through texting.  I wasn’t thinking about the fact that she hasn’t walked in my shoes.

It seems that we were on the subject of what you might say to parents of high school students, if they asked.  I responded first by saying that most people are afraid to approach you.  Either they don’t want to offend you or hurt your feelings.  Or there might be those who are afraid that it’s catching and they don’t want to get too close.  Clearly, I found myself sliding towards the intersection of snarky and smartass unable to decide on which direction to take.  I continued down the slippery slope with one last, “most people just want to know what it is that you did wrong so that they can avoid it.”

Now you might ask, “why did your responses get so jaded and angry when you were having a perfectly lovely conversation that needs to be had?”  And, I am not sure that I would be able to come up with an answer.  Maybe I’m still very angry about the stigma that addiction carries.  Maybe, I hadn’t had enough coffee.  Who knows, maybe auto correct was giving me fits.

However, her response was one that I didn’t see coming.  “What did you do wrong?”    She typed rapid fire.  “That is something that I’d be interested in hearing.”

Those words stung a little bit.  She ended our texting chat by saying that we’d have to talk another time because she had to run.  That was in fact, God’s grace.

I needed time to cool off and gather perspective.  You see I am no different than this young mother.  I was looking for the formula myself.  What is it that we do to keep our kids safe and healthy?  I kept them in sports and activities.  We went to church.  We had the talks.

Last week, I tuned in to the Diane Sawyer interview with Dylan Klebold’s mother (of the Columbine High School shooting) so that I could see what they’d done wrong.  I wanted to know.  My kids are older now and yet, it was a burning curiosity…what did she do wrong?

I read blogs and see parents who carry so much blame and regret on their shoulders.  One post listed all of the diagnosis that their child had received and all of the different meds they’d been on.  Other posts document all the new things that the parents are trying.  We’ve all worn holes in the knees of our pants praying for our loved ones. We have tried rehab after rehab….There are so many variables.  How do we keep all of the balls in the air?

I have come to look at it like a spreadsheet.  There are all of the rows, columns and lines.  If you change one cell, the chart can completely change.  Let’s look at all of those cells.  Each and everyone that us mortal human parents are weighing carefully trying to put in just the right information.  It’s too much.

What did I do wrong?  Do you really want to know what it is that I did wrong?  Well, to be frank, I’ve done a shit-load of wrong.  There is too much to list.  The thing is this, I didn’t know it was wrong and if I did, I did not know what to do that was right….at that time.  But, this is what I have learned.  This is what I know with certainty now:

We are powerless.  That is what I’d say to anyone who wanted to know.   You can’t figure it out, but there is someone who can.  Give it to HIM.

We are all human.  I know so many warm and loving parents who would do back flips to get their kids into recovery.  They are amazing people.  But, despite all their best efforts, their kids, spouses, brothers, sisters or loved ones can’t deal with their feelings.  They can’t.

Dylan Klebold’s mother said that girls thought he looked funny.  If you are looking for what went wrong, you might as well be looking for a needle in a haystack.

I’m looking to change what I can about me.  That is all the power I have.  And, maybe those actions will fall under the quote, “Preach the gospel often but only when necessary, use words.”

What are your thoughts?

I’m not the end all be all source of anything.  I’m just a wife and mother sharing her experience.  Won’t you join the conversation?



About The Author

Jean Heaton

I am a daughter, sister, aunt, mother and probably most notoriously, ‘the Vet’s wife’.


  1. Kelly | 31st Mar 16

    Beautiful writings, Jean. It is true addiction is a difficult thing to figure out. It is hard to watch people we love destroy their bodies. We are so desperate to find a way to help them. I have to agree that we only have the power to change ourselves and pray that God can help them find their way. Maybe in some small way God can use us to lead them to Him – if only to show the love of Christ.

    • Jean Heaton | 1st Apr 16

      Yes. He can take even the worst situation and make something beautiful from it. Thank you for your comments.

    • Jean Heaton | 1st Apr 16

      I do hope that His words can be used to help others. Otherwise they are a ‘noisy gong or a clanging cymbal’.

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