Characteristics of Guilt Tripping 



If there was a contest many years ago for parents who were the highest achieving Chief Enablers, Guilt Tripping Parents of a child with a Substance Use Disorder (S.U.D.), I feel confident that I would have been in the top ten. 

When my son was in active addiction, I had no clue how to deal with him or his addiction, so I became his Chief Enabler and I used guilt tripping as one of my tactics in hopes of getting him to stop using drugs and pull his life together; it took me years to learn better coping skills, how to set healthy boundaries and practice self-care. 

Because of the work I do, I’m always looking for or working on developing programs for parents and family members affected by Addiction and Alcoholism.  I recently came across an article called the Inner Critic ( that really resonated with me. In the article the author talks about how people have an inner self critic, how they hurt themselves and others.  This article seemed to fit many of the same characteristics commonly practiced when parents of teen or adult children are emotionally and financially depleted because of their loved one’s active addiction. 

The Perfectionist:  often feels that they are not good enough, they attempt to do everything perfect to avoid criticism, judgement, and rejection from others.  A parent with a child with S.U.D. often feels judged by society; however, they often judge their own child who is in active addiction. 

The Perfectionist tries to keep themselves and their child and his, her addiction from the hurtful criticism of society, the Perfectionist often keeps their secret that they love a child in active addiction or recovery. 

The Molder:  is similar to the Perfectionist, the Molder typically tries to mold their addicted child into being who he, she wants their child to be.  The Molder believes that if they and their child can just appear, think, and do things in the correct or normal way, society will accept and love them. The child who is being molded often becomes disconnected from their own feelings, wants and needs.  

The Molder attempts to mold their child into what they think their child’s recovery should look like. 

The Guilt-Tripper: can’t let go of the past, they won’t allow their child or themselves to forgive what they have done or said to hurt another person or what their child has said and done to hurt them.  

The message of the Guilt-Tripper is “I can do it better than you can, you’re bad”. 

The Guilt-Tripper attempts to guilt their addicted child into seeking treatment. 

The Controller: is similar to the Guilt-Tripper, they make themselves and their teen or adult child feel bad about who they are and their choices. 

The Controllers message often feels like “You’re not enough” even if those words were never spoken. 

The Controller tells their child how to stop using drugs and how to work a recovery program, when they don’t even practice self-care. 

The Destroyer: is the harshest critic, the destroyer tells themselves or their child they don’t have a right to exist, and they don’t deserve to be treated well, which often results in self-hatred. 


The Destroyer attacks their child’s self-worth, shames them and tells them what they think their characters defects are and how they are fundamentally flawed and that their addiction is a moral failing. 

Many parents tell their teen or adult children how to work a recovery program when they’ve never worked on themselves.  Many parents tell their children to “Just Stop” using drugs when they can’t give up their daily diet coke, their daily glass of wine or morning coffee.  If you don’t own your part, you will continue to participate in the toxic dance that is associated with bad behavior, hurtful words and actions. 

Nothing changes until one person in the dance changes; heal the critic so you can detach with love. 

Donna MarstonComment