How addiction really affects the family
We all know the scary stories about how addicts hurt their families. We’ve heard about the crying parents, the terrified siblings, and the confused aunts and uncles. We’ve probably experienced them too! I know I took my family to hell and back during active addiction. Will I ever really know what they went through though?
I decided to interview my family and find out. Read more below, and then feel free to ask questions or share experiences about family addiction support in the comments section at the end. We try to respond to all legitimate questions with a personal and prompt reply.
Fiona: So, how’d you do it? I probably scared you both to death for years.
Mom: You did, but that’s part of being a parent too. I’m not trying to take you off the hook by any means, but having kids is a terrifying experience to begin with. It doesn’t help if your daughter is abusing drugs, but even if you didn’t cause one problem, I’d still find something to worry about.
Dad: I saw things a little differently. Your mom is absolutely right, being a parent is an exercise in terror. Seeing your kid take drugs and become a drug addict though, that was rough. It was hard being powerless. I didn’t think that I was powerless for a long time either. I thought that if I were just harder on you, you’d clean up. It took some time to get rid of that way of thinking.
Fiona: What was it like seeing me in active addiction?
Mom: It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to deal with, maybe the hardest. Your father talked about being powerless to change your behavior and he’s right. Seeing you hurt yourself over and over and not being able to do anything? That was horrible. It was also hard to understand that you were sick. I think addiction causes a lot of anger. I was angry with you for a long time. I’d stay up late, asking myself, “Why can’t she just stop? Doesn’t she see how much she’s hurting us and herself?”
Dad: Anger was huge for me, too. I couldn’t understand why you kept using drugs. It was easier to be angry than to confront the fact that my daughter might die. That’s something that no parent wants to consider. Seeing you in your addiction was hard too, because I blamed myself for a long time. I thought that your shortcomings were because I hadn’t raised you right. There was a lot of “I should have” and “why didn’t I?” happening.
Fiona: So, again, how’d you do it? How’d you cope?
Mom: A lot of praying! I’m not sure, truthfully. It was hard. We have good friends and they helped a lot. None of them had children who dealt with drug addiction though. Your father and I went to a support group for a year or so. It was offered through one of the outpatient centers you went to. That was a lifesaver. Being able to vent about everything that was going on with you, as well as the issues your father and I were having, was priceless. Even better, the other families would talk to us after. They would let us know that they’d been where we were, caught in family dynamics with an addict, and things got better. It gave me a lot of hope.
Dad: Yeah, the support group helped a lot. One of the things parents of addicts don’t hear about a lot, and something I want them to know, is that your marriage may suffer. It happened to us. We were so wrapped up in trying to help you, that we ignored each other and, after awhile, we became angry with each other. I think we blamed each other for your issues. So, having somewhere to go and find out that we weren’t to blame, that was important.
I asked my brother some similar questions. He’s two years younger than I am.
Fiona: What was my addiction like for you?
Little Bro: It was hard. I was pretty pissed at you while you were using and for a long time afterwards, too. We had some of the same friends and hung out with similar people, so I didn’t get why they were fine and you were a mess. It was hard too because I thought I always had to stand up for you. Even though you were older, it felt kind of like I was protecting you. So, that was pretty stressful.
Fiona: I bet! I know we didn’t talk at all towards the end of my addiction. What was going through your head then?
Little Bro: I mean, like I said, I was just really pissed at you. I felt like you’d worn down mom and dad. You made them angry and scared all the time. That seemed really unfair to me. Plus, you kept messing up and they were always there to bail you out. It seemed like no matter how much you f**ked up, they’d take care of you and ignore me. Not ignore, but you know what I mean. Like, it seemed that they took for granted that I was always going to be okay, and you never were.
Fiona: So, how’d you get over it? How’d you forgive me?
Little Bro: You just earned it. I didn’t forgive you the day we planned a family intervention for addiction and you went to rehab, or for like a year afterwards, but down the line I did. You showed you were different. You showed you were a new person and a new sister. I think you reaching out to me helped a lot, too. You wouldn’t let me stay pissed at you!
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