Friday September 30th 2016

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My family is addicted to drugs/alcohol: What can I do?

Addiction involves a lot of denial. As the child of an addict or alcoholic, you have to balance the instinct and desire to trust your parents with the understanding that they are creating a false reality to support their disease. But how can you live your own life and your own truth when you are surrounded by denial? And how can you find peace when the question, “Why do people become addicts?” is at the front of your mind?

Start getting to know your own truth today! And learn how you can cope with parents who are addicts, as well as addiction to drugs or alcohol in your family. Then, we invite your questions, comments, or feedback in the comments section below.

Living with addiction warps reality

When you live in a house with addiction, you are living in a house with stories. Some of the stories may be true, some of the stories may be completely fabricated, but most of the stories are probably somewhere in between. Simply put, this is because when you are dealing with an addict you are dealing with someone who has to make a lot of excuses for why things are the way they are, and rarely does that involve admitting that they have a problem.

This is called denial; denial of the truth, denial of reality and when you grow up in the environment the real world that exists apart from the addict can be very hard to figure out!

“I’m afraid I can’t explain myself sir. Because I am not myself, you see?”

This simple statement, from a crazy, silly book does a beautiful job of explaining what it is like to navigate the world when you have grown up in a place of addiction. Living with a parent or caregiver who is an addict means that your life has been defined by their disease and the reality they need to create to maintain their addiction, and it can be extremely difficult to figure out exactly who you are independent of them and their needs.

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Do you like ice cream?

Maybe you don’t know if you like ice cream because every time the ice cream truck came by instead of telling the truth and saying, “You can’t have any because we don’t have enough money since I used it buying drugs,” your mom said, “You don’t like ice cream,” or “You’re allergic to ice cream,” or “Why do you always want more, more, more? All you do is think about yourself!”

This is a story about you but it is not your story. When you are little you are too young to tell your own story and as a result you grow up subject to the denial that someone else is living in, you grow up understanding only what they need to be true. Part of the story might be true, ‘you can’t have ice cream,’ and part of the story is not true.

The ‘why’ part of this story exists to protect an addiction and you become the collateral damage in someone else’s illness. So you grow up with this story about yourself and you are someday asked if you like ice cream, really you are asked to explain yourself to the world and you can’t because you are not yourself, you are what someone else needed you to be so that they did not have to confront the reality of their life, their problems and their addiction.

Tell Your Own Story

As soon as you can, as soon as you are able you need to start telling your own story about your life. You need to accept the reality of what is, regardless of whether that is good or bad because you can never be who you are, you can never live your own independent life if you are not wiling to tell the truth about what that life looks like. If I expect to have a conversation with an addict where I am heard, understood, or acknowledged I am setting myself up to be disappointed.

I have to accept the reality that an addict does not have the ability to give the same things that a sober person can give. To live your life you have to accept the whole picture of what your life looks like so you can make affirmative choices about what you want and what you don’t want. To live your life you have to know who you are and you have to be willing to take charge of your own story.

Start living your own truth today: At the end of the day, everyday (or as often as you can) right down one thing you did, saw or heard that day that you enjoyed. One you have at least five things written down turn that into a sentence about what you like and start getting to know yourself!

Photo credit: D. Hartwig HKD

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About Maggie Harmon

Maggie Harmon is a writer, speaker, leadership coach and business consultant who approaches every engagement through a holistic understanding of the situation. Her consulting practice focuses on deeply understanding who or what you are and what you want to achieve, and from there helping to create a plan, develop tools, and access resources that let you get where it is you want to go, and do what you do, better! You can connect with her here or via Maggie's Blog.

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