Addiction can tear a family apart. But, especially, if you’re a family member of someone with an addiction. You may have to learn to forgive some things that you may never get an apology. Forgiveness isn’t always about the other person but, because resentment and anger are too heavy to carry around and leave a bitter taste in your mouth, it’s something you must do for yourself. You deserve to be free of that anger. Find a way, no matter how to do it, that you can move past this.
The damage to the family can be irreparable. Here’s why the difference between someone with Substance Dependence and Addiction comes into play. Say an Opioid prescription for the Dependent person runs out and they, for some reason, cannot get it refilled for awhile, unlike someone with an Addiction, will not rob someone else to get what they NEED just because they fear being “dopesick”.
I have family members who have been addicted to opiates and literally robbed my Grandma of her pain pills. She knew who they were and kicked them out. If she were an enabler, she would have helped that person get more of those pills and turned away the anger and hurt in her mind about being stolen from: giving them money, even gift cards, even filling the refrigerator with food, assume any hand-out you give, can be traded for drugs because it can. And if there are children involved, they will use them as leverage against family.
If you’ve been through a divorce or a bad break-up, you know that people use children as leverage in more than one way. If you feel like you’re grandchildren/nieces/nephews are in danger or money that you are paying is going to drugs, you can do one of two things (be prepared to think I’m a low-down dirty bitch, but that’s alright) 1) Let them know that their children will be in your care until you get treatment or you will call DCS (Department of Child Services) DCFS in some states OR, 2) if they don’t agree with that, actually call DCS, show up to court and ask for the children to be placed in your care. Do not do the second one unless you are sure someone is using, it involves a lot of legal action, bureaucracy, and red tape and the children might not even end up in your care. DCS is not to be messed with unless COMPLETELY necessary. But, when it comes to children being involved, we cannot look the other way.
Chances are, if your child/Grandchild/sibling has an addiction and you don’t, they’ve found a way to screw you over to get high (OR you might never know until it all falls apart). It might be their body, but it’s not their mind. It’s like they are possessed by addiction. They’ve pawned something of yours, stolen cash, credit cards, whatever has value. They don’t have to live with you. You can’t “save” them.
Neither could I. I had clients die, family members, friends, in many ways related to addiction and it fucks you up. Have you ever been to a funeral of a parent who’s lost their child to drugs? I have. That pain is unlike anything that we can imagine. That sound. That horrible sound of his mother screaming over his open casket, wailing because she couldn’t stop it. She couldn’t save him. There was no going back. Do you want to know why I was there? It was my cousin’s funeral. I still cry when I hear that scream, that wail, in my head. She’s never been the same. And never will. How can she?
This is probably the most difficult part of recovery. If you draw the boundaries, you must stick with them. For instance,
I want to be very clear about something. If you have someone in your family who was addicted, but is now sober, they will always be addicted and to remain sober from all substances, even some prescription medications (benzodiazepines, opiates), otherwise, it’s a backslide. They have to be honest with themselves, you, and their psychiatrist and doctors. Managing addiction is like managing diabetes. It changes the chemistry in their brains, literally and can be seen on PET scans. (If you click on the blue, it will lead you to another blog I’ve written about addiction as a brain disease based on science.) Just like complex trauma, bipolar disorder, and many other mental illnesses, addiction shows up in brain imaging. This means you may have to lock up some of your prescription medications (even something like Lyrica or muscle relaxers, alcohol) because being newly sober is an awful feeling. Here’s why:
While addiction can tear through a family like a tornado, it’s also a chance to rebuild the ENTIRE family with honesty and under the microscope. It doesn’t mean that something is your fault, it’s just a chance to rebuild and improve.
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