Lorelie Rozzano is a guest blogger for Vertava Health.
It’s Not Just Addicts Who Get Sick From Addiction, Their Families Do Too.
Lately, it isn’t unusual to read in the headlines, ‘someone dies from drug overdose.’ There’s no doubt addiction is killing more people now, than ever before. But it’s not just addicts who are getting sick from this illness, their families are too.
Living with or loving an addict is a very painful and lonely experience. Individuals usually suffer in shame and in silence. Addiction affects families spiritually, mentally, physically and emotionally. The most common emotions are fear and anxiety. Families can go years, waiting for the call.
Stress can affect all aspects of your life, including your emotions, behavior, thinking ability and physical health. No part of the body is immune, but because people handle stress differently, symptoms of stress can vary.
If you’ve never loved an addict and don’t understand, imagine this:
Your loved one has just been in a terrible car accident. They’ve been taken by ambulance to the hospital, and are in the intensive care unit. The doctor tells you, they may not make it. You feel powerless as you sit helplessly beside their bed, not able to do anything for them. Hours turn into days, and you can’t eat or sleep. Your friends and family tell you to go home. The doctor assures you if there’s any change, he will call.
You go home to sleep, but find that you can’t stop checking the phone. Eventually, you bring it into bed with you. When you do finally fall asleep, it’s not restful. Instead, you toss and turn and have nightmares. Your mind screams; go sit beside your child.
Back at the hospital, there’s been no change. You long to talk to your child, but although their body is there, you’re unable to reach them. You’re angry and ask the doctor why more isn’t being done. The doctor tells you he’s done all he can, now it’s up to your child to heal.
Days turn into weeks and people look at you with concern. Friends and family beg you to leave the hospital and go home. You’re invited out to dinner at a friend’s house, but don’t go. You’re tired, confused and resentful. Your healthy children tell you they feel neglected. Your spouse complains that you’re not the same person you used to be. You haven’t gone to work in a long time. You feel all alone. You just want to pull your hair out and scream! Doesn’t anybody get it? Your child is laying in a hospital bed and they may not live! You can’t reach them. You can’t help them and they won’t wake up!
The physical stress of living under these extreme conditions, is catching up to you. You wonder if you aren’t headed for a hospital bed, yourself. You may be experiencing a clenched jaw, dental pain, cold hands, dry mouth, difficulties swallowing, low energy, headaches, upset stomach, including diarrhea, constipation and nausea, ulcers, aches, pains, and tense muscles, chest pains, rapid heartbeats, high blood pressure, angina, insomnia, frequent colds and infections, heart disease and stroke, mood swings, depression, apathy, or suicidal ideation.
Addiction is a serious illness. It doesn’t stop with the addict either, it wants the rest of the family. When you love someone who is struggling with addiction, it’s normal to feel concerned. But just as the addict’s disease progresses, so does their family. Concern left unchecked, grows. The addict is consumed by their drugs and the family is consumed, by the addict. Both will struggle with unhealthy behaviours and mental obsession.
But there is a way out.
It’s easy to focus on your addicted loved one. After all, he or she appears to be the problem. But addiction isn’t a singular illness, it’s a family one. The next time you find yourself worrying about where they are, or what they’re doing to get help, ask yourself this. What are you doing to get help? Not for them, but for you. This one question, will change the entire dynamics of this deadly illness.
Remember, you can’t give what you don’t have, and trying to help your addicted loved when you’re sick too, just makes a bad situation, worse. Any airline pilot will tell you; put the oxygen mask on you first, you’re no good to anyone if you’re not breathing.
Please know you never have to spend another day alone, again. Help is just a phone call away.
If you or someone you know needs help, please call this confidential support line for assistance. 1 888 614-2379.