Lorelie Rozzano is a guest blogger for Vertava Health.
To Anyone Living With Addiction, I See You.
Addiction is our great equalizer. It affects every race, gender and age. It doesn’t matter how much money you have in the bank or what you do for a living. One in seven families across North America are struggling with it. These families live in shame and secrecy. One mother recently broke her silence and reached out to me. She was worried about her daughter and had many questions. She had never talked to anyone before and asked if I would post her questions anonymously. This mother didn’t want her friends or family to know there was an addiction in her family.
This mother is not alone. Addiction is a family disease and each relationship brings unique struggles.
To the mother battling your child’s addiction, I see you.
I see your sleepless nights and tear drenched pillow. I see your heartache and fear. I see you calling treatment centers and rehab facilities. I see you checking your child’s room to make sure they’re in bed and still breathing. I see your confusion – your child has become a stranger to you. You don’t see the full grown adult in front of you, you still see the baby you nursed. Or the toddler with the skinned knee. The one who’s boo boos you covered with a superman band aide and a kiss. Once you could make all your child’s hurts better. But not now. The monster lurking inside your child is ruining everything. Guilt eats at you. You wonder if your child’s addiction is your fault.
To the spouse with an addicted partner, I see you.
The person you fell in love with is gone. Those romantic nights and shared connections you once had, a thing of the past. You feel betrayed. Your partner is cheating on you. Only his/her mistress is far more powerful than mere flesh and blood. This mistress is addiction. There are no words for the pain you feel. You’ve threatened your spouse, you’ve left them, you’ve nagged them and nothing works. You’re at your wit’s end. But that’s not all. You realize your partner isn’t the only one who’s changing. You play spy, counselor, prison guard, and parent. You’re suspicious and resentful. You feel sick and miserable all the time. Deep down you know you’re not the same person you once were, but you can’t seem to stop this roller-coaster ride. You blame your partner for your changes.
To the child growing up with an addicted parent, I see you.
You know far more than you say. You are the watcher. You believe your parents’ problems are your fault. You feel responsible for everyone you meet. You smile and pretend but your stomach hurts and you have a lump in your throat. You feel safest when you’re alone. You fantasize, imagining a Daddy who is happy and spends time with you. Or a Mommy who cuddles you and brushes your hair. You tell your parents you’re okay because you don’t want to upset them. But deep down you’re not okay, you hurt. You learn to bottle your emotions and build a wall around them. This wall will keep you safe in your growing up home. But as an adult, it will negatively impact every relationship you have.
To the grandparent raising grandbabies, I see you.
You worked hard your entire life. You raised your kids. You did your best. You were looking forward to slowing down and having some well-earned ‘me’ time. Only it never played out that way. Instead, you’re on round two. Diapers, play dates, sleepovers, sports, homework… You don’t tell anyone, but you’re exhausted. You wonder if you’ll have enough energy to cope with what’s in front of you. While your friends are off on sun filled vacations you’re at home raising grandbabies. You love them fiercely, but you’re starting to feel resentful. You snap at the children and then feel horrible. You’re furious with your addicted child and may even feel hateful towards them.
To the addicted person, I see you.
I see you snorting lines in the bathroom and chugging from the bottle. I see you lying in bed tossing and turning, drenched in sweat. I know your mind is racing. I know you’re scared. Your two worst fears are going without dope and getting caught. It’s become a full-time job just keeping yourself supplied. You’ve told so many lies you can’t remember them all. The balls you’ve been juggling are crashing to the ground. You keep thinking you’ll stop – but you don’t. You keep thinking things can’t get worse – but they do. You keep trying to control your addiction – but it controls you. I know you want to stop – at least you want the consequences to stop – but each time you pick up, there is less of you left to fight this battle. You are hurting everyone who loves you. Even worse, you are killing – you.
Addiction is a progressive illness for everyone involved. The stress of living under such extreme conditions can cause family members to become physically, mentally and emotionally ill. Some will suffer from PTSD or nervous breakdowns. For the addicted person, addiction is terminal.
Even though addiction has been identified as a disease, not a moral failing, many families still attempt to deny it, dealing with the pain and confusion on their own. They feel unseen, unheard and all alone. Although our stories may be different, our pain is not. Recovering from addiction requires one to step outside their comfort zone. Asking for help is never easy, but staying stuck in addiction or dying from it, is the true tragedy of this disease. I invite you to take the leap. Step outside your comfort zone, pick up the phone and start your new life. The life you’re saving just might be your own.
If you or someone you know needs help, please call this confidential support line for assistance. 1-888-614-2379.