Lorelie Rozzano is a guest blogger for Vertava Health.
What It’s Like To Love Someone Struggling With Addiction
Difficulties arise in every family. Tension, arguments, hurt feelings- they’re all part of living together under the same roof. We don’t always see eye to eye with the people we love, and working through our differences can be challenging. However, for the most part, home is where the heart is and our family is our safe place.
Unfortunately, not everyone feels safe in their home. One in ten families is living with addiction. For those families, home can feel more like a war zone than a safe sanctuary.
A family struggling with addiction rides an emotional roller-coaster of ups and downs. They know sleepless nights and tear-drenched pillows. They know fog-filled days, isolation and disconnection. They know how to hide their feelings and wear a mask. They know how awful it is to wait for the knock on their door or that dreaded phone call. They prepare themselves for the worst news a family will get. They know it’s coming, they just don’t know when.
Every time they hear the phone ring they think: “Is this it?” They live under the shadow of the Grim Reaper. They make funeral arrangements when their loved one still breathes. They write obituaries in their heads. They know trauma, bereavement, sadness, fear, depression, anger and rage.
What they don’t always know is compassion, empathy and understanding. They may be blamed for not being a good parent or spouse. They may be judged as being too soft or too hard.
In their pain and frustration families can even turn on each other, placing blame on one another. They are so overwhelmed at times they feel like they can’t breathe. They walk on eggshells and are pulled in a million different directions.
Loving someone who struggles with addiction is traumatic. Living under such extreme stress floods the brain with cortisol and changes the brain’s chemistry. Due to this, many family members develop PTSD symptoms along with other serious chronic health issues.
I hear from families struggling with addiction every day. They’re tired of feeling judged and want the public to understand what it’s really like to love someone suffering from addiction. Below are just a few of their comments.
Jenny says: It hurts just as bad watching someone you love waste away from addiction as it does from cancer. We lose them long before they die. Addiction changes them into strangers. Although they look like the person you love, they’re not the same at all.
Lorna says: I wish people would stop fighting about whether addiction is a disease or a choice. Who cares?! What matters most is that people are dying, and there isn’t enough being done.
Natalie says: The term “addict” covers a lot more ground than just opioids. You can be an addict if you smoke too much weed, drink too much alcohol or over-engage in any other unhealthy behaviors. Growing up with an alcoholic father was brutal. I still wear the scars today.
Vickie says: Without mandatory treatment, some may not make it. I’m afraid my son is going to be one of those who don’t.
Tracy says: Addiction doesn’t judge who it takes. You can come from the best family in the world, you’re still not safe.
Darren says: Growing up with a Dad who shot heroin, I never knew when he’d be home or if Mom would be crying. I hated my Dad for what he did. I felt so bad for my Mom. When my Dad died I thought life would get better, but it didn’t. Now, I’m just like him.
Donna says: I wish people had more compassion and empathy. Why isn’t the public being taught how addiction works in the brain? My son is not a horrible person- he is sick!
Angela says: I would like the world to know that people are only human and everyone makes mistakes. No one asks for this disease. When you call my daughter a junkie it makes me sad.
Laura says: As the daughter of an addict and in recovery myself, I want the public to know we are still good people. We don’t want to do the awful things we do. We hate it just as much as everyone else does. Try to show empathy and compassion. We want sobriety more than anything.
April says: The family sometimes suffers more than the addicted person does. Addiction has torn my family apart. My son has used us all to feed his addiction. I have no clue how he’s doing- we’ve had enough and we’re not talking to him. I still love my son. When he’s clean and sober he’s the nicest, kindest man. When he’s using, he’s manipulative and dangerous.
Pamela says: Addiction is a family disease. It affects the relationships of those close to the addict including parents, spouse, siblings, children, long-time friends and employers. We all suffer and carry tremendous heartache.
Shaylin says: I live with my Dad and my Step-mom. It’s really hard. I miss my Mom so much! I don’t understand why she loves drugs more than me.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re the parent, spouse or child of an addicted person- addiction hurts everyone. The next time someone wants to talk with you about their addicted loved one, listen. You don’t have to say or do anything. Just listen and give them a big hug because you might be the only bright spot in their day.
If you love someone struggling with addiction and need to talk, please call this confidential support line for assistance. 1-888-614-2379.