I come from a long line of addicts. Alcoholics, liars, cheaters (on my dad’s side), drug abusers, and gamblers. Oh my! I’ve had relatives go to prison for their addiction. I’ve had them severely hurt themselves and each other and their kids, their marriages. Total lives lost in an instant. It occurred to me this week that I’ve never had a life without addiction in it. I’ve never had a life where a close family member or friend wasn’t battling addiction. In fact, for more than 30 years now I’ve been keenly aware of whatever addiction my family members were dealing with and, as a loved one, I suffered at their hands. Either from watching my mother’s heart be broken because someone was in prison, or being emotionally abused by someone who is addicted. There’s a story I tell about the time my brother, high on drugs, came into my room to say hi to me when I was in kindergarten and walked out with my television. It’s funny. People laugh. But in reality, my drug-addicted brother stole from me, a child, in order to sell that small color television I watched Saturday morning cartoons on for drug money. So sure, it’s funny. But not really. (My brother coincidently, has been sober for years now.)
Because of all the addiction and destruction I have witnessed since I could see with my eyes open, once a year I take the opportunity to speak on addiction help on my blog. My personal space. My outlet to the world. My stage, as it were. I like to bring attention to addiction, openly discuss it (much to my family’s chagrin) and offer support to those who are struggling with addiction and those who love someone struggling with addiction. First and foremost, I like to remind everyone that there is help. So. Much. Help.
A family tradition in my family is this: I will say to someone with an addiction, “Hey (insert name) I am worried about you. I think you have an addiction.” Then (Insert Name) will properly flip the fuck out on me. (Insert Name) will start with denial. “I don’t have a problem” or “That wasn’t from my problem, my life is just tough right now” or my personal favorite, they will turn on me. “You are freaking out over nothing, you need to chill, you are the only one who says this shit, you don’t know what you are talking about! You are making. me stressed, this is all your fault.” That’s it, that’s the line I’ve been hearing for decades. This is all my fault.
You know when I was 38 years old an adult with a couple of fancy diplomas on her wall looked at me and said, “Missy, none of this is your fault.” Oh my goodness, I can’t tell you how that felt to have that lifted off of my shudders, I’d been carrying around all those other people’s addictions, negative attitudes, and honest-to-God horse shit for so long that I thought I was in fact the problem. Nope. I’m not. That’s an addict not taking responsibility for their own problems. Not owning their own decisions. Projecting them instead on you.
Addicts also say things like,
- “I can quit whenever I want to.”
- “I’m not even (insert addiction) anymore and I’m tired of you bringing that up.” (They still are, they are lying.)
- “I quit that. I just stopped one day.” (Nope.)
- “I just do it to relax, it’s the only thing that helps.” (Wrong.)
- “I can’t get help, I don’t have insurance or money.” (Incorrect, there is free help.)
- “I’ve already done the therapy and it didn’t work, why would I do it again?”
- “This is none of your business. It’s none of your business where I spend my time or money.”
- “I’m not hurting anyone.” (This is a favorite of gamblers. They think it is a victimless addiction.)
You get my drift, there is a million more excuses, but let’s focus on how you can help your loved ones who are struggling with addiction.
First off, please know that if you have a loved one who is an addict, you are not alone. And may I suggest therapy for YOU? It’s been a life-saver for me, truly! Learning to set boundaries, knowing that what they say when they yell and throw a fit and lie to you is not your problem, it’s theirs. It’s not your fault. None of it.
None of this is YOUR fault. But man, that doesn’t stop you from wanting to help. Believe me, I know. So how can you help? Well, there’s a myriad of ways. There are lifelines to call. There is Alcoholics Anonymous, there is Gamblers Anonymous. There is rehab for drug addicts, there is free counseling for everyone, if you know where to look. And I’m going to stick some websites down below for you to click on for a place to start.
But the most important thing I have learned in my 30+ years of dealing with addicts, they absolutely won’t change, won’t learn to help themselves, unless they want to. And even when you think they may have hit rock bottom, you’d be surprised at how resilient they are. Surprised that they can go to rehab multiple times, or maybe go to prison and still not get the help they need. (Big shock I know, prison isn’t rehabilitation.) BUT and this is a big BUT, I have seen people change. I have two family members in particular who have beat their addiction. Beat it! Gone! Both of them were helped with religion and someone who cared. People who supported them throughout the process. A family surrounding them telling them what a great job they are doing. A positive outlook. You’d be amazed how a little optimism can go a long way.
But you do have to be careful and go slow. I had a family member once say to me that he didn’t know how to respond when someone was trying to help. That it seemed odd for people to be nice. That he couldn’t believe they were genuine or sincere. That’s what happens to someone years, decades into an addiction. They don’t trust. They are incredibly negative. And why wouldn’t they be. They are completely wrapped up in guilt and shame and they can’t find their way out, but I know you’ll want to keep trying. I did. So, the links!
This is a link for Alcoholics Anonymous.
Did you know that there is such a thing as Adult Children of Alcoholics and Dysfunctional Families?! I didn’t either until my therapist was all you should check out this website!
Gamblers Anonymous! This is a big one in my family. Go to that link for more advice on how to talk to and help your loved ones who are suffering from a myriad of gambling-related issues. It’s casino gambling in my family, maybe it’s sports betting in yours! Either way it can all be an addiction!
Pornography Addiction, while a very real thing, is still lacking in my opinion in help and recovery. Most of the recovery sites promise help through religion, if that is your thing cool. But I did find this health site that promises to help you learn how to talk to your family members who suffer with this addiction. I knew a guy once who watched porn seven or eight times a day, so much so it drove a wedge between him and his wife. She was a talker and liked to tell everyone about it. I was always so sad for her but never knew how to help. I wish I had this resource back then.
Substance Abuse is so profound and really there are so many places. Most places can be found through your local health department or polcie department. There are many shelters who take drug addicts, some are religious, some are secular. But here are some general places to get help and information: American Addiction Centers (they even have info on getting grants and financial help for those who need it), National Institute on Drug Abuse, and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration is always there to help with any sort of addiction. The number is on the top of this blog in case you need it quickly.
Here is the link to the Opioid Treatment Directory where you an find help in your state quickly.
And here are some other important links that may come in handy for you or someone you love:
Veteran’s Crisis Line– You can call anytime
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is also available anytime you need it. You can call the number below. There was recently a bill passed in congress to designate the number 988 for mental health emergencies and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is hoping to have the support and infrastructure in place in the next couple of years! But for now, call 1-800-273-8255 and talk to a live person whenever you feel like you need to.
Okay, I know this is a lot you guys. Maybe I should do this more than once a year? I just forget sometimes, mainly because my family members seem to be doing okay, then one falls and we go through the same old cycle again and I think oh man, there are other people out there losing sleep over their loves ones tonight, I should do something. I’m sorry it works this way, I will try to be better. But for now, go forth in bravery and help those who might need helped. And remember: Honestly is the best policy.
Be safe friends.