Addiction; coping as a family

by Erin Lawless

Approximately one in three people suffer from some sort of addiction according to charity, Action on Addiction.

Addiction doesn’t have to mean being exclusively dependent on drugs and alcohol. Addiction comes in many forms. You can be addicted to electronics, coffee, smoking and more. No matter the addiction, it is essential it is seen for what it is; an illness and like many illnesses, it affects more than just the person infected.

Cigarette Addiction

Annalise Macleod, sister to long-time addict Connor, said: “For the past fourteen years I have watched my family, as I had known it, slowly crumble around me. For the first 7 years of my brother’s addiction we just turned a blind eye to it. We hoped he would just grow out of it. This, however, is where my relationship with my brother began to slowly but surely decline.  Over the years we experienced both verbal and physical abuse which ranged from violent shouting and even swinging knives at us on occasion.  I truly hated him and I wished that he would die. It was tearing the family apart.”

It is only natural that the main attention will need to be on the addict and their recovery, however, it is important to remember and acknowledge how it affects the family as a unit. Although only one person is suffering from the illness, this doesn’t necessarily mean that it will not impact you or the family of the addict.

Phone Addiction

Michelle Piper, whose two sons suffered from addiction, said: “Just over two years ago, two of my sons died within months of each other from addiction. I couldn’t understand what I had done to deserve this. I blamed myself as a mother, a provider and a friend. I believed that I must have done something for life to turn out the way it had and that I could have somehow prevented this outcome.”

Anne Sutherland, whose son is a recovering addict, said: “After years of living with a son who suffers from the monstrous affliction of drug addiction. I stood watching, hopelessly, as a once vibrant young life gradually slipped into the misery and despair as he cheated and stole to feed this monster which overwhelmed him. I was helpless on the side-lines alone as his illness spread like a cancer throughout the family.

As he was addicted to drugs, I became addicted to the emotional feelings his drug taking was having on me. The guilt was there, where did I go wrong? The anger I felt, how was he so weak willed? But as time passed, we found a community to support us. As a group we get our strength from the support we have for each other, and the realisation that we are no longer alone.”

During difficult times it is important to remember that you are not alone in this fight. Addiction, although a powerful thing, is an illness like any other and as a family you, and your loved ones can overcome its symptoms.

Gambling Addiction

There are many different support systems available to families of sufferers in order to get the help they deserve. This can include going to things such as AA meetings yourself, discussing your issues within support groups and exploring different methods of recovery for addicts.

Mary McNally, author of “Hope and Inspiration: Words from affected families by addiction” said: “My advice for families of those suffering addiction would be to keep loving their children but not to love them in the way they have been doing because it isn’t right, it’s wrong. 

I remember saying to somebody ‘the last ten pound that you gave your son, how would you feel if he was found dead because he had overdosed buying whatever it is that was in that packet.’ So don’t give them money, you wouldn’t give them poison, so why would you do that?”

If you, or someone you know is suffering from addiction, check out my latest article “Cenacolo; facing your addiction” to find out more about a community founded to battle addiction through going back to basics.

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