They say substance abuse is a family disease. What do they mean by that?
Drug addiction not only destroys the life of the abuser, but also impacts everyone around them. The parents, children, spouses, and even siblings feel the ripple effects of the insanity. While the addict is off in a drug-induced haze, the family is left to pick up the pieces.
We hear quite often how substance abuse can create turmoil for parents and spouses, but little is ever discussed about what it does to the brothers and sisters of the addict. Usually it’s the siblings that get forgotten about because the parents are wrapped up in saving their other child. Usually any troubles they have are trumped by the addict’s and usually, the sibling is left to figure it out for themselves.
These instances create feelings of jealousy, loneliness, anger and shame. Why should a sibling have to deal with something that is not their issue? Why do siblings feel the repercussions for something that they were simply born into? Do they have a choice other than to just deal with it?
Take Caitlin for instance. Caitlin’s brother is a recovering heroin addict. During her brother’s addiction, Caitlin constantly walked around on egg-shells, because his behavior was so unpredictable. She was filled with anger because her parents allowed her brother to continue to use drugs while living in their home. She felt like she lived in an alternate universe. Caitlin was embarrassed by him and wondered why this had to happen to her family.
One day, against her better judgment, she invited her friends over. While they were hanging out at the house, her brother was clearly high on heroin. The night consisted of her brother begging for $20 and her car keys, Caitlin being screamed and cursed at, and then questioned by her parents because she upset him. Caitlin was mortified and wondered how to explain what just happened to all of her friends.
Even after her brother went to rehab in Florida and began his journey of sobriety, Caitlin still bared the scars from his addiction. Substance abuse has a funny way of lingering around even after years of recovery. While her brother appeared to finally be at peace, Caitlin grew more resentful. How can he find happiness in sunny Florida and she was stuck cleaning up the wreckage?
It wasn’t until someone suggested Caitlin join a 12-step fellowship that she realized she may have a problem too . Al-Anon is where she met people should could relate to, people that had shared in similar experiences. For once, Caitlin felt like she belonged. She finally felt like she wasn’t forgotten about.
The sole purpose of her joining Al-Anon was to learn to let go of her anger, but the thing Caitlin found was much more than she ever expected. What she found was a design for living, a blueprint if you will. Substance abuse destroys entire families, but recovery offers a new perspective, a relationship with a Higher Power, and the knowledge to handle life on life’s terms.
Clearbrook has treated substance abuse and the family for over 40 years. Our educational family program offers tools and support for each individual family member affected by the disease. Through the process of treatment and education, entire families are restored. If you are the sibling of someone struggling with substance abuse, please contact our Admissions Specialists today. Clearbrook can help you and your loved one find a new way of living.