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Addiction is a Family Disease

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According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD), addiction is a family disease that stresses the family to the breaking point, impacts the stability of the home, the family’s unity, mental health, physical health, finances, and overall family dynamics.

What is an addict thinking? What is my daughter thinking?

My mother often wondered this as she paced the kitchen floor during the early hours of the morning. I didn’t sleep for two years, and neither did she. I didn’t sleep because I was high on massive quantities of speed. My mother didn’t sleep because she was waiting for that phone call that every parent dreads.

I have tears in my eyes writing this as I imagine my mother on one side of the country lying in bed worrying about me while I was on the opposite side of the country lying in bed worrying about me. Drug addiction and alcoholism is a family disease and affects not only the addict but everyone who comes in to contact with them – especially their loved ones.

Addiction Hurts the Ones We Love

I cannot comprehend the agony I put my parents through as a result of my drinking and drugging. Selfishly, I hope never to experience what they have had to. I cannot imagine what it must feel like to get a call from your daughter who is having delusions and paranoid thoughts, speaking incoherent and scrambled nonsense. I do not know what it feels like to hear that your daughter has been sexually assaulted as a result of being intoxicated. Also, I do not know what it feels like to have a child disappear for months on end, deplete the family finances, destroy a promising marriage and hurdle into rapid self-destruction.

My parents lost their daughter and had little hope of getting her back. After destroying another family Christmas, my father drove me to the airport. My father, who I love so dearly, looked at me and said, “I don’t know if we will ever speak again.”

My father said, “I don’t feel like you think I am a good father. And I don’t feel like you love me and I can’t do this anymore.”

I was shocked. I knew if I opened my mouth I would sob. Next, I got out of that car and walked into the airport. I did not understand why my father felt that way. I did not remember that I would often blackout and scream and curse at my father, blame him for my disease and tell him that he did not understand me and everything was his fault.

One day, I walked into the airport and got a drink as I felt that I needed one. I did not want to feel the enormity of the pain I had caused my Dad. Next, I sat at the airport bar and drank. I felt numb. I didn’t think drugs and alcohol were to blame. Alcohol and drugs couldn’t be the problem because then the solution would be so simple. All I had to do was stop drinking and stop using drugs, but that was terrifying to me. All I thought about was drinking and drugs.

Relying on my prescription bottles to bring me comfort and stability. I could not function without Adderall. I did not know how to sleep or calm my anxiety without Xanax, and my panic attacks wouldn’t go away without Valium, and when I got too jacked up on Adderall, I had to smoke pot to even out, and when I was too high on cocaine, I needed to drink to come down. It all made perfect sense to me. What were my parents thinking?

What was wrong with them? They were delusional. They were the sick ones. I mean, look at the way they treated me! Didn’t they understand my pain? Didn’t they get why I had to drink and do drugs?

How is Addiction a Family Disease?

The disease of alcoholism affects families in many ways. Just like the addict has a mental and physical obsession with drugs and alcohol, the family can develop a similar obsession to stop the destructive behavior of the addict. The entire family can begin to feel anger, resentment, confusion, shame, failure, sadness, depression, fear, loneliness and jealousy. I thought I was the only one experiencing these emotions. Also, I had no idea my parents were right there alongside me. I wasn’t the only one hurting. Everyone I loved was hurting too.

When I came into addiction treatment seven months ago due to my disease, I thought I had destroyed my family. I thought my father and I would never speak again. I thought my mother would never trust or forgive me. By the time I hit my bottom, my parents had given up on me, and rightfully so. Today I have hope because a miracle has taken place.

With the help of Clear Behavioral Health, Clarity House, and twelve-step programs I have an incredible relationship with my parents today. We have trust, love, and understanding. We have begun to heal the wounds my disease inflicted. These miracles are just the beginning of an incredible journey. Sobriety, community, and education when combined have power. Not only did I get help, but my parents did as well. They too had trauma they needed to face as a result of my drinking. Others took their power back and got help as well. They have practiced detaching with love, creating healthy boundaries and having their own twelve step and spiritual practice. They take care of themselves, and I take care of myself. There is hope and families can recover. One day at a time.

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