I wanted to write about a topic close to my heart. How addiction affects our families. The reason I am writing about this topic is because I believe many people who struggle with addiction do not realize how much it affects our loved ones. From my own personal experience, it broke my family apart.
Growing up, I lived in a household where we were taught everything was as normal as could be. My mother and father worked, everyone went to school. It felt like your everyday middle-class American family. This all began to change once my older brother started to act different. A little background story on my older brother was that from a very young age, he was never very “normal”. He was quiet, withdrawn from our family gatherings and for a lack of a better term “off.” I was able to notice this at a very young age, and I also noticed how much my family ignored it.
My family had no desire in seeking out my brother’s anxiety issues because it meant we were not normal; and my mother could not talk about anything less than how perfect her family was to her family and friends? She would be ashamed more than anything. So, for years, my brother’s issues became silenced, until he found a way to cope on his own.
My teen brother began drinking when he was 16-years-old. When he turned 17, he dropped out of high school for failing the past two grades, and essentially losing all his friends since they were able to move on with their lives. Once school was out of the picture, you could only imagine where that left him. He began to drink from 9 am and stay drinking until the next day, or till he passed out. He wasn’t eating, he was losing his teeth, lost all care for his physical appearance; and after a few short months, I no longer recognized my older brother. Someone I looked up to since I was old enough to think.
Fast forward 10 years, my brother is still alive (how? I’m not sure.), homeless, doing drugs, and still drinking more than a fish needing water. The biggest question you could ask yourself is, how is he affording drugs? How is he affording booze? He’s never worked a day in his life! The answer, my mother.
God bless my mother, who ultimately enabled my brother from the first day of his addiction to his first day in rehab. She would often give him money to buy alcohol because she simply could not watch him go through withdrawals. She would shelter him because she could not bare to watch him live on the streets. Even when he was passed out in my yard from drugs, which she paid for, she would call me to carry him in because she could not bare to see him. This caused a divide.
The divide in my family was simple. The fights were never ending, and sometimes my best escape to sanity was to go to school or work. The fighting in my house revolved around my brother and whether we were doing the right thing, or were we killing him? I remember fighting with my mother everyday about him. I was mad at her if she kicked him out, I was mad at him if she let him stay. I was mad at everything because in my mind she caused his addiction.
It was not until my brother almost died, that my mother decided she could not help him anymore. When he was on his own and realized he that he almost died, he finally told us he wanted help. No one believed him, until he got into a car and went to teen drug rehab center for the first time.
While my brother was in drug rehab, the arguing at home started to become less, and we started to rebuild our relationship. Without the biggest stressor in our household, we were able to finally have the typical middle -call American family. My mother, to this day, blames herself for my brother’s addiction because she ignored his anxiety when he was younger, and because she enabled his addictive behaviors.
It’s been three years since my brother has picked up a bottle of booze or bought any drugs. My mother finally stopped enabling him and when she finally shut herself out, he got the help he needed. However, that never mended all the issues that occurred over the last 10 years. The stress, the fighting, the crying and even the praying could never be forgotten. Till this day, I still feel like I lost my brother. Even though he is physically here, he isn’t who he was before he picked up that bottle. Our relationship isn’t the same, and we barely talk to each other.
The point of this story was to share with you that addiction hurts anyone and everyone you love. You may not realize it within your day to day life, but addiction takes a toll on everyone around you. Sometimes you don’t even realize it until it’s too late. My family’s bridge was able to be rebuilt before it was completely burned to the ground, but it still has the same foundation. We will never be who we were prior to this experience, but it gave us the opportunity to learn and grow from this experienced.
Your family will love you through anything and they will love you through your addiction. But, that doesn’t always mean they will stick around. I hope one day you can see the damage addiction brings, and what your addiction can bring. And when you get sober, I hope you can rebuild those relationships that were ruined from your addiction. So, if you’re actively using, in recovery, or the family member of an addict, I want you to know that you’re not alone.
Dr. Vikram Tarugu, M.D, is the CEO of Detox of South Florida, Inc and medical professional focused on addiction. A veteran in the medical field with over 25 years of professional experience. He is a consultant for many South Florida Rehab centers. Patients travel from allover the US to seek his help with addiction and Hepatitis C treatment.
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