I grew up with a brother who struggled with addiction for most of his life. I cared for him in his later years until I couldn’t do it anymore. Sadly, he wasn’t able to maintain his sobriety and died.
It was so confusing to me as a child. I was only 7 years old when he became an addict. My brother was an adolescent in when he became addicted.
My parents didn’t even drink alcohol. None of us, my other brothers or I had any addiction issues.
I have spoken with my therapist about this and he said that we saw the damage that addiction caused in his life and vowed that we would not allow this to happen in our lives.
My therapist also said that he has seen it go the other way too, where siblings or children of addicts follow in the footsteps of family members and struggle themselves.
Anyway, I just finished watching ‘Bill W.’ on Amazon Prime. This is an excellent documentary that I highly recommended watching if you are interested in this topic.
The story of William G. Wilson, the founder of AA is told beautifully in this documentary.
My heart goes out to all who struggle with this disease. It’s a disease that not only causes them pain but will also affect everyone in their family, their friends and people in their workplace.
It was a lonely existence, and I became the one in the family that everyone leaned on. Eventually, I did shed that role as the family caretaker and scapegoat. I'm still a loner and even more so since the pandemic. I wrestle with this a lot. I can imagine being the sole caretaker of an alcoholic parent in their later years. It is a lot of baggage to contend with.
I would urge anyone to join Al-Anon. Recovery is a life long process. I'm still learning about myself even at the grand old age of sixty-five. Just take it a day at a time. Whatever you are dealing with, just remember; "And this too shall pass." Just do the best you can one day at a time.
Thank you for posting. You will definitely understand what I have been through with my brother. He was addicted to heroin. His best friend introduced him to it at a very young age.
I have also been to Al-Anon and Nar-Anon. They helped tremendously along with therapy.
I am 67. When my brother was struggling, it was a ‘hush hush’ generation where such things were not commonly discussed. There were no groups for children to participate in. I went later on as an adult.
As a very young child I would be waiting in the car with my mom and brothers, while my oldest brother went into get his methadone.
Mom told us that he was getting medicine. I knew something was off, but I didn’t know what. Kids are intuitive and sense things.
He would get clean off and on. He even owned a successful business at one point in time. When he had an awful accident, he slipped back into addiction trying to cope with his pain from his serious injuries. These situations are incredibly sad, aren’t they?
I am glad that I watched the documentary about the founder of AA. It tells a lot about his personal life and is extremely interesting but it did bring back certain memories for me that at times I would rather forget.
It's one of the main reasons I moved from WI with my children who were 9 and 11 at the time, down to NC so they could no longer be hurt by it/their father.
And when my son was very young he would always say that he was never going to be like his father, but sadly years later he became just like his father.
It was heartbreaking to say the least. But thank you Jesus both my ex and son are now sober and have been for a good while.
It wasn't until I quit enabling my son and turned him over to God, that he finally got the help that he needed to get sober.
And it was Al-Anon that made me aware that what I thought was "helping" my son, was actually hurting him because I was enabling him. Boy, once that light bulb went off there was no turning back for me, and the enabling stopped pretty much cold turkey.
And the rest is history.
Growing up, my parents were teetotalers. This was mainly because my mother - who had witnessed her own father's mean behavior toward her mother when he drank - told my father that she would not live with a man who drank. So that was that and thankfully, my childhood home was alcohol/addiction free.
But that didn't stop me and my brother from watching my favorite aunt - my dad's twin sister - descend into the hell of addiction to pharmaceuticals. Her doctor prescribed Valium in the 60's for her "nervous breakdown" - back then it was a new drug and docs were handing it out like candy. She was told it wasn't addictive.
I remember watching her lay out her pills into 4 piles that she would take that day. She was also clearly psychologically addicted.
She had a wonderful job with the railroad and they checked her into a cushy, expensive rehab center in the 80's. One weekend my dad picked me up and we drove to visit her. I vividly remember being there. I watched the residents light their cigarettes by sticking them into a hole in the wall. My aunt was unable to get clean - maybe that wasn't the point - I don't know - but I do know that when she was released, she was taking Elavil instead of Valium. And on it went.
She struggled for the rest of her life until she died at 61 from complications brought on by years of taking pills.
The impact that it had on me was profound. I vowed then to never take any sedatives or anti-anxiety pharmaceuticals.
I do believe that addiction is genetic in part. I tasted my first alcohol - wine - at a Christmas party at the age of 14 and I loved it immediately. My twin brother also began to experiment with alcohol when he could get his hands on it and he loved it more than I did.
We both drank our way through high school - when we could manage to get to a party - then college - then into our twenties. I met my husband in college.. He came from a family of raging alcoholics. At the time, it didn't seem to be that serious of an issue to me.
But as I've said many times, it's all fun and games until it's not.
We married and started our family. (I did not drink while pregnant or nursing.) We hung out with other young parents who drank and it was all fun and games. Lots of kiddos running around and the adults sloshing booze. Major damage was being done.
Then one day after being wretched and worried for awhile, I woke up. I never drank again. My husband began to despise me and refused to join me in sobriety. Eventually he left me, divorced me and drank his way into alienation from our children (their choice) and death alone in a motel room at 60 years old after losing literally everything - his children, his health, most of his money, his most recent job. He was found a few days later by the motel manager.
And now we have my dear twin brother who also drank his way to an early death at 60 years old after years of suffering from the effects of alcohol abuse. Almost the same trajectory as my ex-husband, interestingly. His cancer doctor once told me "it's his addiction...you need to let him have it." Seemed cruel at the time, but he was correct - I was becoming codependent.
I could go and on and on about the devastation that addiction brings to not only the addict, but to the people who love them.
One thing I've learned is there is no way to help an addict unless the addict wants it badly enough. We can't love them into sobriety. We can't lecture them into sobriety. We can't threaten them into sobriety.
Peace to all who suffer from addiction and from loving an addict.
I am so sorry for your losses due to addiction.
I once asked my Dad about longeivity in our family and he replied "I don't know Kid. The women seemed to live, but the men all drank themselves to death". In his late middle age, struggling to deal with the facts my brother had just "come out", my Dad himself began to drink too much. He pulled himself out. Stopped cold one day and never had another drop; lived to his 90s.
My brother and I laughed all our lives about the fact that if we were not such control freaks we would have surely been alcoholics. We loved what alcohol did for us. By nature almost monklike and reclusive, alcohol could free us to enjoy other people. And I saw pretty early on the allure. It's just that I was so terrified of being out of control I couldn't allow myself to "go there".
I think there is a thin line between using alcohol and drugs to "loosen up" or to "medicate what hurts", and tripping on OVER that line into being lost. I have a deep respect, a deep understanding, and a healthy fear of alcohol given my family history. During Covid my partner and I decided just not to bring it into the house, tho theretofore we had enjoyed a glass of wine at night. Just this feeling. Don't know how to say it. This deep knowledge that a glass goes easily to a glass and one half, to two, to a bottle a night. And then where???
Since man began he has fermented things to drink, to "take off the edge". Has used plants to deliver him from himself into a world of dreams and freedom. There's just nothing new here. And we all have stories of friends and loved ones who battle the bottle bottle, the pill bottle, whatever form "deliverance from real life takes".
As always, need. An interesting subject.
Annit, thank you for more to your story. You were there for your Sis. Over and over. If she hid things from you it was because she knew you were there for her and didn't want you to have to be again. You were a good sister as you are a good daughter, wife, granddaughter, foster-mom and aunt. I am so sorry for your loss. And Need, for yours as well.
You have brought up some very interesting points.
I do agree that some people would prefer not to speak about these issues and I certainly respect everyone’s privacy.
I would have appreciated having a place to speak openly about what was going on in our family when I was younger.
Or at least having someone explain things to me. Children are intuitive and I knew that something wasn’t right. Sometimes, I feel like knowing the truth isn’t as hard as wondering what the truth might be.
I don’t ever want anyone to feel as I did when I was younger. My parents treated my brother’s addiction like a huge secret that I was never to speak of.
No one should have to be afraid or ashamed to talk about addiction in their families.
They didn’t know how to handle addiction back then. I have a lot of respect for the founder of AA and publicly speaking about his own experience with addiction.
Neither my brother or I are alcoholics but we both married them.
There is a 50/50 chance a child of an alcoholic will either become one or marry one.
An addict will be an addict all their lives, it is just a matter of whether they are sober not, that is it.
Enabling is the worst thing we can do, if they don't falls to their knees they have no chance of getting back up and becoming sober for life.
Not my rules, just how it works.
Your sister’s story is heartbreaking, just like my brother’s story was. I’m so sorry for all that you have been through.
It’s an ongoing struggle for an addict. They can be doing well but the temptation is always there beside them.
Lord help them if they run into friends who are still using, because one slip sends them down a spiraling path again.
I saw my brother overdose more than once and it is something that I will never forget. He destroyed his health by using drugs for so long. His lifestyle caught up with him and he died from liver failure.
Her friend has gone into rehab for her alcoholism. Sadly, she is going through a bitter divorce with a custody battle over her two year old daughter.
Even worse, she has started dating a guy who she met in rehab, which is never a good idea. Plus, this person had a problem with alcohol and heroin.
My daughter feels that they are both still using and has decided that she can no longer be friends with this young woman who she’s known since childhood. It’s so sad. My daughter wishes her well but doesn’t want to be around her friend’s new boyfriend.
It’s very common for people to relapse and it usually takes a few attempts in rehab before a person is able to regain sobriety.
I have found that most people who have never experienced addiction don’t realize how terribly hard it is for a person to stop using. It’s so frustrating for them and their families.
I know that I had a very difficult time believing my brother when he would become clean. I was always waiting for the other shoe to drop.
I desperately wanted to believe that he could once and for all get clean for good. Sadly, that day never came for him. I’m always delighted when others make it to recovery and are able to remain sober.
Heredity makes me probe to addiction so I have tried to be careful.
I am glad that you are aware and careful about drinking too much.
It is interesting how some of us are very careful since we have a family history and others sadly fall into following the same path as their family members.
It saved my sanity and changed me for the better.
I am so sorry for the loss of your friends. We feel so helpless in these situations.
If an addict isn’t sick and tired of being sick and tired, they will not agree to entering rehab.
Sometimes, they are in deep denial like my brother was. It’s terribly sad to witness.
For some, it’s incredibly difficult to understand. Addiction is a disease.