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Learning to Live With An Addict

Updated on August 8, 2013
Kaitlin and I.
Kaitlin and I.

....And Not Blaming Yourself When She Screws Up

Allow me to begin with an explanation: it is to my personal knowledge and belief that every family undergoes trials and tribulations at the hands of its own members. Whether it be an alcoholic uncle, drug-addicted cousin, or simply an annoying and meandering grandparent, each and every family experiences some means of disappointment or trouble during the course of its existence.

My "troubled" family member is my youngest sister, someone whom, at one point in time, tore my family as I knew it apart.

My sister is twenty years old, and for the vast majority of her life she has committed crimes both against the other members of her family as well as the many friends whom surrounded her on a daily basis. She is a much-loved burden whom has exhausted every single individual that has tried to care for and change her for the better. More recently, this individual has been myself, and even as I write this I am suffering from the crimes that she has committed against me.

I do not wish to allude to any belief that I do not love my sister with all my heart. In fact, such an idea does not even exist. However, after all of the things that she has done to myself and my family, I struggle to forgive and accept her for what she is- a criminal.

The Costs

My youngest sister has led a troubled life. By its very definition and in modern terms, "troubled" in this sense insinuates a teenaged pregnancy, extensive drug and alcohol use, prison confinement, identity theft, petty and grand larceny, amongst others. In actuality, the list is too grand to fully recover here. But what is more important than the vast numbers of crimes that she has committed is what my family- including myself- has done to move on.

To be honest, my family has not progressed well. There was a period during which my mother and I did not speak, which in itself was a direct result of what my sister had done to her. Very recently, my mother and I have begun to repair this tremulous relationship but the damage has already been done; I chose to estrange myself from her because of the actions she chose to take against my sister, and now I myself am suffering from the same betrayal. It's ironic- and also a little ponderous- of how things tend to work themselves into a full circle.

I personally have not coped well either. I now experience anger issues, problems that I have never had before in my life. These issues often present themselves in the face of the one person who has stood by me during my every trying period, and that is my significant other. Poor thing that he is, I oftentimes unleash my full fury upon his undeserving head because (Freud observation!) it's easier to do so then to confront my little, baby sister whom I have protected and watched over for many, many years. We redirect our anger and frustration at others who are undeserving when we are afraid of directly confronting the person responsible. This type of avoidance almost always has detrimental effects on personal relationships, and I struggled for many years to learn how to cope with my anger peacefully and in lieu of aggression. It is essential to remember that whereas you are hurting, there are others around you who are desperately trying to absorb some of that hurt for you.

To summarize: the most important lesson that I have learned from these collection of episodes is that I am not to blame. More often than not, the people closest to the addict must struggle to cope with feelings of guilt and betrayal. And whereas this is true for myself as well, it is infinitely important to remember one's limits as well as keep a good, solid head on one's shoulders.

Still, to this day, my middle sister will not speak to my youngest. Yet another once-close relationship in need of desperate repair.

The Victims of Addiction

Do you personally know someone who has or is currently struggling with addiction?

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Love Trumps All

It is easy to see the effects of a loved one's addictions and dangerous behaviors on one's conscious. The very fibers of my being have been ripped apart and stitched back together so many times, my insides probably look like a patched-up ragdoll. But the most amazing thing in the reality of this situation is the love that I still have for this person whom I spent most of my life protecting, this woman who is quite obviously lost within the power of her own addictions.

I myself have flaws. We all do, even the most superior of us are imperfect in some way and many kinds of flaws are more obvious than others. But the addict is the most flawed person of all; unable to cope with the harsh realities of life and the world around them, they turn to more synthetic means of understanding.

Do these people deserve our forgiveness. Not always; but it would be arguable to say that they don't deserve our love, either.

All Three of Us

Update, 2013

I wanted to offer an update on my sister's progress as of late. She recently completed another stint in jail- this time for one year- and is now home with her daughter. She is struggling to re-conform to society's expectations of her as well as the expectations of her family. So far, things have been progressing well with the exception of minor setbacks. But there will always be bumps in the road- it's simply a matter of getting over them together.


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    • profile image

      Jussara Scotton 6 years ago

      Hi jjackson,

      I myself have a brother who suffered and made ??us suffer for 20 years with substance abuse problems. Today, at age 34 and after several treatments, medications and hospitalizations he's been clean for one year. The consequences remain, since he did not seize the opportunities of life because most of the time he was drunk or drugged (or both).

      During this time my other brothers and I turned away, we could no longer stand watching the same scene that kept repeating over and over a million times.

      Today we are reconnecting to support him in this new beginning.

      I hope your sister doesn't take long to realize she has more to lose than anyone else.

      As for you, don't let your sister's problems interfere in your personal life, you might end up addicted to it. Not easy, but worth a try.

      Great hub...

    • Artist-For-Hire profile image

      Artist-For-Hire 6 years ago from Western Australia you've really got me!

      My family fell apart about 15yrs ago. Alcholic parents/addicted (Hn),jailed bro's x2/a bit of person mischief in my adolesence. Yeah...about 15yrs & counting. Completely normal family before that. My parents were (are, I suppose) good, honest hard working folks who instilled good values in their children.

      Not sure how it happened...

      Fact is very few people break free from this lifestyle (because it's not just an addiction - it's a way of life) without first reaching rock bottom. And that's a different depth for every addict.

      Withdraw yourself...knowing exactky what I ask of you...withdraw yourself. So long as she has your support and a soft place to fall, it will continue, she has no need to cease.

      Parents I feel especially sorry for - in no way does their childs decision reflect on them. Read this and know now that there's nothing in my childhood that, had it been done differently, would have change the end result. Just as there is NOTHING you can do to change what is happening now.

      My heart aches for you.

    • jjackson786 profile image

      Jennifer 6 years ago from Pennsylvania

      Thank you both TREMENDOUSLY for your comments. It helps to know that there are other people in the world who have been- and still are- experiencing the same things I am.

      To Jussara- it is very uplifting to know that your brother pulled through his addictions. My sister is still young, only 20-years old, and I hope that one day she will experience the same peace that your brother was able to find. Many kudos to you and your other siblings for being capable of reconnecting to support him once again.

      To Artist-For-Hire- Everything you said in your comment made perfect sense, and oftentimes that same type of logic is what the family members of an addict need to hear. I have been that "soft place" for her very recently, only for her to have used me and in more ways than one. I do believe that she will hit rock bottom after this latest incident, and I can only hope that in the future I will be able to view this point in my life with as much clarity as you.

      Again, thank you both for your comments!

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