Learning to Live With An Addict
....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.
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?
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
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.
- Alcohol and Drug Addiction Recovery Programs, 800# Help Lines and Support Groups
- Alcoholics Anonymous :
Narcotics Anonymous homepage.