Throughout my life I’ve known many individuals, dear to me, who have battled with addiction.S ome have lost their battle. Some are still fighting. I’ve helplessly watched as they fell into a life altering abyss, destroying relationships, losing jobs, and living on the streets. Their behaviors growing further from those I once knew. The felony charges slowly piling up. My heart breaking for the amazing person I once knew. Addiction has ravaged my life even though I’ve never abused alcohol or drugs. I’ve faced my own battles because of addiction with helplessness, hopelessness, and then depression, inferiority, manipulation, deceit, isolation, and heartbreak.
I lived so many years thinking I knew what addiction was because I had seen it in those I loved for so long. I thought I could help my loved ones who struggled. I thought I could take away their pain. Instead, I let addiction consume me until I felt that my own life was spinning out of control. I didn’t recognize myself anymore. I didn’t like the person I’d become. I’d let addiction steal my life as it had stolen theirs. I knew I needed help, but didn’t know how to get it. I began going to family support groups and educating myself about addiction. I went to as many meetings as I could. I kept going back no matter how I felt that day. I forced myself to do what I had been expecting of others. If I was not willing to get help then how could I expect someone incapable of rationally evaluating their life to get help? If I didn’t go to meetings then how could I expect my loved ones to attend meetings?
Throughout this process I have met so many people who felt the same pain I had. I also met individuals who had survived addiction and were living in long-term recovery. I began to understand the hold addiction had on my loved ones and how their brains were altered as a result of long-term use. I found a home and a loving, supportive family. They saved my life. Slowly, my hope and faith were restored. I began volunteering and speaking out about addiction.
Addiction is a family disease. The longer we live in denial of that, the longer addiction steals our happiness. Stigma and shame prevent us from seeking help. I can not express the complete and utter freedom I experienced from being open about my struggles. Speaking out is the only way to break the stigma that kept me isolated for years. God led me to a whole community that supports me and my loved ones. I now know that my loved ones never intended to hurt me, that it is a symptom of their active addiction and they truly can not control their actions. I learned that I can’t change them, but I can change me.
My recovery family has taught me how to take my life back and live a healthy, happy life. For me, taking care of myself does not mean turning my back on those who struggle with addiction. It means the opposite. It means emotionally stepping back and focusing on the things I enjoy and that bring me peace. It also means respecting them and empowering them to seek their own help. One day my loved ones will reach a point in their lives where they do seek help for themselves and I must take care of me so that I can help in the right ways when that time comes. I can’t change them, but I can love and support them so they can change themselves.
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