We like to keep things positive and lighthearted, but life has its downsides. We are opening up about a topic that has dramatically impacted both of our lives. Addiction. If you are reading this, the chances are that you know someone who has suffered from substance abuse. Addiction comes in many forms, but they all have the same pain in common. We have felt that pain and understand that addiction affects more than addicts. Loved ones, friends, and family members all are susceptible to the pain and heartbreak that follows an addict. These are our real, honest and raw stories about our experience with addiction affecting those we love.
This is something that is very hard for me to open up about. I am a very private person when it comes to my family, and I am very protective over those that I love. There are only a handful of people that know about this side of my life. Without those people, I probably wouldn’t have made it through all the shit I’ve endured over the years. I’m forever grateful for them. My younger sister started doing heroin five years ago. Before that it was pills. I still remember when she told me about the heroin and the urge I instantly had to want to help her. To “fix” her. I didn’t know it then, but you can’t ever “fix” an addict. Addicts can only help themselves, and until they want that help, there is nothing anyone can do. Our mother took custody of my niece and moved to another state while leaving my sister behind in Arizona. She abandoned her and left me to pick up the pieces. I have always felt responsible for my sister. In high school, our mom had an asshole of a boyfriend who lived with us. It was during those years that I became very protective of my sister.
You can’t “fix” an Addict
I thought I could fix her, make her better, help her get her daughter back, etc. but I was so naive. I was there by her side in the hospital when she overdosed. And I was there at her rehab a few times a week to check on her and bring clean clothes. We opened our doors to her when she left rehab for the first time. It wasn’t long until she stole from us and went back to living in the streets and doing drugs. By this time so much damage had been done that my family was completely ripped apart. I had no relationship with our mother or my niece, and my sister was someone I no longer knew.
I finally got my sister out of Arizona, and she went off to Texas where our Dad lives in hopes of starting a new life. She couldn’t be trusted in an airport so a train was our only option. I stood and watched until the doors closed and that train left. There was a feeling of emptiness when I got her on that train to Texas. I felt like I failed at taking care of her. She wasn’t my responsibility but watching my sister slowly kill herself was something I couldn’t let happen without attempting to help.
Struggling to Stay Sober
She had a period of sobriety but never really had a “recovery” period. After moving to Texas, she got pregnant back to back which brought about two years of sobriety. She managed to stay clean for a while but recently fell back into her old habits. History repeated itself when she left her two youngest children and went back to her life of drug use and poor selection of “friends.” I couldn’t understand why she would do this all over again. She had a job, a car, two babies to take care of and was on the right path to getting her oldest daughter back. She just threw it all away, again. I took her into our home a few months ago, and she detoxed for a week straight. She was the thinnest I have ever seen her, and I just wanted to help her, again.
I believed her that she wanted to get clean, that she wanted help. You want to believe an addict every time they say, “I’m not gonna do this again. This was the last time. I promise.” But, it wasn’t the last time, and addicts lie so much that I think they genuinely believe their lies. I got her clean, fed, gave her some clothes and bought her a new cell phone. It’s hard dealing with an addict, and we fought constantly. Those 2 1/2 weeks felt like months. She was adamant she wanted to go back to Austin and “get her shit together.” She got on a bus from Dallas and spent a few weeks in rehab. She ended up checking herself out, “lost” her phone and all of her possessions she just regained and relapsed all over again. Every day that passes that I don’t hear from her is hard. She has no idea the pain she is inflicting on others.
My brother in law suffers from the same substance abuse that my sister does. It’s sad to see our younger siblings just throw their lives away for a drug. My husband and I understand each other’s pain and know what it’s like to wonder where they are, if they are OK, if they are eating, if they are safe, etc. I had to cut off communication with my brother in law a few years ago because the drugs just became too much. It was too hard to see him high all the time. Due to the drugs, both of our siblings suffer from mental psychosis issues now as well. Drugs and mental illness all too often end up going hand in hand.
Last weekend my sister called me wanting to come to my house. I told her she’s not allowed in our home if she’s not clean. On top of that, I don’t condone her behavior and throwing her responsibilities as a mother out the window. I don’t respect it and won’t enable her. No, I told her no. There was a mix of emotions that I felt after she hung up on me. Telling her “no” was something I did for her and me. She doesn’t see it now, but I hope one day she will. I haven’t heard from her since and I have no way to reach her. Saying no to an addict can be a very hard thing to do. I have watched my Dad over the years as he has dealt with my sisters manipulation and it breaks my heart. The hope he has for her is never ending but he is slowly learning that he has to say no and that he has to stick with it. We aren’t turning our backs on her but we are firmly letting her know where we stand.
Wishing For Sobriety
I miss my little sister, and I hope one day to have her back. The old her. The loving, kind, and funny sister that I remember. Not the one who leaves her kids, lies continuously and hurts everyone around her, but most of all hurts herself. I’ve accepted that I can’t fix her, but I can be here to support her when she’s ready to fix herself. Unfortunately, there’s nothing I can do but wait for this freight train she is riding to come to a halt. Until then there’s no point in me trying to jump in front to stop it.
Substance abuse wasn’t apart of my life. But that all changed the day I met my husband. His older sister started dealing with substance abuse at the age of 13. Her drug of choice back then was alcohol. Their mom said she would never forget getting the phone call from her friend’s mom saying “Can you please come get your daughter, she is out of control.” Her daughter and her friends had got into a six-pack of wine coolers. The three of them all had one, and she ended up having the extra three and whatever else the other girls couldn’t finish. This might sound like an innocent teenage thing to do, but it was the start of her substance abuse.
Fast-forward a few years, and now she was introduced to narcotics after being a local pageant queen at the age of 17. Crazy how something so glamorous can lead you down the darkest road you will ever be on. The pageant life consisted of looking your best at all times, attending parties where you’re wined and dined by much older men, who also expected you to do basically whatever they wanted. She claims that she was expected to stay up all hours of the night and in high spirits. That’s where cocaine came into the picture. As the events and pageants continued, so did the cocaine. As she got older and began getting her more womanly figure, other girls who were joining the competition were younger and ‘thinner’ than her. So once again, cocaine was the drug she turned to so she didn’t get the craving to eat and could maintain her pageant weight. A few years later, pageants were done but her addiction wasn’t.
Substance Abuse As An Adult
My husband remembers her being about 21 when she was at their family home as she locked herself in the bathroom for hours. She came out, passed out on the floor and lost consciousness. She had overdosed. My husband called 911 as their mom is yelling at her just to breathe. The ambulance rushed in and revived her. No one knows exactly what she had overdosed on, but it was either cocaine or crank. This is a sight that continues to haunt my husband til this day.
Never Ending Cycle
Alcohol was still an issue. It had always been a part of her life because it was the easiest thing to get. She would drink and drive regularly and of course, ended up with a DUI. By the time she got her first DUI, she had already been to two state-funded rehab programs and two rehabs that my in-laws paid for. At 23, she moved in with her aunt who she would party with regularly. At one of these parties, she has introduced to this man who she instantly fell for. She was always looking for that male attention, and she found it in a guy who is 13+ years older than her. Within 60 days they had moved in together. My mother in law remembers receiving a call from him complaining about her daughter and saying that she wanted to be taken to the hospital because she feels bugs in her skin. Right away, mom knew she was using again and told him that he needs to take her to the ER. The emergency room called these “coke bugs,” and people will start feeling this sensation and hallucinations after doing cocaine or other drugs.
She and her new boyfriend would get in a fight, and that would drive her to use. Honestly, ANY negativity would be her excuse to use. Shortly after moving in together, she ends up pregnant. Now she’s 24, pregnant by a man she barely knows and still struggling with addiction. Did her pregnancy force her to stop her drug use? For a moment it did. However, she relapsed while she was pregnant and this time, went to jail. After doing her short sentence in jail, she comes out, and she and this man decide to get married. Then she has two more kids back to back which kept her sober for the time being.
Rehab after rehab, program after program, she still couldn’t get her act together. She never acts like a wife and would meet men in these programs and AA meetings that would give her the attention she wanted, only to use her and her husband’s money. Sober living never worked either. She has easily been to 20 different rehabs up and down California. I have been to 3 different rehabs to visit her and take part in family counseling sessions. After the second one, my husband was over it. The last one we went to, I had to convince him and force him to go. But now, I have given up too because it’s the same cycle. After she got in the biggest trouble yet, she was sent to prison for a year. We all thought that was the last straw and she would have to change. Nope! She’s back at it doing the same things and running back to my in-laws home to detox week after week. Finally, we all had to cut her off. We can’t keep letting her abuse and hurt us like this.
Our biggest worry is her children. We stay in close contact with them and let them know that they’re loved, we’re here for them, and NOTHING is their fault. With me working with at-risk children, I see so many signs that can easily categorize them to be at-risk as well. These children are so strong to be dealing with this life. I just wish they were enough to keep their mom sober.
There are lots of resources out there for addicts and for those affected by addicts. Books, groups, online forums, hotlines etc. It’s important to seek any and all help that you might need.
- National helpline for substance abuse and mental health 1-800-622-HELP. They helped me locate a rehab in my city for sister. They were very helpful.
- Al-Anon support is available in cities all over the country
- The Recovery Village 24/7 hotline support for addicts or those affected by addicts
- Mental Health Hotline
You’re not alone.