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Blog > My Addiction:  How Does It Affect My Parents or Spouse?

My Addiction:  How Does It Affect My Parents or Spouse?

Susanne Johnson
| March 5, 2018

Most addicted people live in denial about how their addiction affects the family. I, myself, was in denial for years and years, hiding in the strong belief that I only hurt myself when I consumed poison. I truly thought, “it’s my liver I destroy, it’s my job I lose, it’s my time I waste.” I was not ready to see how it affected people around me. I wrote this blog for anyone out there who may need a life change.

Addiction leaves us all too occupied with ourselves and our disease to be sensitive enough to recognize the feelings of those around us. We also mistakenly think our loved ones have no idea how far we have fallen into the disease. You might think you appear okay and sober, but everyone who knows you can see how far you are gone.

We think our hiding works. I always hid multiple bottles in the house and one “official” one. The “official” bottle would go slowly down, a little shot at a time, while I kept replacing the others bottle by bottle. I really thought nobody would ever notice. False! Loved ones always know!

If your parents or your spouse care about you– and usually they do– they are in a difficult situation. They don’t want you to feel bad, but they don’t want to further your addiction. By getting dopesick or into any form of withdrawal or delirium tremens, you make them feel bad for you. They want to help you, but they don’t want to enable your addiction. This is an internal fight for everyone, which is unbelievably difficult.

Unconsciously, the addicted person often seeks the most codependent or overly helpful person in his family. This person might struggle with life anyway in some shape or form and is then often forced to engage in your addiction by making decisions, helping with everyday responsibilities, or maintaining the secrets of addiction.

Also the family is very affected by any lying that an addicted person engages in. Parents and spouses ask themselves what they did wrong to deserve it all. They struggle to believe that the person they love may be dishonest. Parents, in particular, often blame themselves for this. This feeling of guilt is often unbearable.

If an addicted person lives with parents in their home, a moment eventually arrives then when the disease becomes stronger than the addicted person’s own willingness to be good and he steals from his parents. As a result of this, parents live in constant fear of losing valuables or personal heritage. Relatives often lose items that later end up in a pawn shop for a fraction of the original personal and financial value. These parents often have to hide everything and don’t sleep well anymore.

Vacations or family weekend trips are usually not possible with an addicted family member. Family members fear what might happen once they leave home. Worries about arguments or added stress stop people from seeking fun activities. Financial burdens may make travel even more complicated.

The stigma that unfortunately still comes with the disease of addiction, prevents many parents from reaching out for help. A mother or father who lives in constant fear and distrust may become sleep deprived and worry day and night about their son or daughter.

The worst thing that families face is the constant fear of that phone call—the phone call that occurs when their loved one has overdosed. Family members live in this fear when they don’t hear from the addicted person. Also, just imagine how would feel for them to sit on your hospital bed, not knowing if you will make it or not, or if you will survive the next binge.

In addiction, we manipulate our loved ones, and we don’t do this intentionally– it’s the disease takes over. The drug becomes more important loved ones. Maybe it’s time to overthink the situation. If you can’t try recovery for yourself at this point, try it for your parents or your spouse, who don’t deserve to be treated in a bad way. It is not our fault that we have the disease and hurt so many people, but it is our fault if we don’t accept the help that is offered to us.

I remember a man who once told me that he knew he had reached his rock bottom when he hit his mother in the face while trying to get to her purse and money, which she was clinging to at the time. He immediately left the home and was shaken by the biggest feelings of shame and guilt about how far addiction drove him.

Please don’t let it go that far in your life– you can get out of this downward spiral at any moment, you don’t have to hit the floor. You are the only one to decide where your bottom is and when you will throw the shovel away that keeps digging the hole deeper and deeper. Your family loves you, even if they can’t always show it, but they do. Ask for their support in recovery, not for their enabling help in addiction.

I want to say I am sorry to my parents, but sadly, they have both passed away and never got to see me sober. I wish they could have. I hope they see me from above with a smile today, and feel proud of their daughter who made it some years ago. I’m grateful for my husband, who has stood by my side the past 20 years and through my addiction and recovery. He’s my rock.

We do recover.

Susanne Johnson

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