Are you struggling financially from trying to protect a son, daughter, sibling or parent from drug addiction? If so, you are not alone. As the holidays approach, I am excited about seeing my family. However, I am a sister and sister-in-law of recovering drug addicts and existing drug users. The holidays can be very hard for those of us who have family members who are drug addicts. The empty chairs are painful to see and the shell of a loved one suffering from addiction is hard to be around. I have fallen to many traps of drug users:
- I have received late phone calls needing money.
- I have received phone calls from my mother crying hysterically because a family member was arrested.
- I have had prescriptions, money and jewelry stolen from my home or from my purse during family gatherings.
- I have had loved ones lie to my face to get money so they could feed their next fix.
- I have had family members blame me because I don’t financial help those family members struggling with addiction.
- I have had to miss or shorten visits with family to avoid drug users.
- I have watched my niece and nephews lose the parents that they once knew.
- I have visited family members in jail.
- I have written letters to jail.
- I am a sister of recovering drug users and current drug users and I wouldn’t trade one single family member for anything.
- I am the mother of a beautiful daughter who was born to drug addicts who gave her a better life.
- I love my family, including those suffering from addiction.
How Drug Use has Effected My Family
One of the recovering drug users in my family is my brother, John. He truly inspires me today to be a better human being. We come from the same parents but took very different paths. Although, my path was less riddled with bumps and valleys… his life now is so much more rewarding and he has such a serving heart. My brother’s path to addiction and then back from redemption is our families’ story of hope.
My brother was born with very bowed legs. You literally could roll a bowling ball through his legs they were so bowed. He wore braces through much of his childhood and I can remember many times being the older sister who defended him when others would snicker. Those braces never held John back. He ran faster than all of us and would do flips on the trampoline that made you dizzy just by watching him. He was always fearless and full of life.
When my brother was in his teens, he decided to undergo a very serious leg surgery that would remove a portion of his bones in an attempt to straighten his legs. This procedure was really dangerous, but my brother wanted to be normal. After the surgery, my brother really was in a lot of pain. To help alleviate his pain, the doctors would prescribe him pain pills anytime he asked for them. It was then that my brother’s addiction was born. His doctors who he trusted to help him have straight legs initially became his dealer with every pain killer prescription that they wrote. After that, my brother tried other drugs and eventually when he ran out of options to get pain pills, he started using Heroin because it was cheap and very easy to get.
For twenty plus years, my brother suffered from addiction. He lied to me. He took things from my home. Most importantly, he disconnected with me. The brother I once knew did not exist during this time. Sure, physically, he was still there but all I could see was the shell of my brother. There was no real connection. He would do anything to get his next fix and would use me, along with others, to help that happen.
The biggest mistake that family members of drug addicts make is enabling our loved ones when we don’t even know we are doing it. See for those of us who have never suffered from addictions, we just think that if we can help them get sober they will be better. However, that way of thinking instead can actually do more harm than good for the drug users. In our world, we just want our loved one to come back to us, the way they were and to love us enough to stop. However, the loved ones that we knew are not present in the midst of addiction. Remember, that loved one has disconnected themselves from reality. They just want one thing, their next high.
My brother is a Christian now who uses every opportunity he can to talk to drug users and try to help. People warn him to be careful because he will fall back into those habits if he continues to surround himself with drug users, but my brother just surrounds them with HOPE. His drug is Jesus Christ and he is not ashamed to share the gospel with drug users. My brother will tell you that he was a drug user longer because his family enabled him and it wasn’t until he was sitting in jail and realized that NO ONE was going to bail him out this time or give him money that he realized he had reached his bottom. My brother will tell any family member who asks to NOT give the drug user anything.
My brother explained to me that a drug user will emotionally, financially, and physically suck you dry until they get everything they can from you to feed their habit. Once you do not have anything else to give to them, they will be done with you and move on to the next source to continue their addiction. John explained that even the method of obtaining money from family members became another addiction for him. He gained a high from getting what he wanted when he wanted it and then another high from the actual drug of choice. It wasn’t until my Mom, Dad, siblings and I cut off all financial help that he reached his bottom and realized that he no longer wanted to be there.
Tips for Families Suffering with Drug Addiction
- It is not your fault so quit blaming yourself. The addictions of another do NOT have anything to do with you no matter how hard you try to convince yourself that it does or how much the drug user will try to convince you that you are the reason they suffer from addiction.
- NO is a very powerful tool. In the 80’s, I grew up watching commercials of Nancy Reagan saying Just Say No and that applies to family members of addicts as well. Your NO is the best thing you can do for them and you. If you say, yes then you are just enabling them and allowing them to continue their addiction.
- Say NO to bailing them out of jail. Jail can often be the best place for drug users to think and realize they have hit rock bottom. This is where my brother reached his lowest point and changed his life.
- Say NO when they need money.
- Say NO when they need a place to stay.
- Do not TRUST a drug user. They will lie, steal and cheat to get their fix, especially from those that love them. When your loved one recovers, the most amazing feeling is being able to allow them in your life again and trust them. Until they are recovered, don’t let a user in your home alone.
- Be positive. Continue to always tell your loved one how much you care about them and are praying for them. Be careful though because the drug user will try to use these emotions to get money or a place to live. Do not fall for that!
- Seek a support group for you such as Al-Anon. These groups can be a valuable resource to help to empower you.
- Your prayers will provide support to you and give you peace with using all of the above tools.
My family still suffers from members with addictions but thanks to my brother we know now that we cannot enable them. John, I thank God every day for giving me you as my brother. Thank you for allowing me to share part of your stories to help others.
I have met with countless numbers of clients whose families have gone through similar struggles as my own. The financial and emotional stress can be exhausting. If addiction has caused your family financial hardships, please know that you are not alone. Contact your local Bond & Botes office today for a free consultation to discuss your financial options.
Mary Pool is a shareholder of the Bond & Botes Law Offices in Montgomery and Opelika, Alabama. She holds a Bachelor of Science from Auburn University at Montgomery, and a Juris Doctorate from Faulkner University’s Jones School of Law. She has represented thousands of clients over her more than 11 years working in the bankruptcy field. Read her full bio here.