It is another anniversary, a different one for me. It is the anniversary of my sister’s 26 years of sobriety. Some people think I’m strange to celebrate such an event. For me, it is an important step in remembering just how bad things can be, and all of the horrible things that can happen, when drugs are involved in a life. I want to talk a little about these things so other suffering family members will know we are all behind them.
I was young, only four years old, when my sister became seriously hooked on drugs. Now at 50, I look back at that time and simply remember the fear that enveloped our house. My sister was a “love child” and was deeply into the drug culture. Worse still were all the hippie guys she brought home. They caused so much trouble in our house that to this day, I still feel a strong negative bias against any man with long hair.
My parents finally sent my sister away for treatment. She was gone a full year, and it helped. I remember her calling; once or twice, I picked up the phone and she would be crying. I remember my heart breaking because she felt so horrible and wanted to come home. My parents stood strong, though, and they made her stay. When she did come home, I remember that she was angry, very angry, all the time.
As I grew up, she kept using drugs. When I was 14, she actually had a boyfriend come over, push my mother down the stairs and steal money from the house. I was at school when it happened. Of course, the police were involved. When my sister was found, she was so strung out on drugs that I hardly believed she was my sister. She was quickly back in the hospital and in treatment again. The treatment did help, for good this time. She was so close to death that I knew she had hit her true rock bottom.
Still, it took years of treatment, psychiatry and psychotherapy for her to embrace recovery. Even at 60, her therapy continues. She has not touched any drug for 26 years and is entirely sober. She does not crave anything, and although her daughter smokes from time to time, she herself will not touch anything. She is a mentally stronger, more gentle and kind person.
I write this to every family member of an addict. I don’t judge my sister or the addict; I have always tried to help. I remember when I was 12 years old, riding my bicycle for 30 miles each way to my sister’s apartment to give her all of my saved money because I was so worried about her.
I write this because I love her and always will, and now I understand that addiction is driven by physical and mental influences. I want to be there for others who, like me, are the “secondary causalities.” I know the feelings I had during this experience.
I hate with a passion drugs and anything drug-related. To me, there is a cloud of fear and disgust associated with drugs and the drugging lifestyle. The negative fear I lived through during all of my childhood still at times causes a bias in the way I view people, though I recognize that my feelings are not always reasonable. I realize now that everything I have struggled with was simply the result of the trauma I experienced growing up: the pain and anger caused by my lack of understanding.
I hope others are able to share their experiences and work through their anger and shame as I have. The addicted family member is a treasured loved one who truly does not want this to happen to their loved ones. Open up to someone; have true empathy, as I now have with my sister. If you can say you still love your family member, you have the world in your heart.