13 Oct My Child’s Addiction- The Importance of Sharing
Addiction can often be considered a silent disease: families do not commonly share about their loved one’s plight and news stories rarely focus on addicts passing away due to overdoses. Similar to mental health diseases, addiction is a taboo subject, something to be hidden and swept under the rug. We have to open up on this tough subject, we have to discuss it and take away it’s power. It is the things which we keep hidden which have the most strength to bring us down.
By talking and sharing about addiction we might just be able to make an impact on America’s drug epidemic. Each year tens of thousands of people die from drug abuse and overdoses, the numbers are staggering. These are PREVENTABLE deaths, deaths that could possibly have been prevented with treatment, rehab, and counseling. But herein lies the problem – if we are not vocal about addiction, how will parents and loved ones know where and how to get help for an addict? Simply put, they won’t. Furthermore, keeping addiction a secret within a family creates stress, emotional issues, and a whole slew of unhealthy problems for the both the family as a whole and the individuals in the family unit.
Why All the Secrecy?
We as a nation have a tendency not to share about our struggles when they are in any way related to addiction. People feel unable to ask even their close friends or work-place colleagues for guidance on how to help someone they love suffering from addiction because of the social stigma attached to the title “addict”. They fear judgment, they fear being shunned or assumed to be “unfit” parents in some way. Many parents refuse to believe that their children are suffering from the disease of addiction because they don’t “fit” what most people think of when they head the word “addict”. When many of us think of an addict, we imagine someone who is homeless, destitute, unkempt and poor. We need to break this stereotype.
Addiction does not have a face or a look or a particular “type”. Addiction touches those with doctorates and those who never graduated high school. It effects people who have millions of dollars and those who have none. Just because someone has a good job or a family or a seemingly great life does not make them exempt from being or becoming an addict. Parents need to realize that even if their child is getting good grades they can still be addicts. I graduated with a 4.6 from high school…I was a full-blown addict. Because of this tendency to stay silent and essentially hide what is really going on, we block ourselves us from those who might be able to offer support, insight, and guidance.
Why is it Unhealthy?
As mentioned above keeping life-altering issues secret (like a child with an addiction) can create massive havoc for the entire family. In AA we say that “we are only as sick as our secrets” and that “our secrets keep us sick”. This is why opening up, sharing, and asking for help is so incredibly important-if we try to compartmentalize and ignore the issue of addiction in the family, it will only allow the disease to fester and become more powerful. By talking with others who may have been through what the family is experiencing, parents are able to sharing the load, take some of the weight off of their shoulders so to speak. Too often parents start sleeping poorly and begin to not eat enough simply from the stress of carrying around the sad secret that their child is not thriving. Now not only is the addict sick, the parents are run-down. If there are other children in the family, they may indirectly suffer because the parents are too worn out to devote attention or care to these kids who are not a “problem”. And so the entire family is effected, not just the addict. Addiction is a family disease and no one escapes untouched.
I always am open to sharing my story of addiction and recovery with anyone who asks, whether they be parents, addicts themselves, or health-care workers who want to learn more about this disease. The more that we talk about things, the less taboo and scary they become, and the healthier we can all be. I encourage parents with children in recovery or parents who have lived through loving someone with an addiction to come forward and share their stories, talk about what happened and how they were able to walk through it. Being open will allow other families stuck in the midst of addiction to feel safe to come forward and get help. Only by shedding the fears and our own judgments about addiction can we pave the way for others to do the same. As Ghandi said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world”.
Who Can Help?
I can not tell you how many parents I have met who have had addicted children and said to me “I just didn’t even know where to start, where to send them, or how to get them help”. We need to start making resources more available and educating those around us about how to get their loved ones into treatment, meetings, whatever they need. There are many resources available to parents from rehabs to sober livings to outpatient programs. New Life House focuses on both the addict and the family because as we discussed the disease of addiction is a family disease. It effects everyone in the family unit, not just the addict himself. A simple internet search should help you to find treatment options all over the nation. There are also interventionists and advisors who can suggest places based on your loved one’s specific needs. Do not be afraid to open up and start sharing. You may be very surprised by how many people share a story similar to yours; you story may even be able to help those who are still struggling. Drug addiction is currently a silent epidemic wreaking havoc in all kinds of ways, but it doesn’t have to be one. Start talking, start getting healthy, start healing.