Our summer intern, Jennifer Voudris was “surrounded by addiction.” As part of her assignment through the Cedarville University College of Pharmacy, she graciously agreed to share her story:
“Growing up and throughout my childhood I came from a very supportive and loving family. I felt like I was so lucky to have such strong relationships with them. Sure, we weren’t perfect. But my parents were always together and I had a brother and sister whom I was very close with. The family dynamic started to change somewhat as I got into my teenage years. My parents started to grow apart. Both my mother and siblings began turning to drugs and alcohol as a part of life.
When my father passed away, the downward spiral of substance abuse just kept escalating. In addition, my grandfather was a heavy drinker. Unfortunately, now I had to see my mother turn down that same path. In fact, at some point in their lives, all of my siblings have been addicted to prescription medications. Numerous studies have actually shown that there are some genetic predispositions that can make someone more susceptible to addiction. (Mission Addiction insert: up to 50-75%!) When you add a genetic component, as well as outside influences, this risk is even greater.
Surrounded by Addiction
Coming from a family with a known history of addictions, I have tried to steer clear of using any substances. Eventually, I became the only person in my family who was grounded and taking care of myself. This in turn, led me to be the one who had to take care of everyone else. I was surrounded by addiction. This definitely did not come without consequences. The impact that it has had on my life has been tremendous and exhausting. It’s hard to see your family turn into something completely opposite of what you knew growing up. Instead of them being my rock and support throughout life, I have become that for them.
There are a couple of key things that I have learned throughout my life, living with a family surrounded by addiction.
1) Addiction is a disease, and it affects everyone in the family.
Addiction can swallow up and consume a family. It can have an effect on everyone in the household, in many different ways. For the person who is trying to help your loved one, as well as the loved one themselves, it can cause feelings of guilt, depression, anxiety, worry, and fear of the unknown. It can put limits and restrictions on relationships. This in turn, can cause tension and emotions to be at an all time high. Realizing that addiction doesn’t just affect the user is an important thing to understand when faced with this situation.
2) Have faith and show compassion.
There are many stigmas associated with addiction. Some people may believe that people are weaker or lesser than others due to having one. A lot of people who are addicted to some sort of substance do not continue using drugs or alcohol by choice. Rather, it is a need due to their addiction, or as a way to cope with life stressors. I’ve learned that it doesn’t get anyone anywhere by showing resentment towards a family member’s addictive behaviors. This includes behavior that is selfish or destructive. It is important to continuously try to support them whether or not you believe they will relapse again. As a result, you could be that constant reminder, that one voice of reason. That could be what they hold on to in the present and future if they do feel that they want to change.
3) Know and put forth limitations.
It is important to be supportive of a family member struggling with addiction. It’s also important that you set limitations on exactly HOW supportive you are. This is due to the toll that it may take on your mental health. Dealing with their addiction can be a back and forth battle of hope and disappointment. It can be taxing to try and try again with no sign or end in sight for their behavior. It is important to set limitations on how they treat you while they are using. Watch how much you enable their addiction to thrive. The difficult part is to try and find a good balance. Learn when to stand by their side and when to stand up to them when you have had enough. Setting limitations on what you are willing to take can be beneficial to your well being. It also shows them that you do not condone their behaviors.
4) Dealing with an addict is not easy to navigate.
There’s no one particular way to deal with having a loved one struggle with addiction. Every person’s story is different, so nobody can truly tell you how to solve it. Even I sometimes struggle to understand the best way to manage it.
Some key things that I believe to keep in mind are:
Remember that addiction is not a choice or a moral failing; it is a disease of the brain.
Try to stay supportive.
Try to remain optimistic.
Know that only the addict can change their life.
Encourage them to seek help, and keep encouraging.
5) Make sure to look out for yourself as well.
I know how much you want to help your loved one break free from addiction. But it’s also important to take care of yourself. Try not to let your loved one’s addiction consume your life completely. Instead, focus on being the best self you can be. Try and set an example for healthy living that they too, can follow. Maybe it’s focusing on maintaining a healthy diet and exercise plan to keep your mind in the right place. Or maybe it’s strengthening your relationship with God. In other words, it’s important to find time to take care of yourself. If not, you will not be able to take care of everyone else around you.
If you know someone or have a family member who is struggling with addiction, you are not alone. There are many services that you can reach out to, to try and get help.”
Thank you, Jennifer, for sharing your lessons learned from being surrounded by addiction! Because of your generosity, others may find comfort. Prayers and blessings to you and your family!
Contact us at Mission Addiction for more information or assistance.