A friend recently mentioned that it can be very isolating when someone in your family is an addict. Our situations are similar so when she mentioned how hard telling people – or even keeping it from them – is, I immediately understood. Living through a loved one’s addiction is like a horror story that never stops. Your own life spins out of control and chaos becomes the order of the day. How would any addict-free person ever get their head around that?
My friend’s comment did get me thinking about all the years I spent hiding the truth about my drug addicted son Ryan. My closest friends always knew things weren’t right and over time I shared some of the difficult stuff that was having such a devastating effect on my family. But no-one knew the full truth of what he’d done to himself and to us. I was very conscious of not wanting to offload on my friends too much. I didn’t want them to see me as a victim, plus they had their own problems going on. Of course I later found out they had seen me struggling for all the years that I was ‘only as happy as my unhappiest child’.
For me though the most isolating part was trying to hide everything from my husband Steve who worked long hours and often travelled with his job. I went to great lengths trying to hide what was really going on: Ryan’s constant verbal abuse towards me, his disappearing for days on drug binges, his comings and goings in the middle of the night, the police never away from the door, and so on. My stress levels were sky high but for some insane reason I didn’t want Steve to know the full truth. Things dramatically changed around 2015 when I had a breakdown and had no choice but to tell my husband everything. He was so shocked but so supportive – then he helped me to recover. I had many months of counselling with the most fantastic person who, as she’d worked with addicts, was right on my wavelength. Eventually at her suggestion I joined my support group – it saved my sanity and my life. More about that in my next blog.
What I can say after all this is that keeping stuff to yourself doesn’t work. Start by telling someone you trust and don’t hold back. Think about contacting an organisation like Families Out Loud, DrugFAM or Adfam, phone the Samaritans, see a counsellor – do something positive for yourself because believe me, talking works.