When my youngest brother was found dead of an alcoholic overdose, I just literally snapped. I dropped to my knees and railed at God, What is the point of all of this? I feel like I am the one who is being punished even though I am not an addict. I have suffered the consequences of addiction my whole life.
I grew up with a father who was an alcoholic and have two brothers—one’s dead and one’s incarcerated on year 16 of his 20-year sentence, all of his crimes to support his crack habit.
And when my son got out of the Army, he had physical issues and the medication the VA was throwing at him, he didn’t like the way it made him feel so he started self-medicating, and with our family genetics, he was predisposed to addiction. He’s been fighting that battle, but he is in recovery.
Through my research, I quickly came to know that it’s such a vicious cycle, to try to get them cured. It destroys families, it destroys marriages because, for the person trying to cure the addiction, that becomes their whole focus in life.
What our group does, it’s a 12-step program. There is no magical cure, you just have to want to stop the madness and want your life back, and even then, one meeting is not going to do that for you.
It helps to get in that room and talk about what you’ve gone through. You don’t wish that on anyone, but then again, there’s comfort in numbers. It’s nice to know you’re not the only one living through that nightmare.
If an addict overdoses and dies, there is a cloud that hangs over the family. People don’t even offer condolences. Or if they do, it’s with a caveat, “Well what did you expect? You had to know this was coming.” It’s almost like this person deserved to die and you as the family member, couldn’t you have done something?
But if somebody dies from unmanaged diabetes, because they continued to eat whatever they wanted and died, there are all kinds of calls and sorrows, “Oh, his life was cut short. What a shame.”
But it’s the same thing, and my biggest wish is for people to step back and see addiction that way, to see it as a disease. And it is a disease, dammit.
That has been my No. 1 battle cry in starting this group. I say to the family members in our group: Don’t make excuses for them, stop it. Own it, it is what it is. You have a spouse or a child or a dear friend, and they have a disease.
We need to take the shame out of it.