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An Open Letter to Those Struggling with Addiction

This has been heavy on my mind since last night when the news of Demi Lovato being rushed to the hospital for an overdose broke. I instantly felt sorry for her then flashed back to all the times my little brothers have gone through this or the times my mother has told me that she had an accidental heroin overdose. Or all the times my family and I have said we’re just waiting for that phone call one day that we’ve lost my mom because of heroin. Thankfully this has not happened but addiction is a very tricky and heart breaking disease.

This letter is for everyone who has dealt with addiction in their life time, not just drug addicts, but family members, friends and spouses too… Coming from a family of heroin addicts and seeing the tragedy of what drug addiction can do to a family I can’t say that it always gets better, because it doesn’t always get better. Sometimes it gets worse. Sometimes it stays the same. Sometimes we ignore it and pretend it’s not even happening at all. 

I’ve grown up wishing I could be a better daughter so that my mom wouldn’t want to do drugs anymore and couldn’t understand why my love wasn’t enough to keep her clean. I’ve watched my brothers go in and out of prison countless times due to their drug addiction that they more than likely inherited because this is as we are now learning a family disease. I’ve cried countless nights over the guilt that my brothers grew up in a home where drugs were easily accessible to them where I got to live with my grandparents who sheltered me away from that. I’ve tried to help them get into programs, bailed them out of jail, bought them food when they couldn’t afford to eat and much much more. (None of this works by the way… we cannot control or fix the people we love’s addiction)

The thing is addiction is not always black and white. It affects everyone. No matter what their background, who they are or how they were raised. I’ve heard so many times ‘why don’t they just stop doing drugs?’… I’ve asked my family those same things myself. It’s not that simple. You can’t just will someone to stop doing drugs then all of a sudden the rest of their problems go away. Actually once they sober up they start to see the actual damage they have done to their lives while on drugs and it’s terrifying. 

Drug addicts are not bad people. Spending time with my mom last year and getting to know her as a person all over again taught me that she is actually one of the best people and we have a lot in common. She’s smart, funny and has a heart of gold and would do anything for anyone if she could.

I don’t really have or know a solution to the growing drug problem we have in America but I can say this: I’ve learned in my 33 years of growing up with this disease affecting every part of my life the best I can do is love my family no matter what and see them for the person they are not the person the drug has turned them into. I’m slowly learning where to set appropriate boundaries to keep myself mentally healthy and not let it drive me crazy as well as not to enable their addiction (which can be a tricky one learning where helping is actually hurting).  

To my mom and little brothers all I can say is that I love you no matter what. You will always be loved and I know that deep down you are not bad. I know you struggle daily and feel the guilt of being an addict all the time. It is okay. You are human and we all make mistakes. Struggling with addiction does not make you a bad person and I will never look down on you because of it. There are days that I miss you so much it hurts. Even when I’m angry at you and won’t talk to you it’s not because I don’t love you, it’s because I love you so much that I realize it’s better to set those boundaries for us both. 

If you or someone you know are struggling with addiction please don’t go through it alone. There are programs all over and people willing to help and listen. It’s okay to ask for help and you are not alone in this battle. 

photo Getty Images

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