We’re all in this fight together. You are not alone.
It seems like almost everyone has had some experience navigating the complicated waters of loving an addict.
Previously, I shared my story about growing up with an alcoholic parent. I confessed that I grew up as a child of an addict, and I shared a lot of honest and raw details about my life.
Me and my dad.
And when we shared the story with Upworthy readers, my inbox flooded with messages of people saying, “Me too.”
I couldn’t believe how many people related to my story. It’s like we gave people permission to start talking about secrets they’ve held in for years.
So I reached out to the daughters, sons, husbands, wives, and people who boldly shared their stories with me. I asked these people to share their truths — mostly unspoken before now — and to tell their stories about loving an addict.
Here’s what they told me:
1. “I always felt [like] finding love outside my home would fix what was broken inside of it … and it never did.”
Samantha told me about the time her mom tried to put a ponytail in her hair when she was in fifth grade. But her mom was too hungover to make it work. On that day, Samantha decided she didn’t need her mom anymore, and she clung to this mentality until she was 19 years old.
Instead, Samantha turned to friends and boyfriends to try to fix her broken idea of home. But they could never replace the love she needed from her mom. Samantha’s mom eventually decided to get help, but Samantha had to work through a lot of the anger she harbored toward her mom too.
Today, Samantha said: “I’ve since turned my relationship with my mom into something worth holding onto.”
2. “I’m still stuck in the ‘Don’t tell anyone’ phase.”
One reader, who asked to remain anonymous, said her family is still in the phase where they hide the dark secrets in their home. She said there’s only one place where she can talk about the truth: her diary.
As a “highly functional drunk,” her dad has held the same job for more than 45 years without anyone knowing his struggles. The disease has also been passed down, and now her siblings are racking up violations for driving while intoxicated. She desperately wants to understand how alcohol has so much power and control over her family.
3. Some people don’t make it out of addiction.
I can’t give credit to just one person for sharing this devastating story because so many people shared this with me. I heard about many parents who battled for years with alcoholism and never recovered, leaving behind sons and daughters. It isn’t fair, that’s for sure.
Many of these courageous people are now trying to forgive their parents, even after they’ve passed away. These children are walking their own paths of recovery.
4. “I went to prison because of my addiction.”
Summer is an addict who is proud to share that she is now in recovery. At the age of 27, Summer went to prison for two and a half years after more than a decade of battling addiction. Once released, a caring probation officer helped her enter a treatment program.
Summer as a child. She started struggling with addiction when she was 14. Photo used with permission.
“I still have fears and doubts that I can make it through recovery and not relapse,” said Summer. “It’s a lifelong process that I’m learning each day.”
Summer is now a working mother, also studying to be a substance abuse counselor. New friends in recovery became family too, helping Summer find a new way of life. “They loved me until I learned to love myself.”
5. “I’m afraid that I’ll become an alcoholic and ruin my kids’ lives.”
As a 10-year-old little girl, Melissa thought her parents’ drinking was all her fault. Then, she became a parent herself and felt all of the “what ifs” piling on.
Melissa said she often asks herself: “What if I drink? What if I can’t control it? What if I end up making my kids feel like I used to?”
For Melissa, this is an ongoing battle. She has found support through therapy, which is helping her realize she isn’t to blame for her parents’ behaviors.
6. “My dad was an abusive alcoholic for years and it’s still difficult.”
Rachel and her dad. Photo used with permission.
After years of living with an abusive alcoholic father, Rachel was left burdened with many issues. She told me she wants to find the words to explain how she feels after all these years, but it’s a struggle every day.
7. “My family’s recovery feels far away.”
“My mom is an alcoholic, but sadly is a long way from any sort of recovery,” said Dave.
Dave has loved his mother through all the difficult steps, like visiting many counselors and therapists for help. And as of today, as with many people I heard from, he says nothing has worked. He’s still waiting for the day when his mom will find her way to sobriety.
8. “I’m getting ready to marry into a family with addiction that keeps repeating itself through many generations, and it’s scary.”
Grace’s fiancé’s family struggles with generations of addiction. Her fiancé’s mother grew up with a violent alcoholic father, and Grace has had a hard time accepting how she can still love a man after he’s caused so much pain.
The disease has now been passed down to her fiancé’s immediate siblings. Grace said she’s still trying to grasp the depths of the impacts on a family for so many generations.
“We just have to try our best and accept that people will make mistakes,” said Grace.
9. “I became the recipient of my dad’s rage. For years, I felt like I was always walking on eggshells.”
Ashley’s father made numbing his pain a priority, causing Ashley to view the world through a very dark, untrusting lens. And now, although Ashley’s father has been in recovery for 10 years, she has had to come face-to-face with her own lifelong journey toward recovery too.
Ashley and her dad. Photo provided by Ashley, used with permission.
“I have to work a strong recovery program of my own so I do not continue to pass on the dysfunction and trauma to future generations of my family.”
Ashley recognizes that she learned to cope in dysfunctional ways, as she desperately fought for years for the love and approval of her father. But she says she’s bouncing back, learning to set boundaries and gain back her confidence.
The next time you think you’re alone in learning to love an addict, think again.
We’re all in this fight together. You are not alone.