My name is Crystal and I am an addict. I always have been, and always will be an addict. The difference is that today I am a recovering addict. The reason that I say I am a recovering addict, and not a recovered addict, is that addiction is never something you are “cured” of. It is something you work at, everyday, in order to stay sober. For me, those days have turned into months, and those months have turned into years, as I continue my journey in recovery. As a recovering addict, I am constantly growing and changing; each day I strive to be better than the person I was the day before. My success is not measured in comparison to others — this is my own, individual journey, and the progress I see in myself is the greatest measure of success!
My Journey in the Road to Recovery
Relapse is a huge part of my story, but picking myself up, dusting myself off, and continuing to fight got me to the place I am today. Despite all the time I have been sober now, my sobriety is not guaranteed. All I have is today. If I do not do the right thing today, I will relapse. That’s why I must continue to fight every day.
My mom is not an addict, but both my younger brother and I are. She had no idea that we were struggling with addiction, or what to do with us. She did not understand the disease of addiction, because it was never something she ever had been exposed to. I was one of the lucky ones who reached a point of despair where I would do anything to get sober, and I have worked very hard for the life I live today. Sadly, my younger brother has not yet reached that point in his life yet, and all I can do is to just keep praying that one day he will be ready to get the help he needs.
Raising awareness and providing resources for other addicts and their families has become my passion in life. Often the signs of drug abuse can be recognized by others first, and getting help from a loved can save lives.
Signs and Symptoms of Drug Abuse in a Loved One
Signs and symptoms of drug abuse in your loved ones can be both physical and behavioral. Each drug comes with its own unique set of symptoms. However, some general signs that your loved one may be addicted to drugs include:
● Changes in behavior
● Withdrawal from family members
● Red or glassy eyes
● Mood swings
● Problems at school or work
● Runny or stuffy nose
● Lack of energy or motivation
● Loss of interest in hobbies, sports, and other favorite activities
● Changing sleeping pattern
● Becoming careless about personal grooming
● Sudden requests for money or a spike in how much money they spend
The Three C’s of Addiction
The 12 steps of Al-Anon is a program to support the loved ones of addicts, and help them understand the disease of addiction. If you have a friend or family member suffering from addiction, there are three C’s that you must keep in mind:
● I Didn’t Cause It: When dealing with addiction, it’s natural to want to blame someone: especially yourself. You must understand that you did not cause your loved one’s addiction, no matter how you may feel or what they may say. In the throes of addiction, they may cast blame, but this is simply an attempt to justify addictive behaviors. You can’t control their decisions, so you are not the cause of their addiction.
● I Can’t Cure It: You also cannot “cure” a loved one suffering from addiction. Scientifically, addiction is viewed as a chronic disease; it cannot be cured at all, but can be treated with professional help. Severe addiction is not a question of willpower, so attempts to rationalize their disease or advising them to stop is typically a waste of effort. Although sharing your thoughts and feelings, possibly even imposing consequences, are natural reactions, it’s up to your loved one to seek professional treatment.
● I Can’t Control It: You may believe that you can control, or at least manage, your loved one’s addiction. However, addiction is viewed as a disease because it biologically alters one’s brain chemistry. After a certain time of persistent usage, they are not controlling the substance, the substance is controlling their thinking. You cannot control another person’s brain chemistry.
It is easy to become consumed by a loved one’s drug use. Constant worry, attempts to help or “save” them, can become exhausting. This can affect your health and wellbeing as a result. Practicing self-care must be a priority; otherwise, you are not of any use to yourself or anyone else. Denial, avoidance, or becoming consumed with thoughts of their addiction is never healthy for you. It can cause you to neglect yourself, your other children or family members, and your day-to-day responsibilities. Taking a step back from the situation and realizing you are not in control of the situation can be one of the most difficult things when a loved one is struggling with addiction. Remember that it may take several attempts for a loved one to get (and stay) sober. You do not need to give up hope, but you may need to be supportive from a distance until they are engaged in a program of recovery.
Until your loved one is ready to get help, your attempts to save them will be in vain. Working the 12 steps of Al-Anon or receiving therapy for yourself can be incredibly beneficial. Addicts often have to reach some sort of rock bottom — and experience consequences as a result of their actions — before they are ready to get help.
Getting them professional help is the most effective way to get them the help they need to begin their journey in healing and recovery.
Crystal Hampton, 37 years old.
I work for Recovery Local, a digital marketing company that advocates spreading awareness on the disease of addiction. Our company was founded by and staffed with recovering addicts cultivating recovery resources through sharing our own experience, strength, and hope.