I am the daughter of a drug addict. My mom suffers from drug addiction, a battle she has sadly never been able to overcome. Throughout my entire life, she never truly acted “like a mother” to me. The sad reality is, drugs always came first.
For those of us who love, or have ever loved, someone battling addiction, we know it is the farthest thing from easy. It is one of the most emotional experiences to endure, and impossible to comprehend.
Loving an addict means you must learn to understand joyful moments tend to be fleeting, and happy memories are often overshadowed by their addiction. The addict is doing so much damage to themselves, they don't realize the harm they are doing to us, the ones who love them.
Growing up, my mom would do anything to feed her addiction, even if it meant putting me in danger or scarring me with dark memories.
My mom was continuously in and out of rehab, and I never knew when, or if, she was coming back.
Fortunately, my dad and sisters would always pick up her slack in the meantime. While my dad would be at work providing for our family, my mom would frequently drag me to her “friend's house,” where she would snort cocaine in the bathroom while I was forced to stay in another room all hours of the night.
Sadly, addicts are often unable to see past the drugs. If you love someone who is addicted to alcohol or drugs, the love you have for them can truly affect who you are, and over time you will notice the painful consequences.
1. Trusting someone never comes easy.
When trust is broken so many times over and over again, it becomes hard to trust anyone anymore. When you let an addict back into your life, chances are they will hurt you again. They more than likely won't show up for the important things in your life. Depending on them won't be an option for very long.
My mom missed every one of my graduations. She didn't show up to most of my dance recitals. She spent more than one Christmas in rehab.
After most rehab visits, she often said she would get better, and I always put my faith in her. I would cling to hope and hold on to moments when she was drug-free. But soon, I would start to feel those moments slip right from my hands. She would start the drugs all over again, and I would sadly realize, she had not changed.
Whether someone picks up that bottle again or starts doing drugs again, it can be mentally exhausting to try and trust that person, no matter how much you may want to.
It can be almost impossible to believe them when they say things like, “I'm done for good,” or “this time will be different.” After having your trust broken so many times, you begin losing trust in everyone around you, addict or not.
These growing trust issues can unknowingly interfere with every other relationship and interaction.
2. You never feel good enough.
When someone continuously chooses drugs or alcohol over you, it can change the way you think about yourself. You know deep down addiction's a disease, but you can't help but internalize that person's actions.
You can't help but take it personally when they choose drugs or alcohol over you.
Growing up, I didn't yet understand the severity of addiction. I was not aware of how addiction could become a person if he or she let it.
It can take over someone's whole life and make that person blind to what matters most. It's as if nothing you do gives that person any extra reason to try and stop or seek further help, and that alone is disheartening.
After coming in second place to my mom's addiction for so long, I struggle today to have confidence in myself.
My accomplishments were always disregarded, reassurance in anything was completely absent and I often found it difficult to stay strong in a life that makes me feel weak.
No matter what I did, it was never going to change her habits.
3. It is so difficult to believe in love.
Addicts tend to lie, break promises, manipulate others and cheat. When you witness an unhealthy relationship unfold for such a long period of time, it becomes hard to ever see the good that love can bring.
I built walls for myself after years of watching my mom fight with my dad, sometimes resulting in domestic police interventions. I was left defenseless in the crossfire.
I had hardly any faith that love had the ability to be nurturing or kind. I only saw the negative sides of love – its ugliness, its jealousy, its disrespect and its rage. I discovered quickly how love can ultimately destroy two people.
Although I have been able to find the beauty that love actually has the potential to create, I still question its true meaning. I question its ability to stay loyal, stable, honest and true forever.
The addict in your life causes you to question the definition of love. If they truly love you, wouldn't they just stop? Wouldn't they see how much their addiction is hurting you? Wouldn't they at least try to seek help for the betterment of your relationship? Sadly, it never works like that when it comes to addiction.
4. You become an anxious person.
I suffer from an anxiety disorder. I'm always worried about something, and my life is often driven by those worries and fears. Having someone come and go from your life never provides you with any type of stability. You never feel at ease, you are often let down.
That constant worry about a person takes a toll. You wonder if they'll actually get better, or if the drugs will just kill them one day.
I've witnessed my own mom overdose right in my kitchen, filled with cops and medics while her body responded to all of the drugs she haphazardly fed it. She left constant turmoil in my mind, constant fear in my heart.
As I got older, I realized that way of thinking never changed. Anxiety essentially took over, and happiness was, and still is, hard for me to maintain. Happiness is typically short-lived when you love someone who is suffering from addiction.
Anxiety makes me feel almost as if I can never just embrace the happiness and live fully in that moment. I live 10 steps ahead of myself. I worry about the day when something may disrupt any joy I do feel.
An addict may show you how happiness rarely stays, it usually leaves, it's unpredictable, comes in waves and it has the power to cause pain because you held on so tight. Once it's gone, all that's left are memories of better days.
5. You will never know what it's like to have the "real thing."
Addiction takes over any relationship, and in my case, I will never know what it's like to have a real mother.
She only existed in moments that quickly faded, happy memories that were destroyed by her addiction and unwillingness to change. The closer you get to that person, the more power you give them to let you down again.
Thinking back, I never was able to have the typical childhood. My sisters and I were never able to go on a real family vacation simply because our mom wouldn't have been able to bring her drugs.
I never had that mother-daughter bond, and was never able to turn to her when I needed her most.
You can love someone battling addiction with every fiber of your being, but it will never be the same as the real thing.
The addiction will come first, unless they fully seek help, accept it and stick to it. Until then, your love for that them has to be shared with their addiction to something that is hurting them, and something that is putting a major strain on your relationship.
6. You learn what not to do in the future.
This is one of the positives that can come from loving someone who suffers from addiction.
Despite addiction being a disease, my mom chose her life, and people just like her choose theirs as well.
All I can say now is that it taught me what not to do with my life. Growing up in such a broken environment and loving my drug-addict mom tirelessly has taught me to not hurt others the way she often did. It taught me to not follow her footsteps, and instead, do almost the direct opposite.
Remember, you can always love someone from afar.
You can always offer help and support, but you can only do so much for someone. You cannot help someone who does not want to help themselves. At the end of the day, they're going to make their own choices regardless of how much guidance you give them.
Loving someone battling addiction can cause you to feel weak, it can cause pain and scars, but you should always take the negative aspects of any journey, and only allow them to make you a stronger person.
I will always love my mom, but I will always be hurt by her actions, her addiction and her unwillingness to try and be a mother.