What I Wish My Family Would Have Known When I Was Struggling With Addiction

family walking together on sidewalk

First, I’d like to say it is a privilege to have made it this far in my recovery as I think about where I once came from. That was a different life and a different me. Over nine years ago, I was brought to my knees by my severe alcoholism and addiction. It took me to places I never thought I’d go. Addiction was a struggle I had to endure knowing that my body needed alcohol and drugs, all the time and at any cost.

Little did I know or care to realize that the struggle was not just my own.

The pain and desperation were not just my own.

The powerlessness was not just my own.

My mother, father, and only sister, who is ten years my junior, watched me from start to finish; they had a front row seat to my self-destruction, and then my redemption, but there was a lot of suffering along the way.

My Addiction Changed Me

I wish my family could’ve known I didn’t ever want them to suffer. I wish my family knew that my disease made me so self-centered that the only person I thought was affected by my addiction, was me! I wish that my family knew I was so broken inside that I lost my former identity. My addiction blew out of proportion and it made me someone else.

The girl who played soccer, rode bikes with her sister, set the table for Sunday dinner, cooked rice pudding with her grandma, and yelled at her godfather for smoking cigarettes because, “I will never do that!” became a total stranger to the addict I was from about 14 to 27 years old.

I wish my mother knew I never meant to break her heart on the nights she stayed up waiting for me to come home, or the days on end I went without calling while I was on a bender across the country.

I wish my little sister knew that I didn’t miss her 9th birthday party because I didn’t love or care about her. I wish she could have also known that the reason I became more and more distant from her when she was a kid wasn’t because that was my intention, but because using was, and that using took over my entire being. It made me forget what was truly important to me.

I loved my sister then and I love her now even though she and I have been estranged for years because of what she witnessed and what I put her through as a child —she had to grow up in a home with an active alcoholic

I wish my family knew that I always loved them, no matter what I was up to back then. I wish they knew that family was the most important thing to me, until it just wasn’t. There’s just no better way to say it, it was like a switch went off and nothing else mattered, at all. Nothing and no one else. Not even them, my everything, my own flesh and blood.

I Needed Their Help

It’s crazy how it all happened so fast. I wish they knew I didn’t even know I had a problem. And I couldn’t, I was stuck in the grips of this monster I willingly obeyed. I wish they knew all the times they pointed it out and tried to tell me, that me leaving and going to the bar or disappearing for days and shutting off my phone was my disease in fight or flight mode, protecting itself at all costs. Even at the risk of my family’s pain, concern, and love for me, “Keep using,” it said on repeat for 13 years straight.

I will also say that I wish my family had suggested a place like Mountainside for me to go to for help. I wish they believed in “getting help,” and that the old-school mentality my father instilled in us—thinking that asking for help is a sign of weakness, didn’t exist.  Alcoholism and mental illness are not talked about in my family. I wish we had talked about it instead of hearing what a failure I was and having had screaming matches instead of healthy conversations. I know now those reactions were how they coped with whatever they were feeling, they just didn’t know another way. They weren’t given a manual on parenting Christina, and I wasn’t given one on how to be their perfect daughter, especially while drowning in my disease.

I wish they would’ve known I was on a rollercoaster ride that I initially thought was going to be fun, but had I known what was in store for me, I would never have gotten on. I can say now that my family suffered, and I’m sorry they did, truly. I have since been able to repair the relationship between my mother and I– but there’s still ups and downs. As for my sister, she is on her own timeline now, as I was then. She’s not ready to reconnect just yet. I respect that; I must. Now I’m the one with the broken heart, I feel that pain, and I get how they felt.

Sobriety Improved My Life

I’m in recovery and the bridges I burned back then are either still burnt, in repair, or can stand a total renovation. They say, “progress not perfection,” don’t they? Nonetheless, I’m happy to say that “my mess is my message” today and my journey through addiction has led me to a miraculous life in recovery, a life truly beyond my wildest dreams.

I’m not defined by my past today. I’m in a place of self-love and compassion, honesty, understanding, and forgiveness for myself and others, one day at a time. I have the willingness to change today. I’m able to help others and their families in recovery every single day because of my experience, strength, and hope. I didn’t drink today and haven’t for a little over nine years. I am sober and I am of service today. I have the power of choice to do the next best thing for myself and my family. For that, I am grateful.

If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, Mountainside can help.
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