Behind Closed Doors: Is Drug Addiction a Secret Worth Keeping?

Secrets.  What should we do about the secrets we keep?  Many people who have loved ones that are struggling with drug and alcohol use consider addiction a secret to be kept.

To some, the topic is even taboo.  What does this do to our hearts and souls?

Are we worried about being judged by those who may even be keeping the same secret?

Are we embarrassed because we think we are to blame for our loved ones bad choices?  Everyone makes bad choices in their lives,. It is called being human.

Are we worried that our loved ones might end up in jail or dead if we reveal our secret?  Certainly, we have no control over wherever they end up — good or bad.

Are we afraid that they will not love us if we share the secret?  They ultimately love their drug of choice first and foremost and in their own way, love us too.

The truth is, they are too busy to care whether their drug addiction is a secret or not.
Yes, we can go on and on here.  The point is we should just focus on what this secret is doing to us and what it might be like if we didn’t keep it.  I can tell you that, for me, keeping this a secret was killing me.  As soon as I decided to share the secret, it allowed others to share their secret, too.  It was a relief for many of us.  Yes, we were still judged by some, but I considered that their problem, not mine.

One of my favorite quotes is by Albert Einstein. “What you think of me is none of my business.”  I try to remind myself of this often.

So, think about this: The statistics show that there are millions of people all over the world who have addicted loved ones, so we aren’t alone.  Supporting each other is one step to making this all bearable and, I think, a leap to a better life amidst chaos.

How do we support each other if we are all keeping a secret?

How to Get Help For the Rest of the Family

Substance issues affects more than just the person who is struggling. Learn about how to get help for siblings and anyone else going through it.

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    May 31, 2011 at 12:55 AM

    Perhaps the main point is applicable to all cases? I am fearfull it may not be, and this prevents me from sharing my secret with family and friends, in particular my mother and father in-law. My late wife was the most outgoing, vivacious, funny, inteligent, and charming person; someone with a demanding executive position in a multinational company, and someone who shared a beautiful love with me. Yet she was a user of heroin and kept this a secret from everyone including me, her husband. I came home from work to find her, dead from an accidental overdose. My other and father in-law are in the very twilight of their lives yet my father inlaw demands to discover the medical background to his daughters death. The police have disclosed the details which are still not official because a death certificate has not been issued as of yet. They believe the cause to be a contraindication with other medicine my wife was taking for another unrelated illness.
    Each case is unique? Is it right to keep the secret from them? Would it do them any good to know why their daughter was a heroin user? Like all parents they think the world of their daughter. What would my wife wish me to do???

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    July 26, 2010 at 9:01 PM

    I agree with your thought process. I never could wrap my brain around the whole “tough love” thing. But, I did learn some better ways for me to handle some “enabling type things”. Understanding this is a brain disease is very important and helped turn my thinking around a lot. I began to do things like a little research on treatments, the science of addiction, places that would house and feed people when they are wreaking to much havoc in their own homes. Supplying my addicts with this knowledge and letting them make choices from them was my choice. I loved them and let them know that and helped (I hope without enabling) them so they knew they had love and some emotional support. I don’t believe I really had a true issue of bipolar. My experience was bipolar was pronounced for almost every addict I came across who went to treatment yet most of the symptoms were the result of abusing drugs. That is a point I still have a difficult time cozying up to. (What came first and should we treat with more drugs ?) I just don’t know. I do believe that it is important for the addict to feel they are loved and have support but also that they know the boundaries. Sorry if I’m rambling. Just my thoughts.
    Total abandonment would be too difficult. I was only put into that position for a very short time. If it had to be longer I don’t know if I could do it.

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    July 26, 2010 at 9:29 AM

    May-be someone can help me with a problem, close friends a couple has a 30 year old son with a dependence problem and has already served jail time. For the most part the parents have written him off stating he knows better and if he cared would seek help secure a medication and take care of the problem. They are following the “Tough Love Program” of thirty years ago, I say that as a recent ABC program stated that todays’ professionals feel the program didn’t work then and will not today. They have recommend changes and have begun teaching the changes; the main one being you never completely block out the party- they must always have a path; you intervene if need be forcefully or legally; you monitor their lives again if need be forcefully or legally. The couple being divorce has never attended joint or family counseling and fails to understand that individuals with bi-polar diagnosis is mentally ill and cannot properly comprehend things like a normal individual. I have tried to explain one of the most common complaints we see and read about almost a daily basis is when they say the individual quit taking their medication and … These recent deaths of rich children with similar problems was because of people who failed to give their child an alternative; did not get involved until it was too late; failed to utilize all their means, the courts or the hospital. Thank you for your opinion and information.

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    Susan Lea

    May 28, 2010 at 12:38 AM

    To Denise – thank you for such a great topic. In a small town it can be a bad idea since gossip can cause problems finding a job when a person is in recovery. I know my daughter will share her “secret” with her employer once they get to know her. Otherwise we are pretty open with family other than grandparents. They are quite old and would have unnecessary sleepless nights if they were told.

    To Jill – Drugs really do have a “grip on this country”. I would love to see more openness on the topic. It seems we have these programs in grade school telling children to not use drugs. But I don’t think the general public has any idea how prevalent these drugs are. Many people think this is just a problem in run-down areas of large cities. I know I’ve learned a LOT, more than I really wanted to learn, when I discovered my daughter was using heroin.

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    Pat N.

    May 27, 2010 at 7:50 PM

    When I read the posts here I immediately thought that these were the most insightful I have read in quite some time.

    I so enjoy reading posts when well meaning, experienced and “knowledgeable” folks get together for a common purpose. I just want to thank each of you for your time and willingness to share.

    I have extensive experiences with keeping the “secret” and here is just one brief example. My son walked away from a treatment program and made it to his grandmother’s home. She called to let us know he was there and we said nothing. Within a few days we received another call informing us our son had stolen grandma’s TV, jewelry and $250.00 in cash. Of course, we knew his history and we knew he was in relapse but we gave grandma no indication to be concerned. We were more interested that he was safe and being well fed!!!!

    That was our “Aha” moment and we discussed the situation with our counselor and we decided that there would no longer be any secrets with anyone and the “warning” went out. However, our son was extremely angry at us as he could no longer find any family or friends who were willing to enable. He eventually ended up on the streets living under a overpass. Where is my son now? We don’t know. We have “Let go, let God” but I would ask that when you pray for your loved one, pray for all of us.

    The point I am making is my son has a disease, it is a primary disease, a brain disease and if you do not understand that then I respectfully suggest you educate yourself. One of the best information sources on this subject is the DVD entitled, “Pleasure Unwoven” by Dr. Kevin MaCauley (

    KathiESC mom knew that no one understood what she was going through and she choose to keep it a secret. I understand that completely, as the general public doesn’t have a clue about addiction. Not a clue!
    KathiESC doesn’t understand from the prospective of a mom surrounded by ignorance nor can mom understand her daughter’s disease fully. That is the sad and most difficult part of building back our relationships. What we can do is “love,” “forgive” and “hope.” Appreciate and show gratitude, consistently.

    Addicts, of course, do not love their drug more than their family and friends. It’s a disease, a primary disease, a brain disease. Do you think my son “enjoy’s” his life living under a bridge?

    What I would suggest is whenever you read something that you don’t like, write it down then research it “fully.” Investigate it like you would if you were the lead detective investigating a murder. I have found that I have been wrong in my own thought processes but with “proper” education I have a greater understanding of the truth.

    In prayer for all who suffer from this disease.

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