How Drugs and Alcohol Affect a Family

My mom was smart, beautiful, caring – and hiding a secret that was affecting not only herself, but everyone around her.  She used alcohol and sleeping pills to hide her depression. My dad is in recovery – 20 years sober– and tried to help Mom help herself with counseling and AA.  She refused to follow through.

Despite her “happy face,” Mom spiraled lower and everyone around her felt it.  One of the times she was back together with my stepdad Scott, Mom had a crisis.

I was at Dad’s house when my brother called from Scott and Mom’s place, and he was freaking out. Dad and I raced to the house, and could hear Mom screaming before we were in the front door.  It looked like a war zone – there was a steak knife sticking out of the TV screen.  Bookcases and a dresser had fallen down the staircase where Mom had pushed them. 

Dad charged up the stairs, and I jumped bookcases to get to my brother’s room. He unlocked his door, I grabbed him and we raced outside.  We jumped into Dad’s car and sat there, staring at each other.  When Dad came out to the car, he said he and Scott were putting my mom in rehab.  She had run out of excuses.

Within 48-hours of checking in, Mom left the facility.  Dad found a more expensive inpatient treatment.  She stayed 72-hours before sneaking out.  Mom insisted the meltdown with the steak knife in the TV and the furniture thrown down the stairs was a one-time thing, and she was now back in control, and not using pills or drinking. 

Even though Mom tried to hide her addiction, my half-brother Andrew was profoundly affected by it.  As a result, he began using.

I found out Andrew was having a rough time with drugs and alcohol before my parents even knew.  Andrew frequently warned me against trying it, and told me how much it was messing up his life.  It was difficult to have that kind of information — I didn’t say or do anything at first because I didn’t understand the consequences of his actions.

Andrew’s secret finally came out the day I wandered into the house and the whole family was there – Andrew’s dad, Scott, Dad and Mom. His addiction, the intervention were too much for him to handle.    He later told me he was thinking about suicide.

It’s difficult to know exactly what to do or say when a family member is having a problem with drugs and alcohol, or at a point where they’re considering suicide.  I’ve met young people who have horrible relationships with their siblings, and when they get their hands on information they try to blackmail their brother or sister.  That can ruin any chance of ever having a friendship.

My advice is:  If you’re talking to them from a place of real concern, and sincerely wanting to help, you can do a lot of good.  The addict in your life needs a real friend whether they realize it or not.

And, if you’re the one that needs help: Don’t think you’re a freak if you’re struggling with addiction, suicidal thoughts or depression.  Both addictions and suicide rates are rising in this country.  Hold on – and ask for help from a teacher, an adult you trust or a family member.  There are people eager to help you. But first, you have to ask them.

Editor’s Note: We’re happy to report that Andrew is now in recovery and doing very well.  He’s back in school and earning A’s.  It looks like he has his head together, and the future’s looking bright.  If your loved one is struggling with a drug or alcohol addiction, please join the community at Time To Get Help and ask questions, read stories and find words of hope.