(This content is being used for illustrative purposes only; any person depicted in the content is a model)
Author: Shernide Delva
Addiction profoundly affects every aspect of life, including the lives of friends and family. Siblings of addicts experience the impact of addiction in a unique way. Having a brother or sister struggle with addiction conjures a host of emotions: guilt, hurt, fear and anger are just a few.
In the following interview, one woman shares her journey discovering her sister was an alcoholic. She shares the impact her sister’s addiction had on her and her family. We hope sharing her story will help connect to others who are enduring a similar experience.
Tell me about your experience discovering your sister was struggling with alcoholism?
I think I realized more post-college. In college, she started drinking heavily but who doesn’t in college? She had more freedom so I mean she drank a lot, but I did not think it was such a big deal. But post-college, I noticed she drank a lot with her friends and her boyfriend and sometimes she would spend all day up in her room drinking. Then, I started noticing she would miss work, and I was like, “That’s not normal…” After college, maybe a year or two after, I noticed it seemed like she was drinking too much and it kind of got worse as the years progressed.
Were you aware of alcoholism back then? Was it something that ran in your family at all?
I was aware of alcoholism, but I never heard of it running in my family whatsoever or any sort of addiction running in my family. I’m not really sure if there are addicts in my family because I feel like they wouldn’t really talk about it. My immediate family, I am around them a lot, and I really have not noticed any signs.
What made you realize this was more than binge drinking?
When I first realized was during the Christmas season. My sister came to visit on a break from work. She was living in another city that was kind of far away. She came to the house, and she was drinking a lot, and she was drinking in her room.
I mean, I don’t know if this was the initial moment, but it really hit me. I’ll never forget; it was Christmas morning, and she came downstairs, and she was like drunk. In my head, I was like, “Why are you drunk right now? Like it’s Christmas Morning, what were you doing up there?” And I definitely realized that’s not normal that she’s drinking like this.
She also had a friend who drank heavily, and when she was in the other city, I knew that she was always drinking heavily with her. Then, I realized this was an everyday thing. She’s waking up, and she’s already drunk.
Looking back, how do you feel the situation was handled by the entire family? Could it have been handled any differently in hindsight?
In some ways, I do. I feel like it could have. My mom was in denial for a while, like maybe she could have realized sooner. I think she should not have enabled so much.
I think that personally— I don’t know, that’s a hard question to be honest, because I don’t really think about that. I don’t think I could have done anything, or I should have done this or that. I don’t really know in hindsight.
What is the process of regaining trust?
Well… I think for myself, it is still kind of new. Regaining trust is hard in any situation. I think the process really takes time. You have to go with the time that it takes, and be patient. The person has to prove to you that they mean what they say.
What should others know going through a similar experience?
I think they should know about AL-ANON. It’s a program which helps people that are dealing with family members that have an addiction problem. It’s really helpful, and it’s a really helpful resource. It brings you to a community that is there for you and knows what you are going through because it is hard. Like they say, it is a family disease. It affects everybody. It doesn’t just affect that one person.
We often talk to the addicts, and rarely the sisters of addicts. A lot of people think of addiction from the victim’s point of view, and not the sibling’s. How did your sister’s addiction affect you personally?
It did affect me a lot, as much as I hate to say it because I don’t want it to affect me. I’m kind of like, “Why am I getting thrown into somebody else’s problems?” But it affects me because; it just sucks to see somebody that you love, that has a lot of potential, like that. Unless you’re a stone, it just hurts, you know what I mean?
It’s like terrifying because you never know what the next day can bring. You never know if they’re going to be okay, if they’re going to hurt themselves, or if they’re going to hurt somebody else. So, it’s kind of like you’re always scared, and you’re mad. I mean I’m still dealing with that. You’re just very mad at that person, what they are doing to themselves and the family.
It’s kind of a mix of emotions. It’s really emotional. They say the addict doesn’t realize that because they are kind of in their own world, but it does affect the person. It’s like you’re going on that journey with them. When they’re good, you’re good. When they’re bad, you’re bad.
Clearly, addiction affects everyone, not just the addict. Do not let the toll of your addiction continue to affect those who love you. Instead, seek help, and learn the tools to recovery. We are waiting for your call. You are not alone. Call now.
CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135
(This content is being used for illustrative purposes only; any person depicted in the content is a model)
Author: Shernide Delva
*Trigger Warning* This piece discusses trigger warnings. Please avoid if you are uncomfortable with the idea of questioning whether or not trigger warnings should exist.
The use of trigger warnings has become more mainstream. Now, some are wondering if this generation has taken it too far. Are we overdoing the trigger warnings?
In case you do not know, a “trigger” is something that triggers a negative or uncomfortable reaction. “Trigger Warnings” work to warn people the content they are about to see or read could make them uncomfortable. Trigger warnings give people the option of avoiding content that could cause emotional distress.
Recently, many have observed that society has become more socially conscious or “politically correct.” Whether or not that is a positive thing is a manner of opinion. However, the use of “trigger warnings” have undeniably increased in use.
Initially, trigger warnings spawned from post-traumatic stress disorders. Those who suffer from PTSD benefit from these warnings because they are more sensitive to sensory input. Anything from a film or piece of media might trigger a person with PTSD and cause them to suffer PTSD symptoms. It could be as simple as a sound or smell, physical space, a particular object, or a person. Anything that reminds the mind of a past trauma can result in PTSD symptoms. A person with PTSD may find trigger warnings helpful because it helps them avoid situations that trigger their PTSD symptoms.
The problem with trigger warnings is that everyone is affected differently. Even arbitrary things can be triggering for someone. It is natural for people to be more sensitive to things than others. We all come from a diverse background and upbringing. The question is whether protecting people from possible triggers is beneficial. Everyone is different. If everyone has one, should they all be accommodated? Are we becoming overly sensitive to other people’s “triggers?”
Do Trigger Warnings Help Those With Mental Health Issues?
An article in The Atlantic thoroughly questions whether or not trigger warnings are beneficial to those who have mental health challenges like anxiety and depression. The author argues that trigger warnings create a “fortune telling” society in which people prepare for the worse every time they speak. The act of “fortune telling” involves “seeing the potential danger in an everyday situation.”
On some college campuses, students demand trigger warnings for classic novels like The Great Gatsby and Catcher in the Rye. They argue that the sexually explicit content, violence, and language of these books should come with a trigger warning. As an avid reader, I find the concept of this unusual. While it is true that some students will react more to the content than others, are trigger warnings helping or hurting these developing students?
PTSD and Anxiety: Do Trigger Warnings Benefit Them?
For those who suffer from PTSD, like Molly Miller, trigger warnings have prevented her PTSD episodes and have helped her live a more manageable life.
“Some people feel like trigger warnings coddle sensitive people. I don’t see it that way. I see trigger warnings as a common courtesy to help prevent sufferers of PTSD, like me, from reliving our trauma. I recognize it is not fail-proof, and getting upset by our memories is a part of life. But what is so wrong with making an effort?” She wrote.
On the contrary, author Samuel Barr described his experience with PTSD. At the age of ten, Barr was abused by an older boy. He was left emotionally devastated and suffered PTSD because of the experience. He talks about how he spiraled “downward into a deep depression.” Still, Barr does not believe his mental health condition should warrant a trigger warning. Until he learned to stop seeing himself as a victim and finally received helped, he was forced to tip-toe in society. He says he believes this trigger warning mindset is not beneficial.
“Trigger warnings are one of the latest fads in an ongoing cultural obsession with glorifying victimhood, and as a former victim, I can confidently say there is nothing glorious about it. Contrary to the noble intentions of its supporters, trigger warnings do more to harm people with trauma backgrounds than help them.”
Should We Embrace Them?
Furthermore, Barr believes people should face their trauma rather than run away from them. These warnings will only continue to get out of hand and affect those who produce content in the first place.
“If you start warning, for one thing, you have to decide which unpleasant thing is worth a trigger and which isn’t. That isn’t a position an editor should be in,” stated Jessica Coen, editor at Jezebel magazine.
Johnathan Heidt, the author of “The Coddling of the American Mind,”says we are entering a climate where we presume the worse about the fragility and vulnerability of others. He describes this as vindictive impulsiveness which is “ a culture in which everyone must think twice before speaking up.”
Does this help anyone? Once again, that question can be debated, however for some mental health conditions, it can cause more harm than good:
“According to the most-basic tenets of psychology, helping people with anxiety disorders avoid the things they fear is misguided,” he continues.
Trigger Warnings and Addiction Treatment
When dealing with addiction treatment, addicts who seek treatment come from all types of background and find they are more sensitive to certain things than others. Professionals in the addiction field work to help those seeking treatment develop the tools to lead a healthy life in recovery.
In treatments, clients learn what triggers could result in a relapse. When It comes to addiction, triggers are a very real thing. A person, place, event, or unresolved mental health are triggers in addiction. Therapists help addicts understand what their triggers are. Ultimately, each person has to decide whether to avoid all their triggers or try to overcome them.
For those early in recovery, facing triggers can be a very dangerous idea. Therefore, trigger warnings appearing before photos or content that could raise temptation might be helpful. However, years into the recovery, triggers may not be triggering at all.
Everyone should play an active role in helping others feel comfortable and safe. Sometimes it is good to be aware of how you affect other and what types of things affect you emotionally. You may have to navigate life avoiding triggers and paying more attention to the positives. In recovery, you learn the tools you need to succeed. Take it a day at a time. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135.
Author: Shernide Delva
Truthfully, I did not know what to expect the first time I discovered I was dating a recovering drug addict. I was slightly concerned it would not be the right match. After all, only another addict could express the same empathy and support, and surely, I would not be able to provide that, right? At least, that was my first thought.
Fortunately, the recovering addict/non-addict relationship can be quite a healthy one. Around the same time I started the relationship, I was hired to write about addiction and mental health. This job was a great tool because it allowed me to educate myself on addiction and open my mind even further. I realized addiction impacts everyone, whether it is through personal experience or from an outside perspective. Over 20 million Americans suffer from an addiction of some kind. Therefore, everyone is affected by the disease of addiction in some way or another.
Furthermore, past challenges like a drug addiction can become be a positive influence on a relationship. In my case, it made for someone who was open, honest, and consistently working on themselves, which was a nice change of pace from the previous guys I had dated.
Still, for a non-addict, finding out the person you’re seeing is in recovery can bring on a host of different reactions and emotions. It can be hard to grasp the idea that someone who seems healthy and self-aware, was dependent on substances at one point. There will be challenges, just like any relationship. However, before you dismiss the possibility of a relationship, and write the past off as “baggage,” pause for a moment and read this article…
Healthy Recovery = Healthy Relationship
In some ways, recovering addicts can be some of the healthiest, most balanced individuals you can ever meet. It can be a refreshing change to be with someone who wants to improve themselves. However, there are a few things to be aware of.
To start off, your potential partner should have at least one year of sobriety, preferably much more. Finding out the guy I was dating had five years of sobriety was a good sign. A person with few years of sobriety under their belt is more likely to be following an effective recovery program. The less time in recovery, the more likely the person could still be finding their way in sobriety.
Everyone has a different idea of what an effective recovery program means. For the most part, it should include a combination of things like attending meetings, having a sponsor/sponsee, therapy, spirituality, exercise, and/or meditation. Staying away from drugs and alcohol does not always equate to recovery. In fact, “dry” is a terminology used to describe a person who is abstaining from drugs/alcohol, however, is absent from a recovery program. Learn about what emotional sobriety means. Ensure your partner is actively pursuing their recovery before entering the relationship.
Here are some dos and don’ts to help make the education process easier. More importantly, keep an open line of communication with your partner. Address your concerns. The key is to be with someone who wants a relationship that focuses on both your needs. Shy away from those who let their past challenges define them. Instead, focus on someone who lets their past positively impact their future.
The Dos and Don’ts of Dating Someone in Recovery:
Do: Get the Facts.
DON’T: Make Snap Judgments.
It can be easy to make snap judgments about drug addiction and recovery. Instead, educate yourself on addiction and learn to let go of stigmas you may have had about addiction in the past. Personally, I always felt like I was a compassionate person; however I found that even I had some stigmas about addiction I needed to let go of. Learning that it was not a “choice” was something I needed understand fully. Until I researched the disease of addiction, I did not fully know what that meant on a psychological level. It is okay to admit that there are some stigmas you have to work on. However, make the decision to get the facts before acting on those judgments. Ask questions and express your concerns.
Do: Support their recovery program.
DON’T: Deter their efforts and push them away from recovery.
When I first found out I was in a relationship a recovering addict, I thought I could not be as encouraging since I did not share the same past. Fortunately, through communicating these concerns, I realized that the most effective thing you can do is support the recovery process. For some addicts, dating someone who is not in recovery can be a refreshing change. The best thing you can do is support their program 100 percent. Encourage them to go to meetings. Go to a meeting, if possible. If they need to go every day, support that need. It may be tempting suggest skipping a meeting to spend quality time together, however, remember the relationship will only work if your partner remains sober.
Do: Stay in the present.
DON’T: Ignore your needs, and resist moving forward.
While it is good to sympathize with the past, remember your needs in the relationship are priorities as well. Most likely, you have also gone through difficult challenges in your life too. Do not get stuck over- sympathizing about the past. Instead, both of you should empower each other. Move forward and grow together.
DO: Trust your Partner in their recovery process.
DON’T: Ignore the signs of a relapse.
Whether it is one year or ten years, addiction is a disease, and relapses do happen. While you should trust your partner in their recovery, it is important to understand and recognize the signs of a relapse. Trust is important in a relationship. However, challenges do happen and you may be able to spot the signs and prevent a relapse in its tracks.
Overall, relationships are challenging, whether addiction is part of the picture or not. Education and counseling can help with overcoming the concerns you may have about a relationship with someone in recovery. Most of all, communication is the key. If you or someone you love is struggling, please call 1-800-951-6135. We want to help.
(This content is being used for illustrative purposes only; any person depicted in the content is a model)
Author: Justin Mckibben
It isn’t always easy to see the signs of being too dependent, especially in ourselves, but a lot of us have developed some emotional habits that put us in a position to depend on others in some form or another. They say we all need somebody to lean on… but how much is too much, and how many of us depend on others to the point where we would collapse without them?
These signs are not always easy to read and identify with, because of course we all want to believe we can be independent and strong as an individual, so seeing a reflection in the mirror that tells us we exhibit dependent characteristics is going to bruise the ego a bit.
Every person struggling with independence will one day reach a point when they realize they cannot climb any higher in life without taking a few steps alone, self-discovery. Those of us who battle with dependency issues can apply our dependent nature to all types of things, including:
So here are just 6 signs of being too dependent. Maybe some of these apply to you, and maybe that means it is time to sever some ties, take off the training wheels and find a way without depending on others for happiness, security and purpose.
- Can’t make everyday decisions on their own
Now before we get too far into this, appreciate the fact that of course if you’re going to make a major life decision that could alter the course of your future then I’m not giving you grief for talking it over and getting a variety of opinions from family and friends. By all means, crowd source the heavy stuff.
But with being too dependent we are talking about being incapable of making everyday decisions without someone else’s guidance, or every time the decision is made it is motivated by fear instead of logic.
- Fear of confrontation
The fear of confrontation follows along with a lot of the other fears of someone who struggles with being codependent, such as the fear of failure or the fear of making the wrong decisions on their own.
A person who is too dependent frequently does not feel worthy of having an opinion, especially one that differs from the opinion of someone else they feel they need, and to express that opinion seems even more impossible. If you notice yourself holding back on speaking your mind and standing for what you believe in because it might not work with someone else, it is a very real sign of being too dependent.
- Fear of failure
People who are too dependent tend to shy away from being exposed and vulnerable because it may cause others to realize how “worthless” they really are.
The fear of being a failure and having your weaknesses put on public display can cause immense anxiety for someone who is too dependent. For people used to depending on others it is easier to avoid failure by not taking initiative or following through with actions. People who are too dependent typically find themselves abandoning their goals before they even get started on the journey.
- Cannot be alone
Always expecting the worst is part of being too dependent, and this sense of impending dread often leads them to not feeling competent enough to live their own lives without others.
Being alone means being vulnerable and unprotected, which are both things overly dependent people will try to alleviate with the presence of other people… even if those other people are not good for them.
To someone who is overly dependent it is impossible to comprehend having to cope with whatever life throws at them on their own- so of course people who are too dependent rely on the stability and strength of others to see them through… even if those other people aren’t as stable or as strong as the dependent would believe.
- Always seeking approval
This may especially hard for a dependent person to acknowledge, because no one wants to admit they are a people pleaser. One was that people who are too dependent trick themselves into justifying their overly dependent and unhealthy behavior is by adopting the other person’s expectations as their own.
If the person struggling with being dependent “fails”, they assume it is a failure not only to the expectations of the other person but also their own, and thus each failure reinforces the detrimental judgment of self.
Dependent people crave validation and approval. Some would say a dependent person desires approval as desperately as an alcoholic craves a drink, so an alcoholic with a dependent personality in relationships has a lot standing against them.
- Lack of Boundaries
In most cases the only boundary the person has is to be included in the relationship they latch onto, and subsequently all other personal boundaries are unsolidified and traversable if it helps them keep their grip on that desired relationship.
This unhealthy and self-depreciating willingness to ignore or alter personal boundaries in order to maintain a relationship creates a vulnerability that some people look to exploit.
Some personality types are happy to find out how much a person is willing to give, then use them for all they have for as long as they can. The needs are never met, and the dependent person will never feel enough- this cycle is terrible and tragic, and so many people who have to rebuild emotionally due to drugs or alcohol tend to become overly dependent in some aspect of their life, putting them in greater danger than they realize.
Overall, becoming independent in any kind of relationship can end up supporting your sobriety exponentially. In some cases, it can lead to relapse. In recovery we learn to be less dependent on people and instead rely on our principles and our actions, along with a spiritual fitness. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135
Coach Heidi Bilonick McGuirk tackles the issue: How to handle when your spouse keeps bringing up your past.
Dear Coach Heidi,
My question is; I have been in recovery for approximately 8 months. While I was in active addiction, I did a lot of things that I’m not proud of that hurt a lot of people, especially my husband. Recently I received a tax form showing that I had taken a large amount of money from my retirement account that I truly don’t remember doing. My husband is not happy and I can completely understand. The problem is this: I get mad at him for getting upset with me. Like, he tells me I should be very thankful that he still wants to be with me given the horrible things that I have put him through when I was in my active addiction. I continued to hurt him when he is the one I love dearly. How do I reply to him when he brings up things I did without getting mad at him? I have told him I’m sorry a million times. This is now affecting every aspect of our 5 year marriage, including our sex life.
What advice can you give me?
I absolutely LOVE this question! And I love it because it’s a question so many people recovery have. Kind of like asking: How long do I have to pay for my sins? Or how long do I bite my tongue? Or how many times do I need to say “I’m sorry.” My take is coming from a place of having almost 20 years of coaching couples into happier relationships. So, I would ask you, how can both of you decide to act more loving towards each other and assume the best about each other?
For example, if you were to assume the best about your husband while wondering why he brings up the past or why he tells you that you are lucky he stuck it out, what is his POSITIVE intent? In other words, if you were to look through a loving lens, WHY would he be doing that? Most of the time, loved ones remind us of the past because they truly believe that by doing so, we will be shamed enough not to repeat old patterns. They don’t want us to forget the hell they went through so we don’t forget and “do” it again.
This thinking is flawed in so many ways. First, addiction is a disease, not a character defect. And no one is choosing it.
The other issue is that you are getting mad at him and then feeling bad for being mad. Perhaps, instead of telling him how you feel, you are acting out in other ways, like withholding sex. An important lesson to learn in recovery is that you are entitled to your feelings. Feelings are a great way by which to measure the health of your relationship. Think of them as a kind of barometer that measures the stress, pressure, and overall ‘temperature’ of the relationship.
Remember, your anger is legitimate however, make sure that you are not making yourself a martyr or victim of your feelings. Instead, take ACTION by initiating open communication about your feelings. Being passive-aggressive or acting like a martyr won’t cut it.
Talk to your husband. Let him know how the constant reminders make you feel. Take responsibility for how these feelings then have you act out in certain ways. But at the end of the day C, your feelings are YOUR feelings and no one can MAKE you feel anything without your permission. You’re the one who decides to get angry. Could you get grateful instead? I say ‘yes.” By focusing on where you are when he focuses on where you’ve been.
So many choices! That’s the beautiful thing.
Heidi Bilonick McGuirk is a Master Certified Relationship Coach. She has consulted for several top Matchmaking and Dating companies around the world. She has served as the Director of Operations for the Matchmaking Institute in NYC and has been in private practice for over a decade. She is one of the Life and Relationship Coaches here at Palm Partners and has supported many clients in their pursuits of sobriety, health and happiness.
If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135.