Finally Recognizing Addiction As A Disease Not A Moral Issue

It has taken far to long.  To many beautiful souls lost.  To many families being ripped apart. To much misinformation out there.  Lives destroyed.  Hearts broken.

We, as parents, who have drug addicted loved ones, know all to well that our teen and adult children who battle addiction are not bad people.  They are sick people.  Sick people who often do “bad” things to relieve the debilitating physical and psychological pain.

Our addicted loved one’s behavior completely shatters our lives.  We would do anything.  Give anything.  Go anywhere,  to find help for the addict in our lives that we love so much.

For far to long, society has treated our addicted loved ones as weak, immoral, selfish, uncaring, worthless, a stain on society. “Put them in prison and throw away the key”.  That has been the mentality we have tragically lived with.

Our addicted loved ones have been harshly judged.  We as parents may have felt harshly judged as well.   After all, if we were good parents this couldn’t possibly have happened, right?

Wrong!!!

Addiction has been judged as a moral issue for far to long.  It has created isolation, pain and suffering for our addicted loved one and for each member of the family, in their own way.

Sadly, it has taken thousands of overdoses in every  single area of every single country on earth.  Millions and millions worldwide. And countless numbers of deaths before what scientists and many doctors and we as parents have always known, addiction has become a brain disease.

The very first time our addicted loved one tried a potentially addictive substance, they made a moral choice.  But once addiction raised its ugly head, a beast was awaken and the disease of addiction grabbed hold of our loved one.

Many of you will remember those days when the talk of addiction within the family was more often than not,  confined to the family.

We were lead to believe it was a weakness.  That it was completely a choice.

Only it isn’t.

Addiction is finally being talked about for the horrific disease it is.  This is a disease unlike any other, in that all the addict has to do is stop taking their drug of choice.  Seems so easy.  Just stop using and the disease halts.

Well if it were that simple we would not have millions of people world-wide suffering unbelievably because of their addiction.  We would not have families torn apart.  Our prisons would not be over-flowing with addicted inmates, incarcerated for drug related offenses.

My son Nathan, battled heroin, cocaine, crack cocaine and meth.  His addiction lasted twenty-three years.  He tried over and over again to walk away from his drug use. I never doubted he wanted to be drug free.  Each and every time he reached out for help, he meant it. He wanted to be free at that time.  An hour later he may well have been back to using, but when he asked for help, I knew he meant it. To have the chains of his addiction broken.  He wanted that and so does each and every addicted person.  They are being held hostage to their addiction and we as the families who love them deeply, are being held hostage to the behaviors of their addiction.

We need to have programs in place where when an addict reaches out for help, it is immediate.  Just like someone having a heart attack.  Would we say, “We’ll put you on a wait list.  Call back every day and we will see if we can fit you in”. Of course not. Delay would result in death.  Delay in getting our addicted loved ones help is resulting in deaths every single day as well.  When an addict asks for help it has to be immediate.

Finally, we have enough highly educated professionals, at the top of their came, stressing addiction as being a brain disease.  Doctors, neuroscientist, psychologists, addictions specialist, mental health experts.  This is not a moral issue.  This is a medical issue.  We must do everything we can – use our voices, use our pens and computers and send our government leaders letters encouraging them to implement services to help our addicted loved ones.

We know better than anyone, the pain and suffering of watching our addicted loved one self-destruct, is the most difficult, painful, heart-wrenching experience possible.

Our lives have been devastated because of their behavior.  But – your loved one’s addiction was not about you.  My son’s addiction was not about me.  It was never about us.

Addiction is a disease.

Our addicted loved one never meant to hurt us.  Because of our deep love for them, we were hurt.  We were devastated watching their pain, their spiraling out of control.  We were the collateral damage of their addiction.

What our loved ones don’t need is rejection.  When they are reaching out for help, more than ever before, they need support.

Of course they are still accountable for their previous actions, but we must step away from what was and begin to embrace  what is happening.

Our loved one is already consumed with enough self-blame, guilt and shame.  They don’t need to be reminded of where they were.  If only their brain would be quiet so they could forget for awhile.

Forget past relapses.  Those were then; today is what we’ve got. Encourage the efforts. That is the real connection our loved one needs.

As parents, as families we need to keep speaking out for programs, for help for our addicted loved one.  When deep in their addiction, they are unable to speak out for themselves.  We must be their voices.  We must be the advocates.  We must speak up for social justice and help for those we love.  They are counting on us.

I wish you all some much needed peace. Be kind to yourself.  Remember, you count too. Never give up hope that your loved one will find his or her power to reach out for that lifeline you have been throwing.

For any of you who follow twitter, I hope you will follow @AddictionAMS  – I will have thoughts,  inspirations we can all identify with and articles, related to addiction, mental illness, homelessness, etc., that I believe you may be interested in.

Remember, you are not alone.  I truly care.

Much love,

June

2 thoughts on “Finally Recognizing Addiction As A Disease Not A Moral Issue

  1. Tania

    You are so right June. We have only seen our beautiful daughter, or what is left of her, once in the last 18months, and that was in prison. She is a heroin addict now, but started out with PND after her son was born in 2010, began drinking then ended up taking heroin. She hasn’t seen her son for 2 years now, the last time being in a Contact Centre. We all miss her everyday, but since coming out of prison she has chosen not to contact us. No one seems to want to seriously help her, and now I fear it is too late. I feel so helpless and her beautiful little boy misses her terribly.
    Your posts are always so inspiring, heartfelt, and make me realise, sadly, we are not alone.

    1. I am so sorry for your on-going heartbreak Tania. I read your pain in every word you have written.

      Unfortunately many times our loved ones, out of shame and embarrassment, chose to “fall off the grid” if they are still deeply embedded in their addiction. This is not about her not loving her family. It is more about her not loving herself right now. They have no idea that a phone call just saying, “Mom, I’m alive” is what we most need to hear.

      Never give up hope that she will reach out and ask for help. My son struggled for twenty-three years with hardcore addiction. He was so embedded in his addiction, most that knew him expected his life to end at any time. He himself told me once,”Mom I used to have hope that I could change. I don’t have hope anymore Mom. I know I will die on the streets of Surrey”.

      I said, “Then I will hope for both of us”.

      It was two years after he made that comment to me, that he finally found his power to reach for sobriety. He woke up one morning in a shelter, very sick with pneumonia, dope sick, his 5’11” body just over 100 lbs. On his own he pulled himself free of the chains of addiction that had held him hostage for 23 years. That was February 17th, 2014. As long as there is life, there is hope.

      You are in my thoughts and prayers my Friend, that you will get that miracle you have been praying for. The one where your daughter reaches out for help and grabs that lifeline you have been throwing her.

      Take care of yourself – you, your grandson and your daughter are in my thoughts and prayers.

      Much love,
      June

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