The Pain and Shame of Addiction: How to Move Through Loss

As I talk to people in the business community, at my networking groups and certainly among my clients about my sister Lane's passing I hear story after story of loss: "My brother died at 41 from heroin, my sister at 38, my daughter at 30 from an overdose." The truth is addiction kills the body and the soul of those struggling with it. One woman said to me she doesn't talk about her sister's death because everyone judges addiction so much.

It's true families often feel embarassed, ashamed and want to hide the fact their loved one is ill. Out of a lack of education or ignorance we family members often blame the addict and and let me be clear, I'm not saying addicts are not responsible for their actions - they are. This is where a good Alanon program or philosophy can help a family separate the blame/shame they feel from the love while detaching from the problem - the addiction.

I don't feel ashamed of my sister's illness - not that I liked the way she behaved at times. I feel ashamed of the medical and therapeutic community because the collective WE have not done a better job of treating this illness. The recovery and relapse rates for addiction are abysmal - I'll follow up with stats - but let's just say the recovery rates are in the very low percentages.  

Here's what I've seen in my own family:  my mother recovered from alcoholism and was sober the last 15 years of her life - yeah mom - but she died from cancer caused by smoking.  My aunt has been sober 30 years and quit smoking and is thriving at 79.  My son has been sober for 20+ years, my cousin has relapsed and is using Oxycontin (very very bad drug) that is overprescribed for pain relief, my daughter is just coming out of treatment and if she does what she needs to she'll be fine - and now Lane, my sweet sis has died from alcoholism.  

Moving Through Loss:  Breathe, journal, stay present to your feelings - it's ok - you'll get through this - talk to friends who will listen, not judge, check out Alanon, Co-DA groups, ACA groups or AA. Blocking feelings leads to stress and more anxiety. If necessary get professional help from a substance abuse or addiction counselor in your community. 

Stay tuned:  Next blog about medications that support sobriety, calm cravings, and can actually help repair the brain.