I’m the mother of a drug addict. I can’t tell you how long it took me to say those words. I’m grateful beyond description that my daughter has now achieved sustained recovery, but when in active addiction, the word “addict” didn’t really roll off the tongue very well. The first time I referred to her and the word “addict” in the same sentence I felt as if I’d entered an alternate universe.
We were the family this could never happen to — not because we’re so special, but we were, you know, “normal.” That is, normal enough that there were no twisted, wayward branches on the family tree — at least none that I knew of. And no one had ever been to jail. Never in my wildest nightmares did I think a child of mine would become addicted to drugs, let alone drugs that would come to define her life.
It empowered me to finally say the word “addict” out loud and to talk about addiction openly. There were times during my daughter’s active addiction when I all but stopped people on the street and announced, “My daughter is a drug addict. Please pray for our family.”
I quickly threw myself into the study of addiction and learned absolutely everything my lay brain could absorb about this monstrous disease. I haunted bookstores and searched Amazon, acquiring books on addiction by the armful. I also Googled “codependency” and then laughed out loud. How had I lived so long and not known this about myself? I joined one support group, and then another, and another. I talked about addiction with absolutely everyone I knew.
I can honestly say that after nine years of studying, talking and recovery in my family, I know more about addiction than what’s normal for a lay person. (You can imagine what fun I am at a cocktail party.)
But this is a subject we must talk about. We need to throw open the shutters and shine a light on addiction. We need to bring the most undertreated disease in America out of the proverbial closet. Approximately 10% of the U.S. population over the age of 12 suffers from the disease of addiction. That’s about 25 million people, and each has loved ones who also suffer because of it. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that 100 people die daily from unintentional overdose. Think of it: That’s a commuter flight between San Francisco and Los Angeles going down every day.
Let’s talk about addiction. I hope you’ll join me here on my new blog as we talk about the pressing questions of substance use disorder, especially as it relates to addiction in the family. Maybe we can help one another — and help raise awareness about the most misunderstood disease in our country.