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National Addictions Awareness Week 2017: Addiction Affects All of Us

Whether we are the addicts or have one in our lives, addiction is a significant issue that impacts everyone.

By Christina St-JeanPublished 7 years ago 3 min read

I am the daughter of an alcoholic.

I am not in unique company, but certainly those of us who are related to someone who struggles with addiction know for sure the baggage that comes with it. There are certain character traits that appear to be universal, and we all have our own ways of coping with the challenges that come with having an addict in our lives.

We become, for instance, experts at trying to make like everything is just as normal as everyone else. We sometimes become overly involved in sports or academia in an effort to try and illustrate just how "normal" we are, so no one ever knows the shame that comes with having an addict in our lives. We smile, we have a close circle of friends, and we do our work on time, all in an effort to bring some sort of normalcy to our decidedly abnormal lives.

Unfortunately, it's not until much later that we realize all our posing and pretending has only sheltered us from what was a difficult youth. In some respects, we may have had the attention of our families through various means — there may have been the family vacations or trips or dinners — but these experiences were often far from normal. Breaths may have been collectively held as you waited for your loved ones to do or say something that would lead you to make some sort of excuse or other to make their behavior somehow acceptable or believable.

These are experiences that indelibly imprint themselves on us and impact our relationships throughout our lives going right into adulthood. Those of us with addicts in our lives may find that they eye the behavior patterns of others somewhat warily, or even worry that perhaps we might follow in his or her footsteps ourselves. We might look at the relationships we have and wait for the other shoe to drop while still trying to be the ideal spouse, housecleaner, parent, friend or just adult-at-large — old habits, after all, die hard — because our behavior will somehow make that of the addict better. After all, if we act and react in an ideal manner, the addict will somehow have no need to be addicted to the substance they're turning to in order to cope with life, right?

Those who do not know an addict or are not addicted themselves may look at us and really not understand why we behave in the ways that we do. Put simply, it takes very conscious efforts on our parts to be able to set our old modes of thinking — the ones where we're watching our beloved addicts circling the drain and wondering when they will finally, inevitably crash and hopefully seek sobriety — aside and perhaps not wonder when things will ultimately implode as they have so many times before in our lives.

It takes a lot of work to get past the ideas that having an addict — or even being addicted — can put in your head. It also takes a great deal of bravery to be able to be honest about addiction and mental health issues. Billie Lourd, Carrie Fisher's daughter, is probably one of the most prominent celebrities who was quite open about her mother's drug addiction, and suggested what could be done to help those dealing with such conditions.

Of her mother, Lourd said that she ultimately died of drug addiction and noted, “She talked about the shame that torments people and their families confronted by these diseases. I know my mom. She’d want her death to encourage people to be open about their struggles. Seek help, fight for government funding for mental-health programs. Shame and those social stigmas are the enemies of progress to solutions and ultimately a cure."

We have to keep talking about addictions and mental health struggles. If we want to truly remove the stigmas surrounding these topics, we have to keep talking about them and not continue to remove them off the front page.


About the Creator

Christina St-Jean

I'm a high school English and French teacher who trains in the martial arts and works towards continuous self-improvement.

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    Christina St-JeanWritten by Christina St-Jean

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