1676904745 Either in treatment or on the street The addiction taboo

“Either in treatment or on the street”: The addiction taboo makes relatives invisible

Either in treatment or on the street The addiction taboo

Living with one of us is not comfortable at all. Our family loves us, they thought they knew us, although now they doubt it; our partners project onto us what they think we should be, what they thought we were when they fell in love; and our kids don’t seem to know what’s happening to us, but they never bring their friends home.

“When she was pregnant with me, my mom stopped using it, but when she stopped breastfeeding me it came back,” María was a child when her mom was on a detox. She says she doesn’t remember too much what she experienced, but María Jesús, her mother, remembers it very well: “There comes a time when your actions are not yours, I have patience with mine Lost daughter, all I wanted was for her to fall asleep…you end up screaming four times when you go into rehab.”

María Jesús no longer feels the guilt that she felt when she first recovered. Today she is a therapist and has accompanied several hundred addicts in their process. That wasn’t always the case, twenty years ago she just wanted to get out of the facility: “When my mother said she wanted to leave the rehab clinic, my grandmother threatened to take away my custody,” says her daughter María.

According to 2020 data, 38,544 people entered treatment for illicit drug use and 20,017 for alcohol use in Spain. If we allocate three relatives to each patient, we have nearly 200,000 people suffering from a loved one’s mental health. And as I said, his suffering is no small thing. They endure what is not written in the hope that we will return to what we were. “You cling to the memory of what it was like because you don’t recognize the person next to you,” Marta was married to one of us. “We went to a GP and he told us it could be depression, but it seemed like a weird depression to me because I was having violent, explosive episodes.”

She was a psychologist, but like Eli, she didn’t see it coming either: “His problem with drugs was in front of me and I couldn’t or wouldn’t see it,” Eli explains to me about what it means to live with a person with addiction and how each other gradually developed what we call codependency.

Although some studies seem to suggest that codependency is linked to less than usual activation in the prefrontal cortex, this trait is yet to be described as a disorder in any textbook. However, many of the people who have lived with someone with an addiction share some common characteristics: they are nurturing, they are overly alert, they feel like they are never doing enough, they try to control, they feel guilty when they unable to help the person they love, experiencing constant frustration, covering up the other person’s behavior so they won’t be judged, etc.

“For me, co-dependence means living life through others, letting yourself go, not having the control we think we have, trying to please everyone,” Marta defines her behavior as and Paqui explains it in very similar words: “They say the world behind you, you feel a responsibility to move the house forward, move your partner forward, no one can tell you’re wrong because you don’t even tell. You’re so focused on getting him to work and keeping his family from noticing that you don’t have time for anything else.” Paqui’s partner has recovered and is now dedicated to creating safe spaces for others who have been through similar situations .

Everyone talks about the fear they felt, but they agree on something surprising: Fear was what they’re about to say. “I was very scared, I was scared of what they would think of me. I was afraid that others would judge me.” What kind of society are we building when fear of others becomes a risk factor in seeking help?

María, daughter of María Jesús, says it is “like asking someone with cancer why do you have cancer? Well, because it touched him, period.” Although you will receive endless insults on social networks for this simple statement – you asked for it! You haven’t started consuming! Those of you who use drugs should pay more taxes! You spend a lot of money on health care! – It would be interesting. As you read this, exercise humility if you pause for a moment, close your eyes, and try to recall the moment you started drinking. You have it? Do you remember if one of your friends couldn’t stop? Why do you think he couldn’t and you can? Was he malicious?

“My dad and mom used to drink together, but my dad stopped when he wanted to and my mom couldn’t stop without help,” María continues, hitting the mark. It’s not a question of will, but of power. And when the addiction is already installed, help is usually needed to be able to do this. “They told me to close the doors, make love tough. We had a very bad time, but his father, sister and I were together,” says Esther, the mother of a boy who is addicted to a video game.

The truth is I’ve known about “tough love” for a while: “Either get treatment or stay on the streets, you’ve run out of money in the bank”. That’s my mom’s voice, the way she sounded fifteen years ago when she left me after a detox relapse. There is much controversy as to whether or not “tough love” is effective, but the truth is that it has been the starting point in many cases I know of, including mine. There are no two options: Most of us addicts are scared to death at the thought of staying on the street. The drug, when you can no longer do without it, does not make you brave, but profoundly stupid and miserable.

For example, Paqui would always ask her partner what was wrong with him: if they had a home, a job, and a healthy family, why did he seem depressed? He replied that he wasn’t happy and Paqui, how could it be otherwise, finally thought that she was the one who couldn’t handle it. Always the fault, the fault of the addict and the fault of the one who accompanies us. Relationships become perverted, there is a lot of love but also too much fear and resentment. They’re saying that a person who forms a relationship with an addict because they’re not feeling well either, and I think that makes sense: how can they fall in love with us? Our motivation is always consumption.

Most families move away. Not only from the addict, but also the members themselves distance themselves from each other. Some choose to justify our behavior and avoid facing the problem, others are questioned because they put their cards on the table, there are also those who face the problem and look for strategies to deal with us to communicate like Esther did: “My son was like a Miura, it was impossible to talk to him, so I started communicating via WhatsApp even though he lived at home.”

There are no recipes or shortcuts for tackling life with a using addict, but there are places and people to turn to for help. That’s the first step, they told me. Break the taboo, talk about it and ask for help. And it looks like the evidence is on our side.

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