Ready to Share My Story

After everything I’ve gone through with my family and addiction, I’m finally taking the time to focus on my recovery.

I’ve shared parts of my story through my writing before, but this is the first time I am sharing so much of it…and I think it’s time.

My name is Nadine and I’m the wife of a recovering alcoholic and addict, sibling to a sister who’s a recovering addict and a brother who lost his battle with alcoholism.

My Family Story

There may be a genetic component to alcoholism in my family, but to be honest I’m not sure. I know that there is alcoholism on both sides; both my paternal grandfather and my aunt on my mother’s side suffered from it, as well as some cousins. As for the drug addiction, I’m not aware of any drug users in the family, so I’m not sure where that comes from.

I’ll start with my brother because it will be the shortest part of my story; I’m still not ready to deal with this yet. I know I have to, but I’m not quite ready.

I’ll summarize by saying that, out of a family of 5 children, my brother was the only boy and the eldest. I idolized my brother; he always made me laugh and taught me so much. He lost his battle with alcoholism before his 50th birthday; a part of me died with him and I will never, ever get over the loss. He always used to greet me with a “hey sis!” and a loving smile in his voice…it rips my heart wide open knowing I will never hear that again.

I know I can never fully heal until I properly grieve my brother, but I’m not ashamed to say that I am very scared of the process because I don’t know if I can come back from that pain.

I know I can never fully heal until I properly grieve my brother, but I’m not ashamed to say that I am very scared of the process because I don’t know if I can come back from that pain.

The next part of my story has to do with my sister. She is the baby of the family and she lived up to that title in every way possible. My sister is extremely outgoing, has a huge heart and everybody who meets her likes her immediately. She was like my brother in many ways and it’s ironic that my oldest and youngest siblings both suffered from addiction.

My sister and I are only 14 months apart and we are complete opposites; I actually think that’s why we were so close – we balanced each other out.

I know exactly how my sister’s addiction started because I was there. She started hanging with some very shady “friends” who got her started with smoking marijuana. That rapidly progressed to crack cocaine. For all those who say that marijuana is harmless, I beg to differ. For my sister, it was the gateway drug to a crack addiction that would continue for years!

My parents did everything they could to help her. I even followed her around for a while, hoping to make sure she was safe, but her addiction was much more powerful than our love for her.

For years she would go in and out of rehabs, in and out of our lives and there was nothing we could do. We all felt the helplessness, pain, frustration and fear as we wondered where my sister was, if she was okay, or if we would get “the call” telling us she was dead. If you’ve lived with and loved an addict, you know exactly how this feels – it is the worst feeling in the world because there is absolutely nothing you can do!

Fortunately for my sister and our family, her story ends happily. She has been clean for 10 years now; we are all so very proud of her and the strength it took to make it through her addiction alive. The fact that she is still here is a testament to the power of recovery.

Loving an Addict

The next part of my story is the most personal because it has to do with my husband. Next to my father and brother (may they both rest in peace), he is the best man I have ever known and the most important man in my life. He’s hard to write about because I’m trying to figure out how much of our story to share while still respecting the intimacy of our relationship. There’s a lot to our story and I couldn’t possibly share it all in one post!

I should have seen the signs of addiction in my future husband early in our relationship, especially since my brother and sister were both in active addiction at the time. I don’t know; maybe I didn’t want to see them. My husband and I met when we were very young and we literally grew up together. The first time we met, I can honestly say I didn’t notice anything. It wasn’t until later that the excessive drinking and marijuana use (again to those who say it’s harmless, I say bull!) really started to come out. I had no choice but to pay attention. By that time, though, it was too late. I was very much in love and turned a blind eye to it; so much so that when he told me later on that he was doing cocaine I had no idea! How sad is that?

We have gone through so much as a couple and I can honestly say that loving my husband has been the hardest and most amazing relationship I’ve ever had.

When you love an addict, whether it be a parent, child, sibling or romantic relationship, I think there’s a certain level of co-dependency that takes place. I never fully realized that until I started doing advocacy work and, of course, going to Al-Anon. Looking back now, I can see where I was completely co-dependent with my sister and especially with my husband. We were together for two years before our daughter was born. In those early years, my mood and my behaviors were completely determined by my husband’s addictive behavior. It’s funny how clearly I see that now, but I couldn’t see that at all back then…

I like to think of our daughter as a life-saver, and we’ve both told her as much. An active addict and a co-dependent do not make a good couple and we were both spiraling downward. While our daughter was not planned, I truly believe she was sent at a time in our lives when she was desperately needed. Once I gave birth, my whole life changed; my only focus was my child and, since I had to raise her on my own for the first 11 years of her life, I did everything I could to make sure she was safe, happy and healthy.

Even though my husband stayed active in his addiction before, during and after our daughter was born, I know how much he loved her.  I also know, and he has said as much, that had it not been for our daughter, he would not have had a reason to eventually get help.

We have gone through so much as a couple and I can honestly say that loving my husband has been the hardest and most amazing relationship I’ve ever had. He is my best friend, I cannot imagine life without him. He’s the best father and husband anyone could ever hope to have. He has 14 years of recovery, has gone back to school to get his associate’s degree and now works as a drug and alcohol counselor to “pay back” the gift of his recovery. He’s also going back to school for his bachelor’s degree and plans to grow in his career; I couldn’t be more proud of him if I tried!

My Time

The final part of my story is about me. After everything I’ve gone through with my family and addiction, I’m finally taking the time to focus on my recovery. It started when I decided to speak out on behalf of families after seeing a Dr. Phil show and getting so angry at how he was attacking and blaming the family members of an addict. In that moment, I realized that, while it’s very important to hear the stories of addicts, it’s equally as important to highlight the stories of their families. After all, they’re the ones we so rarely hear from!

Addiction is a family disease and, in order to fully understand and break the stigma of addiction, you have to hear everyone’s story.

I also realized that I needed help. At the suggestion of my husband, I went back to Al-Anon after 14 years. Through the program, I am learning to deal with all the emotions and issues I’ve kept buried for so long. I’ve also met some amazing and wonderful people in my recovery. I will have 6 months at the end of October; I look forward to my continued healing, growth and, of course, the opportunity to speak out.

By sharing some of my story, I hope I’ve shown that, even through loss, there is life after addiction and power in recovery. Addiction can destroy families and tear apart communities, but if we all come together – addicts, families, friends and communities – we can win the fight against addiction because we are worth it!

 

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