My Brother, The Addict [Part 2]
After he died I was expected to support my parents, which I tried to do. But there was no support for siblings. I tried to go to a support group for siblings but I remember feeling like I was the only sibling there.”
– Chelsea Laliberte
Chelsea Laliberte yelled, “I told you so!” when her parents broke the news that her brother, Alex, had died of a heroin overdose. Even though Chelsea spent months trying to convince her family that Alex needed help; her mother admittedly didn’t believe her and was blindsided when she found her son dead in their family home.
Alex’s death was devastating to the entire family; however Chelsea was faced with different emotional problems than her parents—her anger towards them combined with her own guilt and grief.
It’s a lot different to lose a sibling than it is to lose a child. It’s a different kind of pain.”
Addiction is a family disease, and as such, understanding the family roles in addiction is an imperative part of addiction recovery. However, more often than not, the needs of an addict’s sibling get pushed aside because everyone is focused on helping the parents and the addict.
As their brother or sister becomes a vacuum, commanding most of the attention from their parents, siblings of addicts oftentimes get left out; which leads to some siblings trying to be caretakers, some enablers, some to turn their backs, some to refuse to talk about it, and some who are scared, so they ignore it.
While each sibling may face different issues based on the circumstances and family dynamic, some of the effects siblings of individuals struggling with alcohol and drug addiction can include:
- A mixture of anger, sadness, anxiety, shame, social isolation, and loss as the sibling struggles to adapt to the impacts of drugs on his or her life.
- An increased likelihood that younger brothers and sisters would themselves take part in drug or alcohol abuse and develop an addiction.
- The isolation of siblings as the addict’s drug or alcohol abuse becomes center stage.
- Deterioration in their physical and psychological health to the stresses of living with their sibling’s drug abuse.
As a sibling of someone who is struggling with this horrible disease it may be extremely difficult watching your parents struggle with the choices your brother or sister is making. You may feel completely lost as of what to do or how to help. A few tips for getting through this stressful time can include:
- Be willing to help the addict
- Refuse to hurt the addict
- Be willing to assist your parents
- Separate your relationship with your parents from your sibling’s relationship with your parents
- Do not blame your parent’s choices on your sibling or vice-versa
It’s no secret having a loved one who is struggling with addiction can be tough. Don’t lose yourself in their struggle. For more information of finding the right drug rehab center for you or your sibling struggling with addiction, please don’t hesitate to call us.
Read Part 3 of our “Addiction in the Family” series here.
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