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Being in recovery and having a sibling in active addiction

How Addiction Impacts Your Loved Ones

It’s hard enough being in recovery and having friends who continue to struggle with drugs and alcohol; imagine being in recovery and having a sibling in active addiction. Being the big sister in my circumstances, I’ve always felt a certain responsibility to look out for my little sister and make sure she isn’t making the same mistakes I am. But all of that changes when you have the disease of addiction. For one, I used to get high with my baby sister – not exactly role-model material.

Getting to my bottom didn’t take as long for me as it does for most people. I got sober at the age of 22 after 3 times through treatment – but it wasn’t easy getting to where I am today, either. I had to get to a pretty dark and miserable bottom before I allowed myself to accept help. Once I reached that point though, it was only up from there. I had to work through a lot of issues in my early sobriety but none of them as challenging as feeling particularly guilty about my younger sister and her addiction. This is definitely something I still carry with me today and can weigh me down at times. Being in recovery and having a sibling who is still drinking or using drugs can take a toll on you emotionally in a big way.

It took a lot of failed attempts at trying to “save her” before I learned that I had to change up my way of dealing with the difficulties of this situation. I watched her time and time again enter into recovery only to be extremely disappointed when she once again relapsed. I finally got to a point where it was affecting my own recovery – and this scared me.

For anyone who is going through similar circumstances, I have a few suggestions for you. It may sound harsh but you have to put yourself first 100% if you want to be of any use to yourself or anyone else in a situation like this. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to honestly tell my family that I can’t help my sister or have any part of her addiction. There have even been times where I had to ask my mother to please not speak to me about her AT ALL. And yes, I have tried to cut her off completely and all of these attempts have failed but not for lack of trying.

It can be really embarrassing when your sister is coming over to your apartment and you have to tell your roommate and friends to hide any valuables. I’ve had to do this on numerous occasions as well. It is really different being on the opposite side of the spectrum once you get sober. It can be crazy to watch someone so close to you acting so insane. No matter how hard it gets though, I can’t stress enough that you continue to work your own program and focus on your sobriety first through the stress of having an active addict/alcoholic in your life. Whether it is your parent, sibling, spouse or distant cousin – it doesn’t matter who they are, if you care about them it’s tough to go through.

On the plus side, when your sibling eventually hits their bottom and needs help you can be strong and be there for them in a way you never could before. By the grace of god, I am over 2 and a half years sober today and was lucky enough to be able to get my sister into a treatment program just yesterday. Separating myself from her and her addiction is by far one of the hardest things I’ve had to do in my recovery as of yet but I wouldn’t trade any of my decisions or actions for anything. I know that if I continue to do the right thing for me and my recovery that everything will work out exactly the way it is supposed to. I may have not been the best role-model for my sister in the past but you can be damn sure I am becoming someone she can look up to today.

If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll free 1-844-422-6926 and get help today.

Alyssa, Director of Digital Marketing
Alyssa, Director of Digital Marketing
Alyssa is the National Director of Digital Marketing and is responsible for a multitude of integrated campaigns and events in the behavioral health and addictions field. All articles have been written by Alyssa and medically reviewed by our Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Darrin Mangiacarne.