There is a lot of judgement and shame connected to substance abuse. Substance abuse and addiction affects not only the users themselves but their loved one’s as well. It’s hard to admit or talk about addiction, whether in a past or present sense. It’s equally hard to talk about the problems of substance abuse of a loved one.
Parents often get blamed for the misbehaviour of their children, even if their children are already grown up. Spouses can see their significant others as an extension of themselves and carry the burden of their behaviour. Children try to protect their parents and reflect their parent’s behaviour in something they should or shouldn’t be. These are all human ways to react in order to keep up with cultural norms. And our society and culture support these ways of thinking by passing judgement on substance abusers and their loved ones.
“I must have been the happiest child in the world, until my father died tragically when I was 10 years old. My mother smothered her pain in liquor after the funeral and reminded us drunk, how we children didn’t understand, that her husband is dead. She doesn’t have anything anymore. I myself thought then, that we are somehow responsible for everything, so we tried to make up by cooking and cleaning” (Uhri.2011).
The discussion around substance abuse should be more overt and supporting, within the family as well as in the society. When a loved one is struggling with addiction, it’s important to talk about the feelings and effects of substance abuse, such as fear and worry, without passing blame or threats. Substance abuse is not a private matter, since it affects the people close to the user (Läheisen huoneentaulu. N.D).
“-The drug use of one person affects on average six of his/her family members. Therefore, in a city of the size of Tampere, we’re talking about 3000-4000 people, says social therapist Sinikka Sjögren” (Tuominen S. 2015).
The shame related to the substance abuse of a loved one causes stress and anxiety. Even though it’s not a private matter, it is a personal choice and responsibility, that shouldn’t be carried by others. It’s also important to let go of feelings of guilt, since the motivation to stop always derives from within and can only be supported by outsiders. No-one can become sober on behalf of another (Läheisen huoneentaulu. N.D).
When we worry about the wellbeing of our loved ones, we often forget the wellbeing of ourselves. Pursuing happiness and enjoying life might seem difficult, when a loved one is struggling with his/hers. However, we are all equally important and have our own lives to live. Taking care of ourselves is also the best way to stay supportive for our loved ones.
“-Many family members live with the issue all on their own. Because of shame, the matter might not be discussed even with friends or relatives, let alone at the workplace. All energy goes into worrying and into helping the loved one suffering from substance abuse, whereupon resources run dry, says Ron Furman, executive director for Tukikohta ry” (EEST.2019).
Often substance abuse starts to dictate the relationship between the user and his/her loved ones. The feelings of hurt and love contradict each other. Although, it’s important to establish boundaries, recognize and accept the feelings of hurt and disappointment, it’s also important to acknowledge and cherish the love and affection we have for the person struggling with these problems. We can and are allowed to love and appreciate a person, without enabling or condoning their behaviour.
EEST. 2019. Päihdeongelmasta kärsivän läheiset tarvitsevat tukea: häpeä kuluttaa läheisten voimia. Accessed 5.11.2019. https://www.sttinfo.fi/tiedote/paihdeongelmasta-karsivan-laheiset-tarvitsevat-tukea-hapea-kuluttaa-laheisten-voimia?publisherId=65867755&releaseId=69857451
Läheisen huoneentaulu. No date. Päihdelinkki.fi. Accessed 5.11.2019. https://paihdelinkki.fi/fi/oma-apu/laheiset/laheisen-huoneentaulu
Tuominen S. 2015. “Huumemaailmasta valuu myös perheeseen pahaa” – läheinen kaipaa tukea. Accessed 5.11.2019. https://yle.fi/uutiset/3-7766897
Uhri. 2011. Äitini-alkoholisti. Accessed 5.11.2019. https://paihdelinkki.fi/fi/tarinat/lue-tarinoita/alkoholi/aitini-alkoholisti
Vtdainfo. 2010. Family tree. Accessed 5.11.2019. https://www.flickr.com/photos/vtda/4300716354/