Patient Blogs | Substance Abuse
How Substance Abuse Affects Family Relationships
photo of man sitting on bed holding whiskey

I'll speak generally here, because the lessons I've learned from my near 35 years of experience are mainly universal, and not necessarily from within the confines of my own family. Some have been observed through other close relationships in my personal life , which is to say, they aren't my stories to tell.

However, if I feel a lesson is beneficial to this community, I'll share it , just in a respectful way. The last thing I'm out to do is hurt anyone's feelings or speak out of turn. That being said, I have plenty of experience on the matter at hand, in many different facets and forms. While I may be nonspecific at times, understand it's out of empathy, not shame or fear.

Real substance abuse problems absolutely tear families apart over entire lifetimes if families allow it to go unaddressed for that long. And many do. Many do because they don't know what else to do, other than what they've always done. Be it drinking or a drug. If they’re the user or acting like they don't know what the user is doing or if they’re the loved one.

It not only tears apart entire close families, but it does so from the inside out, in the most merciless, unforgiving, and ugly of fashions imaginable. Addiction and alcoholism don't care about you or your family's feelings. They don't care what happens to your wife, husband, mother, father, brother, sister, or kids. When the drugs, alcohol, depression, isolation, and all that comes with it took over my uncle’s mind, body, and soul, it didn't stop him from taking his own life on my grandmother's steps while the rest of the family, myself included, were on vacation. I was 17.

At some point, every addict and alcoholic at their worst would, if they haven't already, step over, on, or around all the loved ones in their lives I named above, for the next or another one. It isn't because they don't care or love these people, but ironically just the opposite.

They lie because they think it is the truth that will crush their loved ones, but again, just the opposite is true. While yes, lies or omitting certain truths may be easier in the moment or at first, they are never the real solution. I don't care who tells you otherwise or how they justify it, they can spin it any way that helps them sleep at night. Lies are never better.

I know from watching how lies and omitting truths destroy entire families, with the root almost always being a drink or a drug. I'm 34, I’ve slaughtered every romantic relationship I've ever been in because of that drink or drug. I just got my mother back after almost a full 34 years of me watching her almost drink herself to death.

It would almost be comical how often this is the case if it wasn’t so tragic and didn’t lead to the early deaths of thousands of people in one way, shape, or form. There are no definite solutions to the problem, no easy answers, and no shortcuts. But there is a vast network of people willing to help those who ask for it and are serious about committing to changing their lives for the better. I've seen it literally put entire family relationships and families back together, ones most considered a lost cause long before. While sobriety promises no miracles, few things could be worth fighting for more than those results.


Photo Credit: Westend61 via Getty Images

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Brian Brewington

Brian Brewington

Diagnosed since 2014

Brian Brewington has been on the journey of addiction recovery since 2014 and was diagnosed with a major depressive disorder in 2019. A 34-year-old writer and freelancer from Philadelphia, his work has been featured in KEF Audio Magazine, and he runs the Journal of Journeys publication on, where his writing first became popular. Brewington still sees a therapist and attends 12-step program meetings regularly. You can read more from him here.

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