Addiction's effect on the family

Learn about: Addiction's effect on the family from David Sheff,...
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Addiction's effect on the family

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When my son became addicted, I kept hearing over and over from counselors and in Al Anon meetings that I went to this is a family problem, addiction is a family disease. And I didn´t understand that at first. I thought my son is the one who is using. He is the one who needs help. He is the one who is addicted. What I didn´t realize is that and that I realized very soon is that his addiction wasn´t only destroying him, it was destroying me and our family. I mean I couldn´t work. I couldn´t function. I couldn´t take care of my younger children. Eventually I realized that if I didn´t take care of myself, I wouldn´t be able to take care of him. And so, there is this sort of balance of taking care of your children, doing everything that you can but also keeping some separation, some boundaries. It is too dangerous for instance to have a using addict around the house if you have younger children and if it is at the point where somebody is actually being in any way violent, in any way threatening, still you don´t want that child on the street. You want to get your child somewhere safe. But you have to make these decisions as you go forward, and at the same time families are in crisis. And we would not have survived if we didn´t go into some family therapy. We were able to bring Jasper and Daisy, my younger children, into a doctor´s office with their mom and with me, and the four of us sat there. The doctor helped us through understanding what does it mean to have an addict in your family, helping the kids express how they were feeling about the stress and the trauma. Not only were they so worried about their big brother and confused that suddenly this person that was their hero, they adore him, he changed and all of a sudden everything in their family changed, but also their parents changed because we were completely freaked out. So family therapy was huge. Going to Al Anon meetings for me was really helpful because all of a sudden you are with parents who understand what you are going through because they are going through it, too. But the most important thing is to recognize that we have to take care of ourselves, too.

Learn about: Addiction's effect on the family from David Sheff,...

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David Sheff

Writer

David Sheff is the author of Clean: Overcoming Addiction and Ending America’s Greatest Tragedy, the follow-up to his New York Times #1 bestseller, Beautiful Boy: A Father’s Journey Through His Son’s AddictionClean is the result of the years Sheff spent investigating the disease of addiction and America’s drug problem, which he sees as the greatest public-health challenge of our time.

Beautiful Boy was based on Sheff’s article, “My Addicted Son,” which appeared in the New York Times Magazine and won an award from the American Psychological Association for “outstanding contribution to the understanding of addiction.”  It was named the nonfiction book of the year by Entertainment Weekly.  

Named to the Time 100, Time Magazine’s list of the World’s Most Influential People, Sheff also won the 2013 College of Problems on Drug Dependence Media Award. Sanjay Gupta, MD, said, "As a clear-eyed chronicler of addiction, David is without peer.”

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