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What It’s Like to Have an Addicted Sibling

“Sibling relationships – and 80 percent of Americans have at least one – outlast marriages, survive the death of parents, resurface after quarrels that would sink any friendship. They flourish in a thousand incarnations of closeness and distance, warmth, loyalty and distrust.” – Erica E. Goode

There’s nothing quite like a sibling bond, which can be one of the strongest in the world. Brothers and sisters come to know each other at a very deep level from childhood – growing up together, helping each other through the lowest lows and celebrating their highest achievements together.

For years, researchers have studied the significance of sibling relationships, and how they impact family dynamics and overall happiness. Researchers have concluded that an addiction within a family is particularly traumatic on the brother or sister of the substance abuser.

The sibling of the addict is often overlooked due to the drama brought on by the user. While it seems most of the family is concerned about the person using the drugs, less consideration is given to the difficulty that the sibling faces, watching someone they have such a deep connection with deliberately harm themselves.

Boca House, a sober living community for men in South Florida, has 5 common difficulties that those with addicted siblings struggle with:

Feeling nostalgic about the person they were once. A sibling of an addict has known their brother or sister since birth, and will miss the “old version” of their sibling. It can be hard to watch someone who once seemed lively and joyful go down a dark path to become a person they never expected.

As Clara Ortega once said, “To the outside world, we all grow old. But not to brothers and sisters. We know each other as we always were. We know each other’s hearts. We share private family jokes. We remember family feuds and secrets, family griefs and joys. We live outside the touch of time.”

A lack of trust between you and your sibling. Many people feel their sibling is one of the only people they can trust and rely on at the end of the day. When your brother or sister is lying, stealing, manipulating, avoiding obligations, and covering up their addiction, you may begin to feel a lack of trust that can break your bond.

Anger toward the enabling friends or family members. Unfortunately, many people enable addicts without realizing it. When your sibling is struggling with an addiction, it can cause anger and tension amongst other family members who handle it differently.

Feeling love and hate at the same time. Loving an addict is extremely painful and invites feelings of anger, distrust, and resentment. These feelings can evolve into hatred, which add stress to an already overwhelming scenario.

Wondering if you should cut them off. Wanting to help someone who won’t accept help causes feelings of anxiety and helplessness. But at what point do you stop trying? For your own sanity, you may start to wonder if you should cut your sibling out of your life entirely. At this point you may battle between cutting them off and living in constant fear of receiving that dreaded phone call – when your anxiety comes to life and you find out that something has happened to them.

Feeling like your sibling’s addiction is beyond your control can be incredibly overwhelming and traumatic on anyone with a brother or sister. At Boca House’s sober living community for men and Awakenings sober living community for women, we can provide a safe and comfortable home for your addicted sibling to work toward recovery and a sober life. Contact us today.

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