Hope, help available for addicts, families

To the editor:

For many people, the holidays are a cause for celebration and for time spent with our families. But, for others, it is not. At year-end, we should pause and remember with compassion the many families who, because of an addiction, have either lost someone they love or has an estranged or absent family member who continues to struggle.

For each person struggling with addiction, there are countless mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, grandparents and relatives, children, or spouses and partners who live each day with the fear that today is the day they will get the call and their fears will come true. Many suffer alone and in silence with needless shame, guilt, and, maybe, the unfair and misinformed judgment of others.

Families suffer the loss and powerlessness that comes with watching as the addiction interrupts, controls and destroys their loved one, who, they know, may never realize their true potential or achieve their goals and dreams. Just as no one starts out in life aspiring to be a drug addict, no family ever has this dream.

What can these families, who suffer the stigma, hopelessness, pain, sadness, loss and fear that comes from loving someone with addiction do to pick up the pieces of their lives? Sadly, the stigma associated with the disease of addiction may prevent them from seeking help and support.


There is help available through self-help meetings, support groups, faith-based supports, and therapy. We urge these families to seek such help, to learn how to take care of themselves, and to become educated about the disease of addiction and the various treatment options and resources. Peer-led support groups are uniquely helpful in that they offer a safe and non-judgmental place and time where, because of the collective wisdom and experience of the groups' members, families find themselves among those who best understand them.

And, finally, talk about addiction, and advocate for change to end the stigma. Addiction is a disease, not a choice. Our holiday message for these families is: There is hope.

Marcy and Michael Julian, Wilbraham Marcy Julian is the Western Mass. regional manager of Learn to Cope. The organization holds weekly support meetings for families at The Berkshire Medical Center Cancer Center.