Let’s Talk About Addiction

Image, shed light on addictionThis article was first published on my new blog spot at addiction.com

I’m the mother of a drug addict. I can’t tell how long it took me to say those words. I’m grateful beyond description that Annie has now achieved sustained recovery, but when in active addiction, the word “addict” didn’t really roll off the tongue very well. The first time I referred to my daughter and the word “addict” in the same sentence, I felt as if I’d entered an alternate universe.

We were the family this could never happen to… not because we’re so special… but we were, you know, “normal.” That is, normal enough that there were no twisted, wayward branches on the family tree. At least none that I knew of. And no one had ever been to jail. Never in my wildest nightmares did I think a child of mine would become addicted to drugs… let alone drugs that would come to define her life.

It empowered me to finally say the word “addict” out loud, and to talk about addiction openly. There were times during my daughter’s active addiction when I all but stopped people on the street and announced, “My daughter is a drug addict. Please pray for our family.”

I quickly threw myself into the study of addiction and learned absolutely everything my lay brain could absorb about this monstrous disease. I haunted bookstores and searched Amazon, and acquired books on addiction by the armful. I also Google searched “codependency”… and then laughed out loud. How had I lived so long and not known this about myself? I joined one support group… and then another… and another. I talked to absolutely everyone I knew about addiction.

I can honestly say that after nine years of study, nine years of talk, and nine years of addiction and recovery in my family, I know more about addiction than is really normal for a lay person. You can imagine what fun I am at a cocktail party.

But this is a subject we must talk about. We need to throw open the shutters and shine a light on addiction. We need to bring the most undertreated disease in America out of the proverbial closet. Approximately ten percent of the U.S. population over the age of twelve suffers from the disease of addiction. That’s about 25 million people… and each has loved ones who suffer because of it. The CDC reports that 100 people die daily from unintentional overdose. Think of it: That’s a commuter flight between San Francisco and L.A. going down every day.

Let’s Talk About Addiction. I hope you will join me on my new blog at addiction.com as we talk about the pressing questions of substance use disorder, especially as it relates to addiction in the family. Maybe we can help one another, and help to raise awareness about the most misunderstood disease in our country.


Author: Barbara Stoefen

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  1. Barbara, I had to laugh to myself a little after reading your post because it felt like your were writing about me! I remember thinking “if I say my son’s an addict, then it’s actually true.”

    My husband and I have educated ourselves as well and continue to look for ways to break the stigma so more kids and families can get help.

    I can now say that, “I am the mother of an addict in long term recovery and ‘just for today’ things are good.”

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    • What a great comment, Kathy. Yeah, saying it out loud sure seems to make it more real. I guess that’s the good and the bad news. And you’re absolutely right about “just for today.” We don’t know what the future holds for our loved ones, or for ourselves for that matter. Much as we may want to, we can’t control any of it.

      Thank you for weighing in. I hope you’ll come back and share more in the future!

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      • i know this is several years old but thank you for writing this book cause just like you i thought this happened to other families . we were a perfect family and alyssa was an honor student , beautiful, cheerleader and not one you would see as a meth addict would be, she met a boy who got her on drugs and she was taught to say no .to drugs but didnt . iv researched just like you , iv not told people and iv been depressed for 5 years . your family was just like mine and it doesn’t happen in my family, but it does and it did . we are still struggling and might not ever get help so for now iv had to let go or i’ll die right along with her . so happy your daughter is better, that’s a positive for me .

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  2. Thank you Barbara for this reminder that can never be said enough. The shame keeps people in the shadows and it doesn’t promote healing. We need to get addiction out of the closet and into the mainstream of society in order to save lives. I can relate to your line, “Never in my wildest nightmares did I think a child of mine would become addicted to drugs.” I didn’t either and yet so many are affected by this disease. I so appreciate your voice that I know helps families.

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    • Dear Cathy, I have found myself in the same situation as yourself only it is my youngest son who is now 30 and hasbeen involved in drugs for at least 10 yrs.
      We are in uk and get little help or in my eyes the wrong help with addictions..
      I feel I know so much to do with addictions but feel that the youngsters who really want to help get fobbed of a lot of the time..
      My family have just walked in so I will say how much I admire what you say and wish there were people here to talk to..

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      • Thank you so much for your post, Kristina. Please sign up to follow my blog and hopefully you will find some help here http://www.barbaracoferstoefen.com. I also suggest you follow Cathy Taughinbaugh (who commented on this page) at http://cathytaughinbaugh.com/blog. Also check out the support organizations, Change Addiction Now http://www.changeaddictionnow.org and The Addict’s Mom http://addictsmom.com. Both organizations have private Facebook pages you can join where women from all over the world share and support one another. You are not alone in this, Kristina. There is help, and there is hope.

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      • Hi Kristina, in the UK we have a vast amount of help for both the addict and family members…the 12 Step Fellowships are a great place to be for support & understanding…CA(Cocaine Anonymous) or NA(Narcotics Anonymous) for the addict and FA(Family Anonymous) for family members…CA & NA are for people addicted to ALL mood or mind altering drugs including alcohol..google for your local meetings and i hope you & your family find the love & support that me & mine have…God bless x …Angie, recovering addict, UK

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        • Angie, thank you so much for sharing these resources from the UK! Congratulations on your recovery.

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  3. Barb, I always find your blog to be so moving and enlightening. I’m sure you connect with families dealing with addiction, in a way that gives them hope. You are a blessing (and so is Annie).

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    • THANK YOU, Pamela. There is a groundswell of change regarding addiction in this country, and I’m thrilled to be part of it.

      Annie is the blessing. Part of what makes her so extraordinary is she doesn’t even know it.

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