Living with an addict…

My mum’s not an alcoholic or a drug addict. She gets drunk off half a Shandy and has never even held a cigarette. I’m 30 and I still get told off for swearing under her roof…


My mum is a wonderful, caring, wholesome woman. If everyone on this planet had an ounce of her kindness, I’m sure we’d be living in a better world. She wants the best for everyone.


She has run her own business, earned a degree, raised 3 children (26, 30 and 34 years old) pretty much single handily, been through 2 abusive marriages and barely has a wrinkle to show for it. She is my hero.


my younger brother and I are dream children (her words, not mine). My older brother was sharp, funny, popular, the coolest. He was the trouble maker that always seemed to get away with it. His dad killed himself when he was 3 and grew up with my absent dad. He has suffered from severe ADHD since a child. The first time my mum kicked him out of the house was when he was 16 for smoking weed in his room. My mum has lived with the guilt ever since. I see it in her eyes, she bears the constant guilt that if she’d had just done something different, everything would be better now.


He is now 34. A lot can happen in 18 years. Prison, drugs, rehabilitation, more drugs, more prison, more rehabilitation. Rinse, repeat…


To compensate for what it is she thinks is failing as a mother, my mum has spent the last 18 years trying to help him. Endless visits to the doctors, prison, random people’s houses in the middle of the night to give him money for drugs, popping out for 15 minutes and returning hours later with a load of missed calls from me and my younger brother, worrying that she’s not coming back.


I say my mum isn’t helping him. She keeps his head above water because it makes her feel better. She tells me I’m being silly. I think she is consumed by helping him. She says I wouldn’t understand because he’s not my son. She puts herself in what I consider dangerous situations, worrying about the family. She tells me I need to let her get on with it.


Saying my mum is addicted to helping my brother might sound a bit much, but 18 years of co-dependency with no sign of letting up is going strong.


She has spent years trying to get help helping my brother. Sometimes it works for a little while and I see this strength in her. She manages to detach herself from the cycle of my brother’s life and thinks clearly about, long term, how she can really help the situation. We have great chats about how we can, as a family, break the vicious cycle. I feel like we are getting somewhere…rinse, repeat.


As a family, we are pretty used to the drama that comes with my brother. If you don’t laugh, you’ll cry (crying makes you sad, sad makes you bad…not good). I laugh with my mum about how she is an addict. Addicted to chocolate biscuits, Coronation Street and helping my brother. It’s not funny. I’m scared that the next time she gives him money, the next time she visits him in prison, the next time she wakes up in the middle of the night to give him a lift, the next time he pushes her, he’ll push her too hard.


I’ve tried to help throughout the years. My brother doesn’t drain me physically, emotionally or financially, but then again, I’m 30, if he did, I’ve got the energy to take it. My mum is double my age. She doesn’t have the same amount of energy anymore. What is left, goes to my brother. In a strange way, they keep each other going, laughing and crying along the way. Both scared and loved and needed by the other, bonded by a loss I will never really understand. I’ve learnt that the only way I can help is by getting on with my life while watching her run around like a headless chicken. If I get too involved, I end up helping no one.


Deep down she knows she isn’t really helping him, but she has to carry on. It consumes her. If she stops, she’s failed. There will be no more running around in circles, no more habit, no more dependency. But it’s her first born, her baby, she can’t give up on him…just one more push in the right direction and this time it might be different.


By Jennifer Davis