My Sister’s Struggle with Addiction and how it Affected My Family

By Kitty Noir

When I was younger I watched my older sister struggle through an active heroin addiction. I watched her lose everything, emotionally and physically. I watched her manipulate my parents and get away with a lot. I watched as my parents gave her chance after chance, as their hearts broke a little more with each chance. I watched my parents live in denial even when her addiction was literally knocking on their front door. They still denied it, and it ate away at them slowly. In Fact, they still live somewhat in denial of her lifestyle today. I did not really understand the extent of what was happening until I look back on it as an adult. I have a lot of unresolved feelings about the situation but have grown to understand that it isn’t about me, but that doesn’t invalidate what I went through as a sibling of an addict. My younger brother has a lot of resentment towards my older sister, and my parents, because of how everything played out. I can honestly say I do not blame him. As most of us know, addiction doesn’t just affect the addict, it also affects their loved ones. Not many people are closer to an addict then their immediate family.

My older sister was a star in our small hometown. She was an outstanding athlete and a decent student. She was the freshman who made the varsity teams. She lettered all four years in three different sports. My sister was all-state in volleyball and softball and was built to lead. My mother lived out her dreams through my sister. She put a lot of undue pressure on her to become a great athlete and earn a full ride scholarship for volleyball. My mother was an all-state athlete growing up and definitely wanted her children to follow in her steps. I think she saw the greatest potential in my sister so she really pushed her hard. I suppose all that pressure was stressful to my sister. Pressure from her coaches, pressure from my mother, and I assume the pressure she put on herself because of her perfectionist tendencies. She wanted to live up to all the expectations she felt that everyone had for her. On the outside she seemed very comfortable with all the attention she received, but I think on the inside it just became too much. Everyone has a breaking point and eventually she reached hers.

When she was in 8th grade she started hanging out with a new, older group of friends who also played sports. By ninth grade she was smoking pot regularly and had started to experiment with alcohol. She must have really liked the release that using gave her because it didn’t take long before she had tried almost every recreational drug out there and turned into quite the party goer. Throughout her using she was able to maintain her outstanding sports performances and although her grades did slip, she will still an above average student. I cannot tell you how many times my parents caught my sister with drugs and just looked the other way. Every time she would promise them that she would stop and it was just for “fun.” My mother and her would get into a huge argument, then my mother would comfort herself with her denial, and then life would go on. This was a constant cycle. Looking back, I suppose I cannot blame my mother because my sister was very manipulative. She was great at convincing people by telling them exactly what they wanted to hear. Her manipulation combined with my mother not wanting to admit that her outstanding athlete daughter also had a drug problem was a recipe for disaster. My sister graduated high school with a full ride scholarship to a prestigious university in our home state for a pre-med degree. Everyone looked the other way at the underlying issue; her addiction. She left for school in August. By December the coached had called my parents to let them know that she wasn’t showing up for practice and was displaying some concerning behavior. My parents talked with her and of course everything was back on track after that (so they told themselves). The following February my sister had switched her major out of pre-med because her grades had dropped so low she was no longer accepted in that specific program. By May she was kicked off the volleyball team and had lost her full ride scholarship. She came home with nothing. She had sold every single one of her personal belongings. All of them. Her laptop, all her clothes, her bed, her car, everything. The one thing she brought with her was a raging heroin addiction.

Her boyfriend of four years had left, and all her friends from high school were still off at college. It only continued to go downhill from there. My parents continued to support her, even after she crashed two of the cars they had gotten her and stole money from me. My parents offered to send her to rehab but she refused. They allowed her to live at the house but incidents kept happening and eventually my parents kicked her out. This was only after her dealer showed up on our family’s doorstep with a gun and threatened my mother. She moved to Washington and lived in a tent with her new boyfriend. She was doing what she needed to get by at that point. Working in a club to support her habit. She started muling drugs for her boyfriend and made some enemies along the way. She called my parents begging for help. She told them her life was in danger and they allowed her to come home on the condition that she get treatment. She agreed.

While she was in treatment her counselors suggested that our family go to therapy as well. Our family unit was in shambles. My brother and I were resentful towards my sister for putting my parents, and our family, through everything. We did not understand why she got all this attention every time she screwed up. We felt extra pressure to never make a mistake because she was making so many of them. It felt like even though we did everything “right”, it still was not enough in their eyes. My parent’s marriage was falling apart. My dad had started to see right through my sister’s manipulation but my mother just couldn’t see past it. He was pushing my mother to do the “tough love” thing and she just kept enabling my sister. My dad had threatened to take us younger kids and leave my mother if she didn’t stop living in denial. She was codependent on my sister’s addiction. We were a mess, and we needed just as much help as my sister to pull through this. It has taken years for everyone to heal from having a member of our family struggling with active addiction. Countless hours in therapy. Not only individual therapy but also family therapy.

Today my sister has been clean for almost ten years. I am so proud of her. The road to recovery has not been easy for her. She has relapsed many times but by the power of god she has been able to get back on track with her sobriety each time. She has a renewed sense of love for life. I can imagine being in the depths of an addiction that bad that she has a new appreciation for living. My family thanks god every day that she has been able to become sober. We have all mended our relationship with her and it feels good to be a functional family unit once again. She tells me that she takes her sobriety one day at a time, even after almost ten years sober. She has become an active member of the recovery community and helps newly recovered people navigate their world sober. She is currently enrolled in college again to become a licensed therapist. Helping others is something she feels passionate about and I know that she will be great. She was always meant for great things, and now she has found a way to serve god and others by helping people who are recovering from addiction.