Supporting My Cousin Through Addiction

It’s unfortunate, but I have a cousin who is in recovery. He and I grew up together and were best friends in our childhood. As adults, we went down different paths: I pursued education and a career. He pursued getting high and the school of hard knocks.

Even though we have made different life choices, we were always connected. I could always talk to him and the family often came to me when he was experiencing severe bouts with drugs.

Being There

I’m not a counselor or trained in any way to deal with these issues, but I love him and could simply listen to his troubles. I tried to engage him like he had a sickness, not like he was a bad person or made bad choices. Because of this, he didn’t feel shamed around me. This often led to attempts at sobriety, partly to make me proud, even if they were short lived.

Throughout the years I would check on him to see how he was doing. He seemed to appreciate it, because I wasn’t trying to nose into his business, but had sincere interest in his health and welfare. And with me, he could be real and not defensive.

Sometimes his immediate family members would come to me and ask me to make him stop. This was a burden I was incapable of shouldering. I would tell them, I can’t make him stop, only he can. What I can do is be there for him and hope that helps him find the inspiration to stop.

The family often felt that was weak and an excuse, but as we took lessons and attended support groups, we collectively learned that the best we can do is establish good boundaries and signal that the addict is loved even if we can’t support the behavior.

Clean and Sober

My cousin had been doing great for several months. He was noticeably and proudly clean. He bragged about it and it became obvious as he kept a job and was more involved with the family. Due to the strength of our relationship during his down times, he seemed to want to compensate for that after he became sober.

He would take me to dinner or drop by with small gifts. I knew he needed to feel like he was making up for previous behavior. I didn’t need him to do these things, but I could see it made him feel good, so I graciously accepted each gesture.

One day I dropped by to see him and he wasn’t home. This was surprising due to the time of day and my understanding of his schedule. I let myself in, which was fairly common. I went in, looked in the fridge, poured a glass of water.

I was about to text him, “Where are you?” when I saw a pill on the floor. I picked it up and looked at it. I’m no pharmacist, so I couldn’t simply identify it, but I became concerned. I put the pill in my pocket, finished my water and left.

I decided to go see a pharmacist and see if he could identify the pill. Worries raced through my mind. “God, I hope he’s not using again.” I wasn’t sure how to approach this with the man behind the counter, so I just told him. “My cousin is a recovering addict and I found this pill at his house. I’m worried he might be using again. Can you tell me what it is?” The pharmacist took the pill and before he could even reference it with his catalogue of pills, he smiled at me and gave the pill back.

“Unless your cousin is a sex addict, this pill isn’t concerning to you.” I looked at him with a puzzled grimace. “It’s Cialis. It’s to help him if he’s experiencing erectile dysfunction.” He chuckled softly and nodded that everything was okay. “If you like, I can give you some Cialis coupons toward his next purchase.

A smile slowly came over my face and I wheeled around and went back to my cousin’s place. He showed up shortly after I got there. I asked where he had been. He smiled in a way that was revealing considering my insider information. “I may have met someone.” he said with a glow.

“That’s great!” I said, already knowing that might be true. I had placed the pill back on the floor where I found it before he got home. I didn’t want to mention the incident because it might look like I didn’t trust him and besides it was still a personal matter. But that was the happiest I’ve ever been to find drugs at my cousin’s place. I hope I can tell him this story someday, because I think it will make us both laugh.

Do you have any loved ones who are suffering from substance addiction? What support methods have you found effective in helping that person maintain or achieve sobriety?

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