A Letter Worth Reading

Wednesday, February 13th, 2013

Arlene Krohmal

Have you ever thought about writing a letter to your loved one who struggles with addiction? At Phoenix Houses of the Mid-Atlantic we have created a letter that a concerned person might send to a loved one who struggles with addiction. You may feel that you could have written this letter, or you may feel that life is not this simple and therefore you couldn’t possibly do what this letter says. Either way, if this letter gets us thinking, it has value. If it helps us to understand that addiction is a family disease, it is worthwhile to consider. If it helps us to understand cause and effect in perpetuating addictive thinking and behaviors then it is worth reading.

The letter reads:

Dear loved one,

First and foremost, I love you for what you have been and for what I know you can be. It breaks my heart to see you so ill and it breaks my heart to see you through the eyes of others who care. This horrible disease called addiction has robbed you and our family of joy, and has sapped most of our strength as well as our health.

I have tried so hard to hold us all together that I lost sight of the end goal for you to embark on the difficult road to recovery so that your health might be restored and so that our family might thrive.

I have learned that people don’t change when they are comfortable. I have learned that my repeated attempts to protect you and our family from the harm your addiction causes only have sheltered you from the seriousness of your disease. By always being there to pick up the pieces I have kept you from the truth. By keeping up appearances I have helped your addiction to flourish. So, for now on I promise not to be a buffer between you and the truth of your addiction.

From now on I will give you the opportunity to be self-sufficient. I will support your recovery to the best of my ability but I will not continue to fund your addiction. I know now that every bill I paid, every dollar I lent and every check I picked up, every movie ticket, bag of groceries, $20, $10 or $5, every parking and speeding ticket, the forfeited tuition, the rent, the canceled trips, the attorney bill, the bail bond and the fender benders — all these things that I paid for are lost to your addiction.

From now on you can take responsibility for the business of life. You can call in and pick up your prescriptions — or not, make your appointments — or not, voice your reasons for being late or absent at school, work and family functions — or not. If there are cancelations and do-overs to be arranged, you can do the cancelling, the arranging and the doing over. If you need to get someplace fast or at all and it does not have to do with recovery, you can get there by bus, metro, taxi or on foot. You can become an expert on public transportation. When lived well, life is a busy business too busy to procure and use drugs.

From now on, you will be in charge of your freedom. If you choose to act out with violence or if you rob, steal or destroy to support your addiction or because of your addiction, I will press charges to safeguard our family. If you are arrested for driving under the influence or being impaired in public, I will not use our family’s money to bail you out. If I have knowledge of criminal acts, I will not lie to authorities nor will I harbor criminals, criminal enterprises nor knowingly have drugs or illegal weapons in my home. You can choose your path with eyes wide open.

I understand that you may choose homelessness over treatment and a criminal record over the future we once imagined. I will stay strong with the knowledge that these choices may bring you closer to pursuing treatment and recovery and survival.

I too need to discover a new reality — a reality that is not controlled by my need to maintain order in the midst of chaos. I promise to seek joy for myself. I will not hide from life while you are struggling with the unvarnished truth. I will go out, get help, and get on with living.

I love you. I hate this disease. I can no longer fight this battle on my own.

This letter was written by Arlene Krohmal, Clinical Care Manager at Phoenix Houses of the Mid-Atlantic. If you would like to receive her weekly emails to families and friends of persons with a substance abuse disorder please contact her at  1 888 671 9392.

Every day, Phoenix Houses of the Mid-Atlantic helps hundreds of people who are suffering from addiction in 17 programs in Virginia, Maryland and DC. Find out more about our programs and services, or call us today at: 1 888 671 9392.

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  • Donna

    This letter is our story

  • Dee

    All I can say is wow. I feel like every single thing u wrote is how I feel. Brought tears to my eyes. But also helped me realize I’m not alone. I thank you for that

  • Patty wildman

    Every word is true! My husband and I have gotten off this merry go round. We are letting go and letting god do it.

  • Karen graham

    Mailing list please add!

  • chelsea

    very touched i feel the same and will be putting some of thing in the letter i am writing.

  • Diane

    This letter was as if I wrote it myself. I have tried to be strong for years. I believe with this last relapse, I have finally hit bottom as an enabler.

  • beverly

    Absolutely paralel to our situation. We lost our oldest daughter to heroin and to watch my son go from a productive human beimg to alcoholism and drug addiction is so painful. I know we enable by providing him with free accomodations in our home, clothes,food, rides and many other items a 34 year old man should provide for himself. I so hope your program can help. Thankyou

  • ljohnson

    Beverly, We are so sorry to hear of your loss. If you have not already contacted us about getting help for your son, you may do so by calling 1 888 671 9392. –Liana Johnson, Phoenix House

  • jada johnson

    this is long and boring makes no sense

  • FPR

    These are the words I struggled to find; and I wish I had read this when my loved one’s addiction first started. It is not selfish to protect yourself or the family… even from someone you love.

  • Beverly

    I am going threw hell with my son. Please can someone tell me what to do

  • Mary Kate Boughton

    So sorry to hear that you are struggling with your son.

    We are a U.S.-based treatment organization. If we can help, please call us at 888 671 9392.

    Otherwise, here is some information on other agencies that can provide help: https://findtreatment.samhsa.gov/locator/link-IntAge

  • theresa762

    Excellent advice with strong love. Stay busy with the gift of life.

  • theresa762

    Freedom is also the best gift don’t destroy it.