In a world with addiction, there is no clear winner or loser

The author of this piece chose to remain anonymous to protect their loved ones.

Whether you’ve been directly impacted by addictions or you know somebody who is close to an addict, many of us have heard somebody talk about it like a basketball game: there’s always a winner and a loser.

It’s easy for one to take a “my way or the highway” mentality when dealing with an addict — especially when dealing with a loved one.

Addiction runs rampant in my family. Some of these addictions are fairly victimless — I have some family members addicted to junk food — but others are quite impactful. One of my siblings, for example, has done more drugs than I’ll probably ever realize.

But like politics or gender, battling addiction is a lot less binary than people often think. As somebody sitting on the sidelines and watching my parents deal with the impact of raising an addict, I feel as though I’ve learned that the spectrum is a lot more prevalent than we often think.

It’s easy to walk by a drug addict on the street and do one of two things: give them money or say it’s their fault they’re in an unfortunate position. But it’s a lot harder to walk past somebody battling addiction when you see your sibling within them and want to help them. The realization that what you can offer isn’t necessarily what they need is crushing.

I see this every time my parents are stuck in a position where they have to make a decision regarding my brother.

If they give him money to help him overcome whatever obstacle he’s facing, they risk enabling him and giving him an opportunity to fulfill his addiction. If they feel the burden is too great, then they give him an excuse to pity himself and go back to the needle.

Whichever they choose, it always seems like the wrong decision. What we view as help isn’t always helpful because we’re not all educated in a way to prevent further drug abuse.

I try to urge my parents to look at supporting him, rather than “helping” him, because whatever they offer him isn’t always helpful. By supporting him, they promote only the good he does, and maybe that will help him see the good in his actions.

There is a fine line between help and support. Help is something we do directly for somebody, while support is something we do indirectly to promote others to help themselves. Simply giving my brother a pat on the back when he makes the right decision goes a lot further than making the decision for him.

I can’t even count the times I’ve heard my parents say, “we need to do X for him because he needs to get out of the place he’s currently in.” Unless he can see that logic for himself, we’re not completely solving the problem.

Addiction isn’t like a basketball game, as there’s no clear winner and loser. There are times when both parties feel like they’ve lost, and there are other times where both parties feel like they’re winners.

Families are meant to be a team, and teams win and lose together. It’s easy for people on the outside to judge others or pity people they see on the street, but living in an unfortunate situation is a lot less black and white.