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Is the addict sick, or is society sick?

I want to share with you, what all mothers of mentally ill children, who turn to ‘illegal’ substances for comfort, are forced to learn. Millions of mothers all over the world, share their stories with each other:


We come to realise that we live in crisis. A Pandemic is not a problem, for us, we know how to deal with our world turning upside down, several times a day, week, month, or year.

We often are alone, feel isolated, feel shame, guilt, and have nowhere to go for help.

We focus on our addict so much, that we neglect our other loves ones and ourselves.


We come to understand and have to face, the family history of mental illness and addictive behaviours.

We have to let go of our own preconceived notion that addiction is a moral failure, not a sick brain, and face societies preconceived notions.

We learn more and more about this illness, and its many forms of treatment and understanding, which change all the time, and become experts,

We discover that addiction rarely exists alone, co-occurring disorders are as common as the disease, and often undiagnosed, because society separates the two, and treats them individually.

We come to realise the depth of the stigma, around this disease that our loved children are experiencing, and that many, many, people we also love do not yet understand the realities that we have had to confront about addiction


We accept being physically, emotionally , mentally and spiritually exhausted, all the time, to the point of burnout.

We grieve, every day, that addiction does not usually end with a redemption story.

Addiction is a human story, repeated treatments, relapses, overdoses, disappearances, jail, trauma, broken relationships, and more are all part of our own daily reality.

We face that, whilst we have neglected other members of our family, we have also neglected ourselves.


We understand that the only people we can share our reality with, without shame, is other mothers and families and friends of addicts.

We find it impossible to be open about our loved one’s experiences, and advocate for our children, because they face the stigma of society, and the consequences of being ‘outed’ as an addict, loss of jobs, loss of respect, loss of dignity.


We are mothers, come to accept, that the only person who will heal us, or our children, is ourselves. We also come to accept, that we can not force any other human being to change.

We also come to learn, that the only person we can change is ourselves, and we do that by sharing our experiences with one another.

We come to learn, that death is around the corner, via suicide or overdose. We live with that, in calm and peace.

We learn that if there are children involved, that often, we, will have to mother yet more broken families.


We have a very difficult time, negotiating the treatment, sober living and criminal justice systems and have the feeling that very often, the best interests of our children are not always in their minds or hearts.

We learn that most General Practitioners, Drs, therapists, psychiatrists, and the people who are in the business of saving lives, are constrained by our Government, and by extension, those who vote for them, and are unaware of the extent of the devastation all around them.


We learn that the ‘war on drugs’ failed, is still failing, and that the money our Government has spent on this, has increased the use of drugs, enabled drug cartels to continue, increased violence, destroyed lives, and still there is no debate about the failure of this policy.

Our government has not learned, and does not intend to learn, that all over the world, legalising drugs, and therefore controlling the clean supply of them, is a success story, with many more individuals living instead of dying.


We learn that society withdraws in horror, on learning that our loved ones have a disease called addiction, stop contacting us, avoid us, look down on us, and whilst they are judging, do not realise, it is only their luck, that they are not in the very place we are. Our lived reality, is that society still believes that addicts have a choice, and should ‘just stop’ and ‘do they not know it is illegal’.

We learn that society is harsh, judgemental, and punishes our loved ones, by criminalising drugs, but does not criminalise alcohol or tobacco, or gambling, or pornography, or sex, or love, or food: all addictions that do not involve illegal substances. Indeed, if the addiction is work, we celebrate how much money they have made. If the addiction is sport, we pay them millions. If the addiction is a need for fame, we idolise them, and reward them. If the addiction is power, we put them into elected positions over us. All these addictions are dysfunctional, ruin lives, ramp up debt, cause marriage and relationship breakdowns, yet we do not put them in jail, do we?

We learn that addiction, the seeking of pleasure, is normal. We learn that addiction, the avoiding of pain, is universal. We learn that despite adverse consequences, all human beings if asked, would admit that in their own lives, they have from time to time, behaved in an addictive manner.


We learn that indigenous tribes over the centuries, have understood that brain changing naturally occurring plants, give a lot of pleasure, and manage this, by normalising, and indeed, creating ceremonies, to celebrate, dance, and control the use of dangerous substances.


We learn that we are the experts. We learn that society and the mental health professionals have very little awareness of the disease of addiction.

We learn, that we, as a society, are unwilling to face the mental health pandemic, which is and always has been, since the industrial revolution, a disease of society.


We learn that ALL addicts on the streets, bar NONE, have a history of emotional, physical and sexual abuse.

We learn that trauma, whether caused by war, violence, abuse, mental illness, is the root cause of all negative addictive behaviours.

We learn that there is no treatment for trauma, in the mental health profession, there is no awareness, of the hidden epidemic of trauma.

We learn that trauma is passed down the generations. The grandchildren of holocaust survivors, the grandchildren of broken men who faced war, the children of refugees, the children of poverty, the children of inequality, the children of debt, the children of criminals, the children of sociopathy, all these innocents, are damaged by their parents, grandparents and great grandparents.


We learn that society, places all blame on individuals, and imagines, that ‘if only’ the individual would ‘stop the behaviour’, the illness would magically disappear.

We learn that society accepts poverty, abuse, neglect, poor housing, poorly paid jobs, loss of hope, the sheer stress and misery of living in 2020 as normal.


We are, indeed, all sick. We are a sick society, and we do not know this, and furthermore if told, many of us would shrug, and say, I am fine, and why should I care, in our individualistic norms?

What have we become? For those who know better, shame on them for their acceptance of the unacceptable.

Shame on our ‘leaders’ for being addicted to power, and money, and shame on us for electing them.

Shame on us and for all of society, which celebrates money, the getting of money, the hoarding of money, by individuals, as the key to survival, and ‘success’.


Shame on all of us, for accepting the price many of us pay for our sick society.

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Nar-Anon Family Groups UK