from the daughter of an addict

If you haven’t read the first post I did about addiction, I recommend you read that first HERE so you understand why I’m posting these articles.


This is written by the daughter of an addict.  It’s real.  It’s raw.  It’s honest.  Her father unfortunately never permanently overcame addiction and it eventually took his life.


Here it is:



“I’m the daughter of an addict.

That’s a pretty loaded sentence. 

So, maybe I should start at the beginning.

I have exactly two, blurry pictures of my father and I before the age of 9. I was an infant at our first official meeting and I was wearing a pink fuzzy romper. Even though it is out of focus, I’m pretty sure my father was smiling. The first time I remember meeting him, I was nine. It occurred to me halfway through my flight that I would be meeting my father and stepmother and that maybe a recent picture of him would have been nice, because I had no idea who I was looking for when I walked off the gangway. 

The reason it took nine years for me to really meet my father was because it took him that long to get sober. My father was an alcoholic.

Often, growing up, my friends would ask why I don’t have a dad. By the time my friends knew to ask this question, I knew I couldn’t tell them the truth, because I was ashamed that I was made of the same stuff as an addict. I would tell them things like, “he’s fishing in Alaska”, or “he’s a spy” (very original, I know).

From the lies, stemmed a need for perfection. Best grades. Best athlete. Best friend. 
I was labeled “Type A”, and “competitive”. Most people said it would serve me well once I found “my” place to channel all that drive. Mostly, I thought that if I were perfect, no one would guess that my father was an alcoholic. 

My father was sober for about five years. I visited him during the summer and winter breaks from school. He was smart, adventurous, funny, and the only other person I knew that could talk as much as me. He taught me some of my favorite lessons, and made some of my favorite childhood memories with me.

Then, when I was fourteen, I called him to wish him a happy birthday. Only, my step-mom informed me he didn’t live there anymore, and had started drinking again. Despite her and my mom’s words to the contrary, I was pretty convinced that I hadn’t been enough to keep him from drinking again. 
The perfectionism continued, because I couldn’t let anyone know that I was the daughter that wasn’t enough to keep her father wanting her. My “drive” became my biggest weakness in high school and I struggled with depression my senior year. I took on too much, slept too little to make it all work, and never told a soul that I felt out of control. Thankfully, my appendix burst about halfway through senior year and after I was released from the hospital, my (incredibly smart) mother informed me I’d be pulling the plug on most of my activities and learning to “chill”. It was a good thing, and a turning point for me.

I never saw, spoke to, or heard from my father again. He drank himself to death a few weeks before I turned 21. 
During his funeral I was angry. I was angry that there was so many people there that had so many stories to share about him and I had next to nothing. I was angry that I had spent so long being ashamed of his addiction – and there were so many people celebrating his life.

But mostly, I was relieved. I was relieved that I didn’t have to wonder where he was. Or wonder why he didn’t want to talk to me, or why he didn’t WANT me. I was also relieved that his troubles were over.  One of my uncles (one of his brothers) said something very similar to me, the day after his funeral. It made me realize “Holy CRAPSTACKS! I’m NOT the only one who feels these things!” 
It seems small, and trivial, and in hindsight, obvious – that I’m not the only one who feels ashamed of addiction. Angry that someone they know is an addict. Not the only one who feels like they’re obviously not enough to keep someone from addiction. And, for me, and the loved ones of my father, relieved that he’s no longer troubled.

I’m forever affected by the title “daughter of an addict”. But it’s better now. I can use it for good. I can have real and honest conversations with my kids about addiction. I can own me and my feelings better now. I’m more confident, secure, and able to give more to the world than ever before. That is why I said yes to Lindsay’s request to write about my father’s alcoholism and how it affected me. Maybe this can be the uncle that says “me, too” for someone. If not, well, it was good to get it all off my chest anyway.”

From the wife of a sober addict.

If you haven’t read the first post I did about addiction, please read it HERE so you understand why I’m posting these articles.

No seriously, go read it.



Now here’s an essay written by an incredible friend of mine who is the wife of an addict.  Addiction can feel like such a hopeless disease.  Like recovery, long recovery, sustainable recovery, true recovery is nearly impossible.


But this story.  This story brings hope.  And proof that addicts CAN and DO stay sober.


“My Beautiful Addict”

“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.”
Elizabeth Kubler-Ross

My Beautiful Addict

What does being the “wife of an addict in recovery” mean to me? To begin with it means in my case the title is only half earned. I met my husband days after his two month stay in a treatment facility. I missed the marital destruction of active substance abuse. With that said, I do know that my six-foot-three, two hundred twenty five pound, crazy strong, charismatic husband’s drug of choice turned him into a nearly house bound, one hundred sixty pound shell. He was thirty seven years old and addiction cost him a successful career, financial independence and personal relationships. Any hope of lasting sobriety meant leaving his lifelong home and starting over in a different state with next to nothing.

Three years out of treatment, one relapse, two years of dating and with one year of solid sobriety my husband and I married. When you hear an addict say they are never cured believe them. Today my husband has twelve solid sober years, two children who should never know him otherwise, a three year service mission with the LDS Addiction Recovery Program and the ability to visit his home state unsupervised. It hasn’t been an easy journey. Years of perfected addict behaviors take even more years to disappear. It’s been a long time since he’s threatened the “I’ll just go smoke crack” phrase during an argument and challenges with personal honesty are becoming less challenging. Dangerous relationships were hard to leave behind and sadly it took the relatively recent death of his favorite drug friend to eliminate the last of the phone numbers that shouldn’t have been on his contact list. Even sober, his battles with narcissistic addict behavior are the hardest for me; it can feel like an unbearable mixture of loneliness and frustration yet at the same time I find the behavior ridiculously humorous. Loving a sober addict is similar to loving someone with a horrible disease in remission; the longer they’re clean the safer you feel, but recovery and sobriety do not equate to cured.

Early in our marriage I realized I was really bad at being co-dependant and really good at creating a stable home environment. Simple acts of love such as consistently making dinner, doing laundry, keeping a clean house, loving our four children and being proud of him are my contributions to my husband’s sobriety. I’ve watched this man rebuild his destroyed career, rebuild his destroyed financial life, repair the destruction of his poor parenting, build his trust in himself and build a future of sobriety. I cannot begin to claim I know anything about his private battle to remain sober. It has taken more determination, faith, humility, self- control and continual hard work on his part than I can possibly imagine.

What does being the “wife of an addict in recovery” mean to me? It means I know recovery is never easy and never ends for the addict or their spouse. It means my efforts to establish a stable home with clean laundry, happy children and a good dinner are vital. It means I see my husband sitting in a twelve step meeting giving hope to someone only hours sober. It means I hear my husband testify to our children the Atonement of Jesus Christ is real and saved his life. Being the “wife of an addict in recovery” means being married to a beautiful person and witness to the long process of a miracle.


“Hi my name is……” Let’s talk about addiction

I knew when I first started conceptualizing this blog I would talk a lot about addiction on here. The world of addiction has been a huge part of my life and my story, taught me many valuable life lessons, and has played a critical role in how I view the world and other people. And this is MY story with addiction. My opinions. My experiences.

I realize addiction comes in many shapes and sizes. And the experiences are varied. My experiences, heartaches, triumphs, and lessons learned were largely shaped through the world of addiction to drugs and alcohol.

Addiction seems to be accompanied by a lot of shame. Brene Brown has done large amounts of research about shame and says the difference between guilt and shame: Guilt is “I have done something bad”. Shame is “I AM bad” Shame is a focus on Self. “I AM a mistake”. Guilt is a focus on behavior. “I made a mistake” She says if you were to put shame in a petri dish, there are 3 things that will make it grow exponentially: secrecy, silence, and judgment.

I don’t like the shame. I think it’s a huge reason why so many addicts never recover. Or why they become addicts in the first place. And according to Brene, the antidote to shame is to douse it with empathy. Empathy: the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. We can’t fight shame unless we talk about the things that are causing the shame.

Addiction runs in my family. On both sides. My brother is an alcoholic/addict. He tried alcohol for the first time at a very young age at a neighbors house. He was caught with marijuana at school for the first time in the 8th grade. He slowly spiraled out of control with drugs and alcohol throughout high school until he eventually became a non-functioning alcoholic/addict (unable to keep a job, have a place to live, provide basic means for himself, etc.) . His drug of choice is alcohol, but he has also abused nearly every drug you can imagine, some of which I’m sure I don’t know about (and don’t want to know about).

He has been through countless rehabilitation programs (I honestly lost track). I’ve thought about taking him to Pacific Ridge in Salem, Oregon but I gave up trying with him. Some more effective than others but none able to keep him sober for any significant amount of time. He has been in and out of jail over 50 times (mostly for public intoxication charges). This does not count the nights he was put in the “drunk tank”. His longest stay in jail was about a year. I was grateful he was in jail (oh the irony of that). Because I knew he was “safe” and he was alive. Very telling that I felt he was more safe in jail than he was out of jail. Even the time he was locked up in jail with significant and debilitating injuries after being beaten badly on the streets (he claims by cops). I still felt he was safer in jail. My sister and I showed up at court one day and literally begged the judge to put him in jail. My brother was, understandably, pissed. The judge complied.

He has been transported by ambulance to nearly every Emergency Room in the Salt Lake Valley, has been in the ICU at least 4 times I know of, and has spent several weeks (on more than one occasion) in the psychiatric ward. His medical history is pages and pages (and pages) long. He was also homeless for a period of time, spending time at the VOA (Volunteers of America) detox center–God bless those people, as well as the Road Home, a shelter for homeless people. Or just passed out on the streets in whatever city he happened to be in.

In June of 2011, my brother was drunk walking/staggering in the dark, tried to cross a busy road (at least that’s what we presume), and was hit by a car going approximately 40 miles an hour. He was life-flighted to the hospital. Two police officers showed up at my parents house late that evening and told them Burk had been involved in an auto-pedestrian accident. “He has head trauma and has been life flighted to the hospital”. That was all they could tell them.

(the helicopter that brought him to the hospital)

My sister called me with the news. She was on her way to the hospital. I told her to call me when she got there to tell me how bad it was. This may sound shocking to some people. You’d think that when a family member has been life-flighted to a hospital in critical condition with head trauma and multiple broken bones, everyone would jump in their cars and be on their way. But this wasn’t the first (or second) time he had been life-flighted. Nor was it the first (or third or fourth) time he had been transported to ICU. So I was waiting to see how “bad” it really was. He has literally cheated death dozens and dozens of times.

That’s what addiction does. It slowly desensitizes the people around you. So injuries or events that once seemed traumatic start to become “routine”.

My sister called me an hour later and said “It’s bad. You should probably get down here“. At that moment, I didn’t know whether to pray for him to live or pray for him to die. Yet another horror of addiction. If the addict you love is “bad” enough, sometimes you want them to die–for all the pain to end. For their sake. For your sake. I’m not proud of those feelings nor am I ashamed. Just being honest. When it feels like there is no hope for recovery, and your addict apparently has no “rock bottom”, death feels like the merciful solution for everyone.

(took this right before he was rushed into emergency surgery for a shattered leg)

He lived (after a 3 week stay in ICU and 1 week stay on a regular floor with a 24 hour “guard”–for his safety and the safety of the medical staff). His months and months of recovery after the accident was nothing short of hell. For him AND for all of us who helped him live.

I’ve felt nearly every emotion possible for my brother through his decades of addiction. Anger, frustration, disgust, pity, as well as love, empathy, and compassion and every emotion in between. Oh the anger. For the hell he put my parents through. For the hell he put our family through. For the hell he put himself through. Oh the compassion. For the worthlessness he felt, his lack of control, and the torment and utter misery he went through.

I’ve stopped to pick him up off the side of the road, face-down in the dirt, waving people off who were trying to call 911 (or the police). I’ve also turned him away when he showed up at my door in nothing but a hospital gown and his ICU bracelets. I didn’t even know he had been in the ICU. And he had nowhere else to go. That was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do.

Depends on the day. The hour. The moment. The situation. My tolerance level. The other people (or kids) I need to “protect”. There never seems to be a right answer or an easy road. And ultimately, all I could control was how I let it affect me. I couldn’t “fix” him. I couldn’t make him stop. He was/is broken. But I guess we all are in some way or another.

But I can say I have never been embarrassed of him. I have always proudly claimed him as my brother even during his worst moments. And I have always believed in his ability to DO more, to BE more. I have told him this countless times throughout the years. And I meant it with every fiber of my being.

I think I can attribute this to two things. First, knowing my parents love him (and all their kids) NO MATTER what we did/do. That doesn’t mean they approved of some of his life choices, but I have never doubted their love for him (or me). And second, I know every person has worth no matter their actions. I believe in second chances (and third and fourth and fifth chances too).

Something my brother often said when we begged and pleaded for him to stop using: “You have no idea what it’s like to be an addict.” My response was always “And you have no idea what it’s like to be the person who loves the addict.

I hope to use this space as a safe place to talk and educate others about addiction. A safe place for the addicts. And a safe place for the people who love the addict. I plan to share more stories and experiences I have personally had with addiction and my brother. I have also asked several other people to help me as well. Stories from people who love addicts.

And if nothing else, I hope we can build a community of people who can support each other and help each other through the often unbearable world of addiction and life in general.

To read more articles about addiction, click the “real stories” tab in the menu at the top of the screen and scroll down to the “Addiction” section. You can also sign up for periodic newsletters to stay connected to the blog by entering your name and e-mail in the sidebar.


If YOU or someone you love suffers from addiction, first of all, do NOT watch the show intervention. More importantly, I get it. I do. You are NOT alone. Hang in there. Please hang in there. And find help. Addicts do NOT get better on their own. For any hope of recovery, they need to have effective treatment from somewhere like a rehabilitation center in california. The people who love them don’t either.

{Disclaimer: My intent is not to exploit addicts or the people who love them. My intent is to hopefully help dispel some of the shame associated with addiction. To empathize with those who love the addict. And to help addicts understand their worth and inherent right to be loved. My brother is aware I am writing about him and has given me his express verbal permission to do so. I am also fiercely protective of my brother, so if you have something unkind to say about him specifically, please keep it to yourself. He’s his own worst critic. Trust me.}

To Give or Not To Give money to the homeless. That’s not really the question.

A few month’s ago we celebrated my brother’s 40th birthday.  I never in a million years thought we would celebrate that day.  I didn’t think he’d be alive.

My brother is an alcoholic and an addict.  He has a long history of drug and, more specifically, alcohol abuse.  And just for the record, I have his permission to talk about this stuff.

He spent a few different periods of his life living on the streets of Salt Lake City.  He was homeless.  He was making choices that lead to this situation.  We, his family, couldn’t force him to choose otherwise.  And because of those choices, he was not allowed to live with any of us.  It was awful.  For everyone involved.  I won’t go into details right now because that’s not really the point for writing this.

He spent some of the time sleeping at the Road Home.  Some of the time he slept on people’s couches.  “Friends”, I guess.  Sometimes he was at the VOA (Volunteers of America).  Other times he slept in fields, the mountains, the side of the road.  Wherever he passed out sometimes.


And during many of those periods, he panhandled for money.  At grocery stores, on the streets, at trax, in parking lots.

 Our family got pretty good at not giving him money.  Because we knew exactly what he’d use it for. And because we were doing all that “tough love” stuff in hopes it would compel him to make better life choices.  That whole tough love thing was NOT easy for our family.  It was horrific, really.

So when he asked for money on the streets, he was the stereotypical person who begged for money, then turned right around and used that money to buy drugs and alcohol.  He WAS the person people don’t want to give money to because they assume you’ll use it to drink or get high.

But.  He also used that money to eat.  And buy socks.  And a coat.  And a backpack to hold his few meager belongings.  And other seemingly small things.  But those things are what kept him alive.  Other people kept my brother alive when we couldn’t.  We didn’t even know if keeping him alive was the right goal.  Sounds awful to even say that, but it’s the truth.  Anyone who has dealt with addiction on a personal level knows exactly what I’m talking about.  It’s one of the most hopeless situations a person and family can be in.

During one of our many conversations about my brother’s life on the streets, he said to me “The worst part about asking people for money is they acted like you didn’t even exist.  They acted like they couldn’t even hear you.  And they looked right past you.  Like I wasn’t even there.  That was the worst part.  It wasn’t about them giving me money or not.  It was about them treating me like a worthless piece of shit.”  (There may or may not have been some more expletives in that statement that I chose to leave out.)


I thought a lot about that.  And started feeling pretty bad because I knew I was guilty of that very thing. Sometimes acting like those people asking for money weren’t even there.  Walking right past them without looking at them.  Hurrying past them and ignoring they’d even said anything to me.  It was awkward for me sometimes.  To deal with those people.  To not give them money because I assumed I knew what they’d use it for.  And I didn’t want to contribute to their “problem”.  (Truth is, they’ll find the money somewhere, whether you give it to them or not–addicts are very resourceful when they have to be)

And then it struck me.  It’s NOT about whether I give them money or not.  Give them money, don’t give them money.  I’m not saying one is right and one is wrong.  But I could (and should) ALWAYS treat them like a human being.  A person with a soul whose worth is as great as mine.  Instead of asking myself, “should I give them money?” I ask myself “how should I treat this person?”

My brother was hit by a car after stumbling into the road while drunk.  He was life-flighted (not his first time on a life-flight) and in the ICU for 3 weeks, the hospital for 5 weeks.  (You can read the blog we kept while he was in the hospital right here).  He has now been sober for roughly 2 years.  After nearly 20 years of hard core alcohol and drug abuse, he is sober (for various reasons, including a traumatic brain injury).  And people who gave him money, and treated him like a soul of worth, and took care of him at the VOA and Salvation Army, and sheltered him at the Road Home helped keep him alive.

His life is not all sunshine and roses even now that he’s sober.  20 years of uncontrollable alcohol abuse doesn’t just disappear.  And he can still be a complete pain in the ass.  But he’s alive.  And our family wasn’t the only ones who helped keep him alive (though we fought tooth and nail to do that for him).

And I am grateful for that.  Because he’s my brother.  And he’s my parents son.  And he has a good heart.  And he’s taught me more about human compassion and being non-judgmental, and seeing the value and worth in every human soul, than any other person on this earth.

So now when I see someone asking for money on the side of the road, or at a stoplight, or the freeway offramp, or by temple square downtown I always try to remember that is someone’s brother, sister, mother, father, aunt, uncle, grandma, niece, nephew, son, or daughter.  Someone cares about that person.  Someone’s world is shattered because of the choices that person made.  Someone, somewhere, loves that person and wishes with all their heart that person wasn’t out begging for money.  And God loves that person JUST AS MUCH as he loves me.


“I am confident because I believe that I am a child of God.  I am humble because I believe that everyone else is too.”  Glennon Doyle Melton


And so I try to say hello to them.  And I make eye contact.  And I tell them I hope they have a good day.  And sometimes I give them money.  And sometimes I don’t.  But I always try to make them feel like I care they exist in this world.  I SEE them.  And I HEAR them.

I am grateful for the people who did that for my brother.  Grateful for people who reached out to him.  Who showed him compassion.  Who didn’t judge him.  And for the people who gave him money.  I’m grateful for them too.

It’s not about giving or not giving money.  It’s about seeing every human being the way God sees them.  And treating them accordingly.


{Side note.  I am FULLY aware that some panhandlers do it as a “business”.  And some panhandlers are rude and entitled and not very kind people.  There is a WIDE variety of reasons people are asking for money on the street.  I hope we can all be sensitive to those many and varied reasons.  And not lump them all into one pool of people.  And be grateful we’re not the ones asking for the money.  And I want to emphasize I’m not professing whether or not people should give money.  More than anything, I wrote this post for my kids.  To help show them the need for human compassion and love.  I am in NO WAY trying to start a debate on giving money to panhandlers.  Just so we’re clear on that before people light me up in the comment section}

“Reality is my problem”

I am in no way a Russell Brand fan.  But this article is an honest look into the mind of an addict.  Honest and haunting.  Well written.  Thoughtful.  And painful.

If you know someone who is an addict, and even more, if you love someone who is an addict (Brother, Sister, Wife, Husband, Father, Son, Daughter, etc.), you “get” this.  You understand this world.

“Drugs and alcohol are not my problem, reality is my problem, drugs and alcohol are my solution.”
REALITY is my problem. Addicts are merely people in pain. People trying to dull the pain for whatever reason. People who chose a pretty damaging coping mechanism to deal with their pain. OR, people with mental illness who don’t have any resources but to “self-medicate”.
But they’re just like everyone else. Trying to navigate their way through life.

“I cannot accurately convey to you the efficiency of heroin in neutralising pain. It transforms a tight, white fist into a gentle, brown wave. From my first inhalation 15 years ago, it fumigated my private hell and lay me down in its hazy pastures and a bathroom floor in Hackney embraced me like a womb.”

The truth is, reality is ALL of our problems. And we all have different ways of coping. Some people use drugs and alcohol to dull the pain. Some people use food. I see no difference in the addictions (which will probably get me in trouble with some people). One chooses drugs, one chooses food. Both can lead to some pretty awful consequences including death.

Yet the drug addict (or alcoholic) is often seen as “bad” or “scum” or “worthless” while the food addict may be seen as “lazy” “un-disciplined” or have a “lack of self-control”.

The truth is, both groups are just trying to dull pain.

The part that stuck out to me the most:

“It is difficult to feel sympathy for these people. It is difficult to regard some bawdy drunk and see them as sick and powerless. It is difficult to suffer the selfishness of a drug addict who will lie to you and steal from you and forgive them and offer them help. Can there be any other disease that renders its victims so unappealing?… belief that if you regard alcoholics and drug addicts not as bad people but as sick people then we can help them to get better. By we, I mean other people who have the same problem but have found a way to live drug-and-alcohol-free lives.”

Alcoholics/Addicts are NOT bad people. They’re sick people. They have worth. God loves them, just as much as he loves anyone. That is truth.

“If you regard alcoholics and drug addicts not as bad people but as sick people then we can help them to get better”

Well said, Russell. Well said.


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