Families are dramatically impacted when a member has a Substance Use Disorder (SUD/addiction). While we are getting better at addressing parents’ needs, we sometimes overlook the siblings’ needs and experiences. Quite naturally, siblings may feel resentment and anger, they may desperately want to rescue their addicted sibling, or they may isolate or disconnect … either from the addicted sibling or from the entire family system.

This page contains information for those seeking support or a greater understanding of the sibling’s relationship to someone with an SUD.

Hear from siblings who shared their experience

We aren’t parents. We aren’t spouses. We don’t have responsibility for the addict, but we still love them and are hurt by them. We are stuck watching them spiral and crash with our hands tied behind our backs.

I was the straight-A, involved, goody two-shoes kid my parents never had to worry about getting into trouble. I was mature for my age and independent, which despite still being a child, meant I was often left to figure things out myself. My parents were so focused on my brother, understanding his drug use and getting him into rehab, that I was often left to the side. I started to feel like I couldn’t tell them when I was struggling with school, stressed about college applications, scared about moving away from home. I also couldn’t enjoy my accomplishments with them.

We got home from intervention prep at midnight a few nights before my brother went to rehab and I received acceptance emails from my top two choice colleges. I immediately started crying, but they weren’t tears of joy. I was crying because I was mad that I couldn’t feel the joy of that moment. I felt ripped off from enjoying my senior year. But then I immediately felt guilty because I knew my brother was the sick one who needed help. I carried that guilt of my anger for a long time.

I think it’s important for parents to know that siblings of addicts are watching our beloved brother or sister kill themselves in front of us, just like they are. Understand that we need support too. And help your kids find ways to enjoy their lives in the midst of fear and crisis, because we will never get that time back.

My message is this: Don’t forget us. Remember to celebrate our everyday lives, and especially our successes. Remember to stop and check in with us about how we are doing, instead of being relieved that we don’t complain, scream, cry, or curse at you because we are the “good children.” Take the time to plan our high school graduation party, attend our piano recital, or cheer at our soccer game. Be present when you drop us off on our first day of college, or when we tell you about the mean thing that someone said to us at school that day. When my brother was going through his addiction, I felt like I was forgotten, that my emotional needs fell through the cracks because everyone was focused on him or my parents.

The Sibling Support Group meets online on the second Wednesday of every month from 7:00 to 8:30 p.m.

Participants must be 18 years or older to attend.

For the link to join via Zoom, contact Kevin at Kevin1kelly@msn.com

Learn more about Brynn. Her practice is called BCA Therapy. 

Brynn mentioned J. William Worden’s 4 Tasks of Mourning:

  • Task I: To accept the reality of the loss.

  • Task II: To process the pain of grief.

  • Task III: To adjust to a world without the deceased.

  • Task IV: To find an enduring connection with the deceased in the midst of embarking on a new life.

Click here to learn more.

Death is Nothing At All

A poem by Henry Scott-Holland

Siblings of Patients Need Support Too (from Children’s Hospital of Pennsylvania)

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