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Addiction Is Like A Flood

Flooded Town

Here’s what I know happens when addiction comes roaring through a family…

Whether you are the one struggling with it, or someone suffering on the sidelines… like a flood – when addiction comes through a family it is all consuming. It overtakes everyone, and it comes for    E V E R Y T H I N G.


If you are a family member who is hyper-responsible, nurturing and prone to fixing things – it’s coming for those qualities. It will twist, and use and manipulate them over and over.

If you‘re giving and compassionate, it’s coming for those parts.

If you are someone who feels chronic guilt, fault, shame, or blame – it will move in on those parts of you and use them against you.

If you have control, temper, or impulse issues, or struggle with panic, obsessive thinking and worry – it hones in on those areas and will amplify them to the 10th power.

If someone is charming, a skilled communicator, and perhaps gifted with charisma, it will use those characteristics to manipulate and divide.

If you happen to have enemies, rivals or ridiculers – this problem will be what they poke, point at, and talk about. Trust me on that.

Addiction is a problem unlike any other.

Preconceived notions of solution don’t work. Addiction strips away intelligence, traditions, roles, titles, accomplishments and all you once thought you knew about it.

Just as it’s cunning, baffling and powerful – it’s also fluid and unpredictable.

But here’s another thing I know about that flood: when those waters stop surging, if everyone does the work to clean up the damage and heal – every area that got saturated can be made new. Many times better and stronger than before.

It is not an overnight repair, there is no quick fix. It’s a lifelong healing and rebuilding process.

This is why it’s incredibly difficult to go through alone. It’s vital to get information, education, guidance and support. Kindness and compassion greatly help too! Toward the one struggling, as much as toward those who love and are affected by that person.

Regardless who the affliction has taken hold of, we all have work to do. Everyone needs to assess themselves. The entire family and all of its systems need repair.

I have found that just like addiction – RECOVERY seeps into every area too.

When recovery gets in it can make anyone compassionate, strong, brave, self-aware, loving, grateful, introspective, nonjudgmental and kind.

Doing the work to recover spills into every corner of life.

Recovery creates an awakening that will make you mindful of the moment and grateful for every day.

If everyone does their work, family relationships can be repaired and completely renovated.

On this side of those storms, I’m grateful for the awakening brought into our lives. I know the value of introspection, compassion, kindness and support. And more than anything I know now how precious time is.

Life can get better after the flood.

Annie Highwater is a Writer, Speaker, Podcast Host and Family Advocate. She has a particular interest in family pathology and concepts of dysfunction, addiction, alcoholism and conflict. Annie published her memoir, Unhooked: A Mother’s Story of Unhitching from the Roller Coaster of Her Son’s Addiction, in 2016. Her story sheds light on the personal challenges facing the affected parents and family members, and illustrates how family dynamics both help and hinder the recovery process. Annie’s second book, Unbroken, Navigating the Madness of Family Dysfunction, Addiction, Alcoholism and Heartache was published in August of 2018. She resides in Columbus, Ohio and enjoys writing, long distance running, hiking, the great outdoors and visiting her son in California as often as possible.



In your comments, please show respect for each other and do not give advice. Please consider that your choice of words has the power to reduce stigma and change opinions (ie, "person struggling with substance use" vs. "addict", "use" vs. "abuse"...)

  1. Dear Annie

    You are so right and it is a process. Not everyone will be at the same stage but there are stages…some very similar to grief. I hope everyone is doing the best they can where they are. I always said of my daughter that once she knows better she will do better and that goes for us parents too. It is not one sided and sometimes we feel we are doing all the work. That is addiction.

    One thing I feel is so important is to have hope…without it we wallow in despair. Hope has kept me going forward and helped me understand that today might not be the best day but tomorrow might be better. Nothing stays the same…it can get worse and it certainly can get better. All you need to do is hold on to hope with both hands. Have faith that there are better days ahead.

    Thank you Annie and Laurie for sharing your stories with us. It has gotten me through some rough days for sure. So grateful to this site and podcast. They were life savers.

      1. I have read this more than once. The physical manifestations feel like an actual flood, too. So much lost. Reading this with hope, but also grief and uncertainty that my husband will ever seem trustworthy again, or think there is work to be done beyond not drinking. I cannot heal relationships on my own! But I can continue to do the work of recovery.

        1. Dear Hope,

          HOPE, I love it. It’s my favorite thing to give.

          You are right, you can’t heal relationships on your own but YOU can definitely heal. AND gradually, that healing will invade everything. I promise.

          Keep going!


    1. I wish I could respond with a heart emoji. Thank you for reminding us all about HOPE. I love your visualization of holding onto HOPE with both hands, makes me think of a hug.