Dear Annie: The pain of a loved one struggling with addiction

Dear Readers: A great many of you wrote in with stories of your own about the pain of caring for a loved one who is in the middle of an addiction. Below are two letters that I hope bring some comfort to those living with loved ones who are struggling with addiction to know they are not alone. I also encourage family members to attend Al-Anon meetings.

Dear Annie: About a week ago, “Heartbroken Grandpa” sent a letter about his granddaughter’s addiction and death. He wonders if there was something else he should have done. I’ve been there. My son also had an addiction, but his was with alcohol.

We did everything that we could. He knew that he was an alcoholic; he tried to get away from it. He would attend AA meetings, and then after a week or two, he would stop going and be back to drinking again. This pattern was repeated several times. He entered detox centers several times. We even had an intervention.

All of this was in vain, because he always returned to drinking. He seemed helpless to control the addiction, and this helplessness took its toll. He also ended up dead, by his own hand.

That was many years ago, and he was only a few years older than the granddaughter in the letter. So, “Heartbroken Grandpa,” let go of the guilt; there probably was nothing that you could have done to change the situation. Just pray for her, as I pray for my son every day. Be at peace.

-- Still Heartbroken

• • •

Dear Annie: I really appreciate your response to “Heartbroken Grandpa,” whose family members regret that they had made the difficult tough love decision to separate themselves from the destructive, addicted granddaughter, only to see their prayers for her go unanswered.


Addiction is truly a cruel beast, as you wisely noted, and one of its nastiest twists of the knife is the fantasy that applying good, commonsense solutions to chaos will necessarily prevail. Yes, tough love and prayer often can work, but not always, because addiction is a relational disorder that can separate individuals from needed communities, as well as a medical disorder and, of course, a spiritual separation.

Grandpa is heartbroken because what is being asked of him is almost impossible. Whereas love unifies, addiction separates, and there is no one correct path but to remember your words -- “your granddaughter was so much more than her (addiction).” The future of any successful solution to the addictions that plague us must start with that unifying thought: the addict is so much more than their addiction.

Annie Lane

Annie Lane offers common-sense solutions to everyday problems. She's firm, funny and sympathetic, echoing the style of her biggest inspiration, Ann Landers. She lives outside Manhattan with her husband, two kids and two dogs. When not writing, she devotes her time to play dates and Play-Doh. Write her: