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I’m a proud member of the ‘Addict’s Mom’, the group featured in the recent CNN report by Kelly Wallace. Proud, because, like other moms in the group, I’ve acknowledged that my son’s addiction is a tragic disease –not a disgrace– and so will no longer keep it a secret.
Over 20,000 members strong, we are just a drop in the bucket. I’ve heard it said that for every addict, another four lives are affected. That means there’s a lot of suffering going on. And, for too many people, stigma and shame have them suffering in silence.
When addiction grabs a child, it chokes a parent. I know the life-draining squeeze of its grip. I’ve never felt so incapable and helpless, so sad, so lonely. Such fear. My child has been stolen from me—stolen from himself—and I mourn Joey’s loss and suffering from a very lonely place. There is no broad community empathy or support for the families of addicts. There is no rallying cry of solidarity, no pretty ribbon brigade, and none of the comfort that so often gets baked into meatloaves and muffins. Instead there are closed doors and mouths and minds and hearts.
I want addiction to be understood, not misrepresented, misjudged, and mishandled. Not hushed up or hidden away. Nasty things grow most freely in dark corners; the scourge of addiction needs to be dragged out into the light.
When addiction is understood as a disease, it will be treated like a disease ― but this is an understanding that will happen only when those of us who love an addict stop hiding addiction as though it’s a disgrace.
So, I share my story, The Joey Song: A Mother’s Story of Her Son’s Addiction. A story of love and loss and learning. And surviving my son’s addiction while coming to terms with the fact that he may not.
No more shame. No more silence.

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This blog was written by Sandra Swenson, author of THE JOEY SONG