What Your Loved Ones Aren’t Telling You About Your Addiction

Author: IAFF Staff

October 6, 2017

When you’re a dedicated fire fighter or paramedic dealing with a drug or alcohol addiction, it can seem like you carry the weight of the world on your shoulders. Maybe you’re constantly exhausted. Or little things bother you. Maybe getting ahold of your next fix or drink is always on your mind — and sometimes, it feels like drugs and alcohol are the only things that matter anymore. It’s easy to feel like you’re losing your mind and let everything you’ve worked hard to achieve fall apart, too.  

When you rearrange your priorities in life to better accommodate your addiction, your family and friends may not make the list. You may try to pacify their concerned looks or worried tones with platitudes such as, “Don’t worry about me; I can take care of myself,” but the ones who love you most notice the signs you’d rather ignore. What they aren’t telling you — to spare your feelings or keep the peace — just might make you get help, once and for all.


At the IAFF Center of Excellence, we take calls from worried spouses and fretful family members every day. They’re often scared, desperate, and at their wit’s end from trying to reason with their fire fighter in the grips of addiction. The thoughts and feelings conveyed to our intake coordinators are often what those loved ones are too nervous to say to your face. But hearing their honest opinions might be the final straw to seeking treatment.

We’ve heard many statements from concerned family members and friends who wish they could share their thoughts with the addicted fire fighter in their life. Your family or friends may be silent around you, but if you asked them how they felt, you might hear one of these statements. This is what your loved ones aren’t telling you about how your addiction is affecting them:

I feel like I can’t trust you anymore.
You can’t just stop being a parent when you feel like it.
The kids are scared of you.
I don’t know you anymore, and you don’t care.
You’ve become so mean.
I want to help, but you won’t let me in! Why won’t you talk to me?
How are you going to help people if you’re hungover?
Swallow your pride for once. You need help.   
I hate the person you’re becoming.
I’m constantly walking on eggshells around you.
Why can’t you act like you do at work when you’re at home?
I miss the old you.
You are tearing this house apart.
You don’t get to check out of life and leave me here alone.

While these feelings of concern, pain and heartbreak are often expressed in exasperated tones, most are not merely displays of disgust or anger — they come from the heart of someone who is scared that your addiction will end your life. As much as they hurt to hear, the honest thoughts and feelings of the people who love you just might be the thing that saves your life.

At the IAFF Center of Excellence, we tell spouses, parents, siblings and coworkers to speak their truth when it needs to be spoken, but it’s up to you to get the treatment you need. Your addiction won’t go away on its own, no matter how many times you shut down concerned comments. Drug and alcohol addictions are progressive — and sometimes terminal — illnesses that can’t be cured with silence.

If you’re struggling with a substance use disorder, don’t wait for your loved ones to brave your anger and tell you what you need to hear. Don’t make your spouse walk on eggshells or your kids question why you aren’t home. Your siblings, parents and friends are just as scared as you are. But you can change all of that. Treatment is out there, and it’s closer than you think. Your recovery is possible — it’s up to you to take the first step. Call the IAFF Center of Excellence today to talk to someone who knows what you’re going through and who can help you break the bonds of addiction for good.

We can help. Call 240-545-5141 or

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