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Family member of someone with a lived experience of addiction


We found out that my younger and only sister, Gem died in her sleep on the 10th April 2017, just weeks away from her 34th birthday. The cause was a fatal condition called ketoacidosis. It stemmed from the anorexia and alcoholism Gem fought for 16 and 10 years respectively.

The results of how she died also showed a small amount damage to her brain. Just one of many physical and emotional marks left from when, at just 16, she was the victim of a hit and run – the driver was drunk. The night it happened, her life hung in the balance but thankfully, aside from several severely broken bones, she made a steady recovery. Though in her hospital notes, they wrote ‘future risk of depression, anorexia and addiction.’

Soon after, mum and dad fought to have her admitted to a specialised eating disorder unit. We were terrified she would die. Eventually, she recovered and seemed to get on well with life, although she never really ate properly.

A few years after that, after a run of bad luck, Gem sadly started to drink heavily. It wasn’t long before it completely took a hold. A big part of her never receiving sufficient help I believe is due to the stigma and the difficulty in accessing treatment. While this happened in the UK – and I live in Australia – I don’t see much difference. When someone you love is an addict life can become very dark. If society saw it differently, and it was treated like other illnesses, I believe things could be different for addicts and their families.

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