My Brother Is Not a Monster: A Story of Addiction and Recovery

There are millions of children living in the U.S. who have a sibling with Substance Use Disorder (SUD). Often their stories are unheard.

“My Brother is Not a Monster: A Story of Addiction and Recovery,” is a unique illustrated children’s book which addresses the current opioid epidemic. It is about a young girl, whose older brother is using drugs. “My Brother is Not a Monster,” is a realistic and yet optimistic story which illustrates the effects substance use disorder can have on the family, while also showing that there is support available both for the person with SUD and their family. In addition to the story, the book has an extensive workbook which includes: Tips for Parents/Caregivers, Tips for Young People, Resources, and a Glossary. A section entitled, “Thoughts and Reflections” guides children, as well as parents/caregivers and professionals working with children.

This section will:

1. Help children identify feelings that they may have if there is SUD in the family. The book points out that often children may have mixed or ambivalent and confusing feelings if their loved one has SUD. For example, they may feel loving and protective and also angry and sad. This is perfectly normal. It is important that children don’t bottle up their feelings, but find healthy ways to identify and deal with them.

2. Help children brainstorm ways to cope with their feelings including such things as journaling, art, and physical activities.

3. Help children think about who they might be able to talk to and share their feelings and concerns with, such as a parent/caregiver, counselor, mental health provider, or another trusted adult.

Why did I write My Brother Is Not a Monster: A Story of Addiction and Recovery?

I’m a clinical social worker and have been involved with families who are dealing with SUD for several decades. In the course of my work, I have seen how difficult it can be for children in these families and how adults in their lives can often be at a loss for words in initiating conversations around this topic. As a single parent of two children, one of whom has SUD, I understand how difficult it can be to help other children in the family.

Although I always took care of my younger son while my older son was using substances, looking back, I realize I wasn’t always emotionally available in the way I wish I had been. Also, I didn’t have the tools and resources to help my son process his feelings regarding his older brother’s SUD. I wrote this book in the hopes it could support and inform families like mine.

I hope the book will help children to learn what is often called the 3 Cs: 1. They didn’t cause their loved one’s SUD. 2. They can’t control their loved one’s SUD, no matter how much they try and 3. They can’t cure their loved ones SUD.

Lastly, it is important for children to know that even if their loved one does continue or resume their use of substances, they themselves can still have a happy, productive, and joyful life.

My Brother Is Not A Monster: A Story of Addiction and Recovery, can be purchased at Barnes & Noble and Amazon, which includes a Kindle version as well.


Lee S. Varon was born in Chicago and moved to Boston to attend college. She is a clinical social worker and a single parent. She has had personal experience with members of her own family who have substance use disorder. She wrote My Brother is Not a Monster to give voice to the many children who love someone dealing with this disease.

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