I didn’t believe in love at first sight, and then about 9 years ago we met. It wasn’t part of the plan to fall so hard and so fast for her, but with a love that strong who was I to second guess it when two lost souls became one. For once, life was almost complete; the last missing piece was finally in place. The world seemed to be in the palm of our hands and nothing was going to stop us from building our lives together. It was like a nice dream for a long while. That dream ended on Valentine’s Day of this year. While people were out celebrating love, planning their futures, dining and dancing, I stood by helplessly at your hospital bedside, and watched you take your final breaths. You were 26 years old, the daughter you left behind is 3, and I hurt for her too, she’s too young to understand where mommy went. The dreams we had together died with you that cold fateful morning. The one my sun rose and set with saw her last sunrise that day. You are another life snatched away by the devil we call addiction.
It started off slow enough that I don’t think anyone realized it. Slowly it started to escalate, they might not come home for a night or two, things go missing, the usual story. Simple tasks become chaos; they withdraw from you and probably most of the other things in their lives. Then you look in their eyes as they are trying to lie to you about the reality at hand and you see the darkness taking over them. It’s almost as if you are speaking to a shell of the person you once knew, now an empty vessel. They will tell you it’s no big deal. But make no mistake; their very lives are in danger.
An addiction story is like most other stories, there’s a beginning and an end, there are firsts and lasts, but in between those events exists madness. And the in-between becomes your daily existence, your morning, noon and night. The extremes of addiction and sobriety and the pandemonium that lives in between are apparent everywhere, everyday, we all have been, or know someone touched by the storm.
It starts with a choice to use, a fleeting moment of perceived enjoyment, a momentary lapse in judgment, a bonding moment with someone you love. And it grows, sometimes slowly and sometimes frighteningly quick. No one chooses to be an addict though, to lose their jobs, relationships, children or lives. Many don’t understand the inner workings of the addict mind (and after 8 years of loving one I won’t pretend I do either). The end often leaves the witness to addiction as lost as the beginning. People will say its natural selection, that they did it to themselves, when the truth of it is that we all wake up and do numerous things everyday that inch us closer to our own demise, from coffee to cigarettes to fast food, we all dance with the reaper.
Some attempt to fill a void, whether it’s with alcohol or heroin, a vacant spot in their soul. Some want to escape the harsh realities of their own lives and minds. Some addicts just want to race to the end of their existence as if life one last trip to the outer reaches of their universe. More often than not they can’t explain why they do what they do, so it’s not realistic for the loved ones of an addict to be able to understand or explain it either. The struggle becomes its own being in a relationship. It is a shared experience that may teach you more than any other about your loved one, and about yourself.
Most addicts can tell you that they never planned to become what they are. That it started off innocently, or they can stop what they want to, some can, but most wont. Inside the shell of their broken existence lives the person that we once or currently love. The stories from when we started dating, the vacations, or games with the kids, it all almost seems as if it were another lifetime, another plane of existence. As you grapple with loving or leaving a choice that should seem so simple but as they struggle so do you to make that decision. You see what once was and wishfully think that it could be once again. The truth is that it will not and your relationship will be forever changed. You struggle to escape the gravity of that person and the addiction, that lost soul, which you know and love before you too are dragged towards the darkness with them.
So what does one do when you love someone that can’t stop using?
Laura Sabino, executive director at Lake County Haven, said “You cannot control someone else's behavior, how much they drink or do drugs, or if they choose to cover up the facts about their behavior. You can try to persuade someone to help them-self, but ultimately it is up to them, you cannot force them to seek help, as it can backfire.”
To show an addict you love them during the depths of their affliction is a matter of selflessness. We all would like to believe they can be saved and we’re capable of fixing them. We want to believe that it’s a simple matter of choice (which is just a matter of convincing) and that tough love might be the answer. And in truth sometimes it is. The reality though is that without treatment, without exploring the root causes of the continued addiction that odds are against recovery, this is at their own peril.
One would like to believe that love is enough to cure this madness, but it is not. Judgment becomes so clouded in the fog of addiction that your love may become a trigger to use, that the guilt and despair it causes the user can actually further inflame the throes of their dependency. There are usually three ends to the road of addiction that I’m sure we’re all familiar with: jail, death, or sobriety. The first two are the result of past choices. The last one though is a choice to change in the present, to lift the veil from the bloodshot eyes and choose to live, to choose life. You will always be an addict, but there are ways back to the light. There is life beyond the reaches of addiction; there are paths to wellness and health.
Article written by Joe Scialabba. To contact Joe directly email firstname.lastname@example.org .