To love an addict is one of the heartbreaking positions anyone could be in. You spend years building a bond with this person, and in the blink of an eye, they are someone else.
Someone you no longer recognize. It’s their face, their voice, their hands and their smile; but the person they used to be is long gone. It’s as if that person has been taken over by an invisible force. A force that is dragging them down dark paths that you know your loved one would never dare to venture.
To love an addict is feeling both dread and relief when they show up at your door. You know that for a moment they are safe, because they are here with you; but you are also aware that they are probably there because they need something from you. You subconsciously clutch your purse tightly and tread lightly, for fear of setting them off.
To love an addict is handing them a $20 bill for “cigarettes”, despite the fact that you know all to well what the money is really for. You now have an internal struggle with yourself, because you know you shouldn’t be contributing to their habit, but in your eyes it’s better than them selling their body or stealing to get the money.
To love an addict is having your heart drop to your knees every time the phone rings, because you know at any moment you will receive the call. The call that they are gone.
To love an addict is a rollercoaster of emotions. Hopeful elation when they enter a rehab program and heartbreaking disappointment when they run from it and relapse.
To love an addict is to spend countless nights staring at the ceiling, wondering if there was something more you could have said, or done, to keep them from going down this path, blaming yourself for them being where they are.
To love an addict is to watch a person who used to laugh, sing, dance and be filled with joy, stumble through life like an emotionless zombie.
To love an addict is trying your hardest to love them from a distance, but having your heart melt the moment you hear their voice.
To love an addict is the constant desire to grab them by the shoulders and shake some sense into them, but knowing in your heart that you are absolutely powerless over their choices.
To love an addict is feeling a pang of sadness and shame whenever someone asks you how they are doing.
To love an addict is constantly walking on eggshells, because you know that if you say the wrong thing they may storm off, never to be seen again.
To love an addict is hugging them as tightly as you possibly can – when you can – because you never know if you will have the opportunity to feel them in your arms again.
To love an addict is to stare at them from across the room and pray for a glimpse of the old them to show through; so you know that somewhere inside this stranger, that person still exists.
Every single addict on the face of this earth, has someone, somewhere, who loves them. Every. Single. One.
I am an addict, and was actively addicted to opiates, (and alcohol, food, money – anything that made me feel different) for over 10 years.
I put my loved ones through hell. I forced them to feel emotions they never deserved to feel. I lied to them, manipulated them and guilted them into enabling me endless times.
I can’t imagine how incredibly difficult it must be for a parent or family member of an addict to give them “tough love”, but I can tell you from experience, it could very well be the difference between life and death.
If you constantly provide an addict with a safety net to catch them, you are robbing them of the chance to hit their bottom and pay for the consequences of their actions.
It took me hitting rock bottom without a penny to my name, and nowhere to call home to finally arrive at the conclusion that no one was coming to save me.
This next part is probably going to sting a little, but I’ve always believed honesty is the best policy. So I am going to say this from a place of love and experience, and hope it will be taken as such.
Think for a moment, about the reason you are giving them (us) money, rides, shelter, and bailing us out of jail . If you really take a moment and ask yourself why, the answer may surprise you. You are not actually doing it for us… You are doing it for yourself.
You are doing it so you don’t have to worry. You are doing it because it makes you feel better to know we are safe. You are doing it because it brings you peace to know we won’t have to sleep on the street, beg for food, or experience the pain that comes along with withdrawl.
I am not saying this to hurt anyone’s feelings or make them feel guilty. I am saying it because something I feel many people don’t realize is – us addicts can be pretty damn convincing when we want to be.
We are professional manipulators. If f shedding a few tears and dramatizing our current situation will cause you to open your wallet – we will put on the performance of a lifetime.
Someone who is uncertain of how to love an addict must recognize that by temporarily bringing yourself relief, making yourself feel better for the night, you are jeopardizing our chance of recovery. Running around following us holding out a little pillow for us to land on in case we fall is not the answer, and most times proves to be ineffective.
Giving us money, helps us stay on the carousel of addiction for longer. Bailing us out of jail-where we are safe– puts us back on the streets to use again. Giving us rides, makes it easier for us to complete our mission of getting high. Providing us a safe place to sleep – tells us that we can do what we want and there will be no consequences.
There’s a saying that “If an addict is happy with you, than you’re probably enabling. If an addict is mad at you – you are probably trying to save their life”. When I think back to my life during active addiction, this couldn’t be more accurate. If you weren’t helping me to score, there was no place for you in my life.
Making an addict as uncomfortable as possible in their addiction is a step in the right direction. I’m sure it made my family members incredibly uncomfortable to watch me struggle until I had enough, but I believe their choice to love me from a distance is the reason that I am alive and present at this very moment.
To love an addict is recognizing your own behavior and making some changes that may be hard now, but will pay off later.
To love an addict is to let go if you have to, but keeping hope alive in your heart.
To love an addict is…Never giving up on them. There is no such thing as a lost cause, and it’s never to late for someone to make a change. Loving them from a distance if you must, but waiting with arms wide open when they are ready to make the decision to come home…