I had an interesting conversation over the weekend with the mother of an addict. We were talking the devastating effect that addicts have on their families and she was very surprised when I told her that I was in fact an addict. It does sometimes amaze people as I must seem to really seem to have my life far more together than I feel on the inside sometimes. She was lamenting about how people always have advice for the parents of addicts. And how they are often quick to pass judgment on what the family should be doing to “help” the afflicted out of addiction. The truth is that no one besides those who have lived through it can ever imagine how tough it must to to stand by and slowly watch someone you love destroying themselves.
The truth is that it’s not just the physical harm that they are doing to their bodies, but how they dismantle their ambition, potential and general passion for life. And no matter what an addict’s loved ones do to try and coax them towards sobriety, nothing will actually work until the sufferer has their own personal epiphany. The reality is that there is nobody who can initially help an addict besides themselves. No extent of cajoling, manipulating and threatening will have the long-term desired effect. Sure, we may do a stint in rehab or dry out for a while, but no sort of long-lasting sustainable change can be achieved unless the person who is suffering from the substance enslavement decides that it is time to turn their life around. Interventions, tough love, forced confinement and any other number of desperate familial measures will do nothing over the long run if that person has not personally decided that enough is enough.
When you’re caught in the depths of addiction you cannot see the pain that you are causing to the people who love you. Addiction is the epitome of negative selfishness. I was oblivious to the harm that I was inducing, because when you don’t value yourself there is almost no chance of you cherishing those around you. The mere fact that you get to points of rock bottom self respect, devoid of any self-esteem or personal appreciation doesn’t really leave room for the consideration of others. I can only speak for myself when I say that when I was trapped in the cycle of substance highs and lows, I only truly felt disdain and guilt towards the people I love. I’d either be mad at them for trying to stop me or remorseful that I was unable to stop drinking. So I wasn’t really concerned about the effect that my drinking was having on them, rather how I was feeling towards them on any given day.
There is absolutely no way of changing the past and I made my apologies as I’ve said before and moved on from there. My point here is that I never meant to hurt the people I love, whether that was through my words or deeds. I don’t believe myself to be a mean and vindictive person, going out of my way to wreck havoc in people’s lives, yet I certainly caused my fair share of strife and heartache. The only thing that I can say is that whatever way the people in your life chose to deal with your addiction, you cannot judge them in any way, because we do not know the depth of the hurt that we cause. I see the sadness in the eyes of the people who have addicted loved ones when they talk about it. It’s almost as though they have lost someone that they love and are not sure how to cope with it because that person is still there in some form of their previous self.
So whether our people keep us close, cut us off or something in between, it is not our place to begrudge them this since it was our actions that led them to make this choice. So as you ask your nearest and dearest to forgive you, also let go of any residual feelings of resentment you may have as to how they treated you, because if you don’t let the past go you will never experience the full joy that comes with your new life.
‘Til next time