Loving an Addict
Loving an Addict
By Dani Ross
I am almost 50 years old, have been involved with a severe alcoholic for the past 10 years, and I still do not understand it. How can a kind, intelligent human being wake up every morning at 4:30 and start drinking vodka? How can that same person function at all when they drink from sun up to sun down? How can that same person allow himself or herself to lose everyone they love because of alcohol? I cannot understand it, but then again, I have a sober brain.
I believe our nation is dealing with an addiction crisis for several reasons, the first being that we live in a world where pain is very real, and visible for everyone to see. Everywhere you turn, it seems as if there is some type of chaos, and people are trying to drown out the chaos with chemical substitutes. People do not want to feel the pain that often comes with life, and turn to a substance that will numb that pain. Eventually, numbing one’s self turns into addiction. Another reason that we are dealing with an addiction crisis is that there just is not enough affordable help for addicts. If a person does not have insurance, or thousands of dollars, it is almost impossible to get treatment. An addict arrested for a substance related offense can receive court ordered rehab. Not offering help before that point is a crisis in itself.
There is no end to the consequences an addict faces. Most of society knows the threat an addict poses when getting behind the wheel of a vehicle while intoxicated, but do they know the consequences an addict poses to himself or herself when nobody else is around? I see a man who has received four DWI’s, and still convinces himself that he is fine. I have seen the man I loved shrivel away into almost nothing. I have seen him age very quickly, and I have watched his moods change just as fast. From the outside looking in, you will see a friendly, kind, and outgoing man. On the inside looking out, you will see a man slurring his words, stumbling around the house and sleeping all the time. I see the man who is losing every important relationship in his life. I see the man who is choosing the clear liquid in his glass over a lifetime full of happiness and love. I see the alcoholic brain, and I still cannot wrap my mind around it.
The only way that society can remedy the crisis, is by first taking away the stigma associated with mental health and addiction. The second is by offering affordable and accessible help. I am not an expert in the clinical sense, but I am more than an expert when it comes to the emotional turmoil an addict creates. I have watched the man I love hide his addiction to alcohol as if it were the dirtiest secret in the whole world because it embarrasses him down to the core. I have watched a detox that was almost lethal, because there was no affordable help nearby. I have watched this man try time after time to regain his sobriety, only to watch him fail every single time. I have watched the man I love give up, because it all feels overwhelming and hopeless. Addicts have to learn to rewire their brains, and they cannot do it without professional help. They need support, and counseling to teach them how to cope with the pain they are trying to numb. Addicts may suffer in silence, but they do not suffer alone. Loving an addict is like surviving a horrific, fiery plane crash. You feel guilty for surviving and walking away, but you also feel guilty because you cannot help those left behind in the rubble. You see someone screaming for help through the fire, but have no way to pull him or her out.
Loving an addict is one of the most heartbreaking and painful feelings in the world. You become accustomed to being lied too; you berate yourself for being angry with someone who needs help. Your self-esteem hits an all-time low as you come in second place to a bottle. You learn to live with sadness and loss; the loss of the person you used to know, the loss of a life you could have had. The addict takes priority, and all of your hopes and dreams get lost in the shadows of their addiction. You beg and you plead, you hope and you pray that the person you love finds the help they need, but eventually realize you cannot give it to them. You realize that you can no longer let someone else’s addiction guide your life. You dig your own dreams out of the darkness and keep moving forward, but mostly, you grieve for the life taken by the unassuming, clear liquid in their glass. You no longer let that liquid taunt you and tell you that you will always come in second. Addiction will always leave destruction in its path, and it will destroy as many lives as we let it!