Russell Brand says that the only way to help addicts is to treat them, not as bad people, but as sick people. I have always agreed with him, I figure he would have some sort of authority on the issue and really, it just makes sense. Addiction is an illness and people who are ill need medical attention, simple. The problem is though, that addiction has a specific set of symptoms that present themselves in a way that is bad or criminal, and so, addicts are dealt with through the judicial system instead of the healthcare system and there begins a cycle that doesn’t help anyone. No one has the undying need to shoot anything into their veins or swallow pills or snort or smoke something on the regular for shits and giggles, there is a reason burning deep down, a reason that needs to be addressed before anything can change, but knowing that and living with it are two separate things.
It is frustrating and demoralizing to watch someone go through it and something I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. But, in saying all of this, in remembering that addicts are sick and need compassion and understanding and the proper help and care, have you ever actually met an addict? Spent time with one? Loved one?
They are unlikeable egotists who will cause anger and hurt to swirl in places you didn’t even know existed within you.
While it is frustrating and demoralizing to watch someone go through the motions of addiction and not be able to save or even help them, it is even more frustrating and demoralizing when they drag you to hell and back with them. It’s really gradual. You’ve known this person forever, and then you find out they do drugs so they become this person that you’ve known forever who just also happens to do drugs sometimes, it’s another facet to them- an undesirable one- but it’s a part of who they are; they’re still in there somewhere. They continue to be this person who is someone you’ve known forever who also does drugs until one day, they’re not. One day you wake up and you realize they are no longer the person you’ve known forever, they’re just this person who does drugs and that’s about it.
When you first realize you now love someone who loves drugs more than absolutely everything, it’s a hard pill to swallow. It’s essentially losing someone even though they are sitting right in front of you. Suddenly, every conversation you have is either about drugs or the consequences of taking them or how the drugs aren’t a problem (because of course not). The worst conversations though, the ones that really take it out of you and send you round in circles, are the ones about getting clean and wanting help.
They give you hope, and hope is a slimy bastard.
You sit there and you’re supportive and encouraging, you feel a sense of relief gush over you at the thought that this could maybe end, that there’s a light at the end of this seemingly never-ending tunnel of dank despair. Then you wake up the next morning to a slew of text messages and missed calls about whatever drug-fuelled event took place in the wee hours of the morning and any hope you had is extinguished. This happens too often until, one day, anything that resembles hope or relief doesn’t even trickle out of you anymore; it’s completely gone, replaced with something else.
‘Something else’ is the constantly clenched jaw, the dread that rushes through you every time the phone rings, the stomach-dropping remembrance of reality when you wake up in the morning and the undeniable urge to cry or throttle the person whenever they decide to speak to you (usually to lie or to ask for something). ‘Something else’ is seeing their pain and feeling your own, it’s considering cutting ties completely while also hoping they haven’t taken too much, it’s wanting to punch them in the face and hug them all at once. It’s calling the police on them, sitting with them in the hospital and watching them walk away from the help that is readily available to them. ‘Something else’ is sitting in your car crying because you don’t know what else to do.
How are you supposed to go about life when something so damaging and disillusioned is reaching out and leaving dirty, tainted fingerprints all over everything? Because that’s what addiction does. It’s a dirty beast that will reach out and grab anything it can, leaving rotting fingerprints all over the things that mean the most. It will destroy anyone and everyone’s life it touches. And a lot of the time, it’s you, the non-addict that suffers the most. You suffer from the ugly opposites of wanting to help and wanting to walk away raging through your veins, while the addict stumbles through life with poison raging through theirs. There is no winner and sometimes, it’s hard to remember that an addict needs help and not just time in the slammer.