It’s not easy to love an addict.
In fact, it fucking sucks sometimes.
Watching that person and worrying if you will one day turn out like them. Knowing there is nothing you can do to stop them short of locking them up and never letting them leave your sight. It isn’t easy knowing that the person you care for is fighting a battle every day and some of the time they will lose. It isn’t easy for the addict and it isn’t easy for the person who loves them.
I have watched my sister go through addiction and never has anything affected me more than this.
When we were younger we were inseparable; you could never find me without her. My friends were hers and her interests were mine. Our mom would dress us similarly, sorry identically, for holidays and special events and we were best friends. She was everything I aspired to be; independent, beautiful, smart, funny and brave. She wouldn’t flinch at scary movies, she wasn’t afraid to be herself and wear what she wanted and most importantly, she was incredibly kind to everyone she met, regardless of their popularity or background. They always say your greatest strength can be your greatest downfall, I guess they were talking about her.
She had such a way with lost souls it seems only fitting she became one.
For the past six or more years my sister has been in and out of rehabilitation facilities and attended more funerals than most people go to in their lives. Every day is another battle she faces with her addiction and although she is almost one year sober, I know she still fights with every ounce of strength she has. She convinces herself that she is worth more than a needle in her arm. She is worth more than being found dead at 22 on the bathroom floor having overdosed on heroin.
She is worth more.
When I first found out about my sister’s addiction I was not angry at her. I was disappointed with myself. Which is weird if you’ve never been in a situation before where you blame yourself for others mistakes. I beat myself down with the idea that I hadn’t loved her enough or that I wasn’t there for her when she needed me. Because who just tries drugs? Who just decides to ignore the warning signs one day? There is almost always a person or an incident that pushes you to explore deeper and deeper.
I vividly remember when my sister was dating a man who was much older than her and one day they had gotten into a fight. I was sitting downstairs on the couch watching TV with my little brother when she came screaming out of her room telling me to call the police because this man had hit her. My brother was probably eight or nine at the time and I shut off the TV, grabbed his hand, and ran him into my parent’s room. As calm as I could I told my brother to turn the TV on, keep the volume high, and lock the door until I could come and get him. I cannot remember a time I was more afraid for myself or my family.
My next love of an addict was when I was 16 and became madly infatuated with a future addict. When I finally started dating him he was fully addicted to heroin and physically could not go a day without it. A couple months later he was able to get clean, but only for mere weeks. When I caught him again with a needle and saw the bruised veins on his arm, I beat myself up for not being good enough for him to get sober and not being able to help him in the way he needed it.
I don’t think I will ever be able to not blame myself for a loved one’s downfall.
Addiction is not curable. It is not something you can withdrawal from yourself or just decide to quit one day.
Addiction is an everyday battle and gives no regard for how long you’ve cleaned yourself up or how much you have to live for.
It is a disease that will eat you alive and ruin every relationship you have ever had. It is a scar that one must carry for the remainder of their life and pass on to their kin.
But if you are like me and love someone with an addiction, just let them know you are there for them.
Let them know they should never hesitate to call you when they are feeling weak and that you will help them fight this battle. More importantly, every time you end a conversation you need to walk away with the knowledge that this could be the last conversation you have with them, so let them know you love them. Show them in a way that words cannot express, tell them in a way that actions do not amount to. Love your addict even if they can’t love you.