When You Love An Addict

(This wonderful poem was shared with me when I was in a treatment program.  I believe the poetry originated from one of the inmates in a Women’s Prison in Missouri.  I along with my fellow “clients” in treatment really enjoyed the words and I hope this is something I can share to give a perspective that might not have been considered before.)

I am not an alcoholic or addict, but try and love one, and then see if you can look me square in the eyes and tell me that you didn’t get addicted to trying to fix them.

If you’re lucky, they recover.  If you’re lucky, you recover too.

Loving an alcoholic can and will make you the most tired insomniac alive.  You will stand in the doorway of their bedroom and pled with them that you “just want them back”.  If you watch the person you love disappear right in front of your eyes long enough, you will start to dissolve too.  Those not directly affected won’t be able to understand why you are so focused on your loved one’s well-being, especially since, during the times of your family member’s active addiction, they won’t seem so concerned with their own.

Don’t become angry with these people.  They do not understand.  They are lucky to not understand.  You’ll catch yourself wishing that you didn’t understand either.

What if you had to wake up every day and wonder “if today was the day your family member was going to die?” will become a popular, not so rhetorical question.  Drug and alcohol addiction has the largest ripple effect that I have ever witnessed firsthand.

It causes parents to outlive their children.  It causes jail time and homelessness.  It causes sisters to mourn their siblings and nieces to never meet their aunts.  It causes an absence before the exit.  You will see your loved one walking and talking, but the truth is, you will lose them far before they actually succumb to their demons; which if they don’t find recovery, is inevitable.

Addiction causes families to come to fear a ringing phone or a knock on the door.  It causes vague obituaries.  I read the papers and I follow the news; and it is scary.  “Died suddenly” has officially become obituary speak for “another young person found dead from a drug overdose or an alcohol related death”.

Drug and alcohol addiction causes bedrooms and social media pages to become memorials.  It causes things to break, like the law, trust, and the “tomorrows”.  It causes statistics to rise and knees to fall.  Now, praying seems like the only thing left to do sometimes.

People have a way of pigeonholing those who suffer from addiction.  They call them “trash”, “junkies”, or “criminals”, which is hardly ever the truth.  Addiction is an illness.  Addicts have families and aspirations.

You will learn that addiction doesn’t discriminate.  It doesn’t care if the addict came from a loving home or a broken family.  Addiction doesn’t care if you are religious.  Addiction doesn’t care if you are a straight A student or a drop out.  Addiction doesn’t care what ethnicity you are.

Addiction will show you that one bad decision and one lapse in judgement can alter the course of an entire life.  Addiction doesn’t care.  Period.  But you care.

You will learn to hate the drug but love the addict, hate the drink but love the alcoholic.  You will begin to accept that you need to separate who the person once was with who they are now.

It is not the person who drinks, but the alcoholic.  It is not the person who steals to support their habit, but the addict.  It is not the person who spews obscenities at their family, but the addict.  It is not the person who lies, but the alcoholic.

And yet, sadly, it is not the addict who dies, but the person.

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