What It's Like to Love an Addict

...and I wish I didn't know

What It's Like to Love an Addict

Addiction and mental illness are two things I wish I knew nothing about. I wish the words “rehab” and “detox” hadn’t been a regular part of conversation. I wish I never had to ask a loved one if they were high. I wish I didn’t know the street names for drugs. I wish I didn’t know the hurt and worry and despair that comes with addiction. I wish I didn’t know how dangerous hope can be. I wish I didn’t know what it’s like to cling so desperately to the dream of sobriety and success, and I wish I didn’t know that addiction is and always will be a lifelong battle. 

I wish I didn’t know what it’s like to love an addict.

And I wish that every person who has struggled with or loved someone who struggled with addiction didn’t have to know these realities too. 

At first, you’re annoyed - and disappointed. There’s a brief moment of “what will the neighbours think?” before you reach the “doesn’t he realize what he’s doing? Can’t he see he’s ruining his life?” phase. I don’t care what the neighbours think, and he can’t see that he’s ruining his life because all he can see is the next opportunity to get high. He doesn’t see the way he’s hurting himself or the people he loves. 

Then, you’re trapped in a vicious cycle of worry, anger, and remorse. He needs money for gas so he can get to work. He needs money for food so he can eat. He needs money for this because he said he did. What if he owes someone money? What if they hurt him? What if he does something awful to get the money he needs? So you send the money for gas knowing deep in your heart that it’s not going to be spent on gas or food or a phone bill.

You reach out hoping to connect, the way you walk through a completely dark room - gently feeling for anything you can recognize by touch, but with a sense of such urgency that your heart races and your stomach becomes queasy. You call, text, and leave messages knowing you almost certainly won’t hear back but hope is a wicked creature and it won’t let you stop.

You swear you’ll never send another dime. You swear you’re done, you can’t do it anymore. But then the phone rings and you’re logging into your online banking account quicker than you can say “enabler” to transfer a little more than requested, just in case.

You worry about the fits of rage and sudden mood swings and the self-harm. You’re secretly glad he doesn’t know your home address. You hope he’s taking the medications he’s been prescribed. You know he’s probably not. You’re scared to go on his social media profiles because you don’t know what you’re going to see, even though you know he’s probably blocked your account again. 

You’ll struggle to fall asleep at night, wondering and worrying. Daily, you’ll carry a weight that you just can’t shake - a lump in your stomach that won’t leave you. Each time your phone rings, you’ll wonder what news you’ll hear on the other end. Caller ID will become your worst enemy and your best friend.

You can see the toll it takes on your loved ones - family and friends - and you worry as much for their wellbeing as his. You will be filled with anger that he can do this to you all, and yet you’ll find empathy for him because you know it’s never been black and white. It will never be black and white.

Your heart will break when you realize that this person you’ve loved your whole life may no longer be a part of it. Not like this. Not under these circumstances. You will answer a thousand questions from your child when he or she asks where their loved one is. Even after you’ve resolved to cease contact, you’ll become a detective to rival Sherlock Holmes as you try to keep tabs - just to be sure he’s safe. 

Every unidentified body could be his. Every missed phone call from an unknown caller might have been him. Every minute is filled with worry. Worry you swore you’d let go of. Worry you can’t shake.

I wish I didn’t know what it’s like to love an addict. I wish I didn’t know how poorly our mental health system fails, how easy it is to slip through the cracks, how hard it is to truly get help.

I wish I didn’t know what it’s like to love an addict.




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