Finding Peace in Addiction

A friend of mine texted me and said something remarkably haunting and familiar. She had recently gone through the loss of an ex-lover who had succumbed to his drug addiction, and was baffled by the fact that, though she spent several years loving him and crying over him, she wasn’t terribly upset by the news of his death.  In fact, it bothered her to not be bothered by it.

“I really want to know why it doesn’t make me sadder that he died.”

Without hesitation, I responded:

“Because the one you loved died a long time ago.”

It was something so simple and familiar that it was upsetting to not be shocked by it. What a terrible and true statement.

It’s something that isn’t talked about. We talk about drug addiction and the stigma that envelops it. We talk about all the things that surround it, but we never talk about the death that happens while people are still with us, while they are still flesh and bone, while they are still warm and next to us. We talk about the people that are actively using, but we don’t talk about the victims that are left in their wake.

In a lot of my writing, I refer to the loves of my life that I’ve lost that are still very much alive. I lost two of my best friends, two people that I loved more than the air that I breathed, to alcohol and drug abuse. They had different poisons and different paths, but both mirrored each other in ways that it still breaks my heart to this day. In all honesty, it will likely break my heart for the rest of my life.

As I’ve gotten older, the hurt and the anger turned into understanding and empathy. One of them has since gotten sober and really turned their life around, but our relationship will never be the same, no matter how much we may want it to at times. We were two peas in a pod, two people who understood each other in ways that nobody else really did. We referred to each other as platonic soulmates. We loved one another without hesitation or reservation, and it was one of the truest friendships I’ve ever had. But love that deep can’t save someone from something like heroin, and as a self-preservationist, I wasn’t willing to try, and I ran away faster than the speed of light. It breaks my heart. Losing her hurt more than any man I’ve ever loved and lost in my lifetime. That is a pain that I will take to my grave and I will never have a friendship like that again. There are days that I feel like a failure because I wasn’t able to be there for her when she needed me the most. Before it happened, we hung out with these people who we thought were absolutely amazing. Older. Sophisticated. These two guys who we dated, who we thought were just the most awesome people ever. We were young and stupid. Hers would be the one who introduced her to heroin. Mine would be the one who wined and dined me, then drugged and raped me. She was 17. I was 19. I never went back. She stayed. I wish she hadn’t.

There are days where I am baffled that someone as brilliant and as beautiful could be sucked in by such an awful disease. Addiction knows no limits nor does it discriminate. It’s something that I will never understand, and while she may never know this, the more I learn about her sobriety and how she has changed her life, the more proud I become of her. I almost feel like it added something extra to her story. I root for her. I want her life to be something meaningful and brilliant, and I’m hoping she does everything in her power to accomplish that, and I hope she knows that I loved her even during her darkest days, even if I wasn’t there to tell her that.

The other was one of the most tumultuous relationships I’ve ever been in that spanned the better part of ten years. I watched him choose other women, drugs, and a shady lifestyle over being the human being that I had fallen in love with. He was the first person I ever loved and I let him destroy every part of me. He constantly cheated on his girlfriends (including me, I have no doubt) and would try any drug that you put in front of him. I was his backburner girl. I was always there to pick up the pieces of every stupid thing he did and every other girl that he broke, until he would get bored and find something else to do. He got his first DUI before his 21st birthday, got engaged to a girl that enabled him and did equally horrendous things, and bounced from relationship to relationship, from house to house, until he had seemingly gotten his life together.

Our paths crossed later in life, and it seemed like fate. When we got back together, I felt like I won the lottery. Here I was, early twenties, still completely smitten – if not moreso – by the boy I grew up with that I desperately wanted to finally love me back. I had just gotten out of a relationship with someone else who loved booze just about as much as he did and had made my life a living hell for a year straight. (Hindsight is always 20/20, isn’t it?) He drank once in a while, but I finally felt like I didn’t need to worry about him, or handle him, or watch his every move.

Until once in a while became all the time. A few beers became an entire case. I was young, so it’s not like I didn’t drink when we would go to parties or go out to dinner. I was never quite on his level, and I never really wanted to be, but something about it made me feel really unsettled. I had a good job, hopes for a family, and wanted to make something more out of my life. I would stop by his house randomly – I remember one time in particular, I stopped by to surprise him a little after 7pm, and he was passed out on the couch, about 6-7 beer bottles in the sink, and I knew I could no longer make excuses for him.

The final straw of our relationship was the frantic phone call I received from his mother at 1 in the morning. I had just gotten out of a 12-hour shift at my job, completely exhausted, horribly unnerved – I had spent the better part of my day fighting with him and trying to convince him to stay at a party where he was at because I knew he had been drinking, when my phone rang.

“He’s been in an accident.”

Seeing him covered in blood and reeking of booze on a stretcher, his neck in a brace, and drifting in and out of consciousness was one of the biggest wake up calls I’ve ever had in my life. I could have been in that car. My children could have been in that car. No amount of love I would ever have for another human being could ever excuse this behavior, nor could it ever allow me to jeopardize all that I’ve ever worked for. We parted ways shortly after that. Painfully, dramatically, and not without lots of bitterness and fighting, drunken phone calls, and failed attempts at being friends. It was the worst breaking up of hearts that I’ve ever endured because, for the first time in our dramatic and awful relationship, it had been my choice to stop it. It’s amazing that I can look back on something that happened so many years ago and still derive so much raw emotion out of it when I can guarantee that I am not even a blip on that person’s radar. I’m sure that wherever he is now, he doesn’t think of me or the way that I spent half of my life allowing myself to be broken by his actions. I am not sure that he ever loved me, and it took me a very long time to be okay with that.

I knew that, no matter what I did to try to save him, or what I did to try to convince him that he was better, or whatever magical, ridiculous, fairy-tale ideas that I threw at him, it was his choice. I was never going to convince him otherwise, and he was never going to choose me. He never did before. He certainly wasn’t going to now.

That’s the beauty of addiction and indulgence. It’s a type of self-inflicted ignorance that we as sober people don’t have the luxury of experiencing. However, we are not immune. I think that it’s ignorant for people to say that they would “never fall into that path”. They would “never get that low”. Nobody ever wakes up and intends to be an addict or an alcoholic. I truly don’t believe that it’s anybody’s intention to give up control over their entire life. It’s a means to an end for some people. We are all human.

As “sober” people in these situations, we have two choices: we can stay and enable, and allow the actions of others to be accepted, or we can choose to walk away from the situation, and risk being called heartless, misunderstanding, and cold. We can be guilt-tripped into thinking that we are just the same as them – because we can responsibly carry on our lives and do things like have the occasional drink or two, go to parties and not get hammered, get drunk once every few years and regret every moment of it like other people and be hungover for three days because our bodies aren’t used to it. We can respectfully abstain from things like marijuana and other recreational drug use because, well, we just don’t want to do it. There’s no reason behind it. There’s no excuse behind it. Plain and simple, I don’t want to use drugs. I never have in my thirty years on this planet, and I never will. That’s my choice. Why am I judged for my choice? Why is it okay for you to use marijuana or cocaine, but it’s not okay for me to choose not to? Why does that automatically make me “snobby” or “holier than thou” because I make a different choice? I don’t judge you – why do you judge me?

Addiction affects everyone around the person that is afflicted, and it affects them in different ways. We all react differently to it. Some of us get angry, some of us get even. Some of us get empathetic and want to help, some of us run away. We all heal differently and we all react differently when it’s not our own battle. We have to. We are all survivors. We are all in this together. We are all in pain. We all hurt. We all just choose to fight our battles differently.

You truly never know what the person next to you is going through. Always be kind, but more than that, always be grateful. Always be gracious. Always be humble. We are all fighting some kind of demon. Our demons all have different faces but have the same intentions. Do not allow your demons to destroy you. They will destroy much more than you think. You are loved more than you think you are. There is someone out there that thinks that you are the most incredible human being they’ve ever met. Figure out who you want to be, and be that person on purpose. Get help. Talk to someone. Do something before you pick up that bag or that drink. Someone will want to help you if you want to help yourself. I promise you that. If you are struggling, even if you are in the throes of addiction, if you are in the underbelly of the darkest place you’ve ever been, put your hand up. Pray. Ask. Someone will answer. Someone cares. Do it for you. Do it for the you that you want to be. There is a 7-year-old version of you that wants so much more for you than what you are right now. You can still be that person. Just believe.



3 thoughts on “Finding Peace in Addiction

  1. This is heart wrenching and brought tears to my eyes. I have a few cousins that are in this very battle. They are enabled by their families and everyone wonders why they don’t “get better.” It’s because they don’t have too!!!
    I was a counselor in a Celebrate Recovery program in Alabama and it was one of the most rewarding things I’ve done. To see people climb out of that dark place and see the life that has been just under the surface waiting for them to choose it is so beautiful. They then can’t wait to give their testimony to others to perhaps be the one to show them the light.
    The evil in this world only has the power WE allow it to have!!! So please lift your hands and just ask….someone will be there to take ahold and show you the bright path!!! God bless!!

  2. This brought tears to my eyes. To finally hear at least a portion of what you felt, of how you saw things and looked at everything that happened, which I have wondered for so long, is so…relieving. I am so sincerely sorry I caused you so much pain…I’ve caused everyone in my life pain to a certain extent, but if there was one person I could of saved from it, besides my family, know that it would have been you. Please know that I, too, have always looked at our ‘break up’ as one of the most heart wrenching things I have ever had to get through, and certainly as much worse (by far) than any kind of break up with a guy. You meant (and mean) the world to me. I think you always will. While I desperately wish we could go back to the friendship we once had (I certainly could use a best friend to lean on, never mind one who gets me the way you always have), I know, like you said, it will never be the same, unfortunately. Still though, even now, I find that when I talk to you, every little detail sneaks in to our conversation, including things I was planning on keeping to myself, and I think it’s because in my heart, I will always implicitly trust you. I know that we parted ways because of my addiction, but until I realized you had left when I needed you the most, you were, and still are, the only person I was so close to that never hurt me. And when it comes to leaving…I didn’t understand at first, or at least didn’t agree, but now I do. Now I completely understand why you had to leave, and not only do I not hold it against you anymore, I’m really glad you saved yourself from the horror of a person I became. I’m glad for a few reasons – because you deserve all the best, and I probably would of tried to bring you down with me with the intentions of sharing this amazing feeling I had found (not knowing at the time that drugs were the devil in disguise), or I would of tried to use you at some point, which would have killed me. I’m also glad because this way, the way things happened, you never truly knew the using me. Sure, you saw me around, but you never really hung around me or got to know the shadow of a person I was at that point. So the girl you knew is the one you remember, when you think about me, and that probably makes me the happiest of all. I would hate to know that every time you thought of me, it was that time you saw me dope sick in your bathroom, or nodding out over dinner with you like I did to so many other people I care about. So please, don’t feel like a failure because you had to save yourself. While I didn’t at first, I understand now. I get it. And I’m even glad you did it. I will always have a very special, deep love for those who continued to love me when I hated myself the most, and can credit them to a certain extent with my sobriety – but I also hurt those people. Repetitively and deeply. I’m glad you weren’t one of those people.

    In my sobriety, I think back on our time together and it always makes me smile. Want to know a secret? When I was at my absolute worst, when I thought in my head that I was never going to get better, that a worthless junkie was all I was ever going to be, a few certain memories between us kept me holding on a few times. Memories where we sat on my steps under the stars and talked about what we wanted to be and accomplish in life while we smoked too many cigarettes, or laying on your mattress talking to our boys, planning out what our lives would be like. When I could no longer look at myself in the mirror – which certainly happened, and lasted quite a while – it was small, happy memories like that of planning out my life, or our lives, that kept me from just ending it all. I would think to myself, in my drug-induced haze, that it wasn’t too late. It wasn’t too late to get sober and still make something of those plans. Obviously not those plans exactly, but you know what I mean. The memories kept me alive, so I also thank you for that.
    It makes my heart swell to know that you ‘root’ for me, as you said. It really does. And wow, to hear you’re proud of me…Sarai, that means more than you could possibly know. I look up to you nowadays. I watch your life and also root for you. You seem so happy, you seem to have such a picture perfect family and life. I’m sure you of course have your hard days and hard times – everyone does – but if drug addiction has taught me anything, it’s how to appreciate the small things. You have a lot of those small things, and I hope you value them for what they are. I hope you look in your mirror every day and see the amazing, beautiful, intelligent, talented, hard working woman I always knew you were.
    Know that I am working my hardest, one step at a time, to become something. I now know that I was put through all of these terrible things in my life that started at such a young age in order to share my story with other people – so they can hopefully learn from my mistakes, so possibly my story keeps theirs from going the same way, or just so they know that you can go through all of that and still make it out the other side. I am one of the 20% that make it, and so can anyone else be. Those odds used to terrify me and make me feel hopeless – now, they make me feel proud.
    Thank you for writing this. You always did have such a way with words…such a magician with a pen and paper. I’ve always loved reading your thoughts. This time, it moved me to the core to hear you talk about me, and I had to write something back, if just to tell you how much you mean to me, although it came out much longer. I love you forever.

    Your platonic soulmate

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