Writing about drug addiction can be a slippery slope. If you haven’t directly lived it, you don’t necessarily have the credentials to voice it. From my perspective, I’ve seen the effects of addiction both on the individual and the family of the user. Plainly speaking, it sucks. It sucks for the addict, and it sucks for the people who love the addicted. It’s a vicious cycle that plays out over long, extended, emotionally draining periods of time. But, I’ve never personally lived it, so for me to tell you what it’s like to be hooked would be about as fair as you telling me how to be me. It doesn’t work. I can only relate what I’ve experienced.
In an interview from the early 90’s, Kurt Cobain said of his heroin use, “I used it as a pain medication, to get rid of a pain.” While Kurt’s stomach issues were well-documented, Kurt wasn’t talking about physical pain. Kurt, like so many addicts, used to mask something deeper, something much bigger. Addicts use as a way to escape. They use it not to feel. A similar principle would be a non-addict getting drunk after a rough day. Except the implications of addiction have a much farther reach than a hangover.
I have had a few experiences with addicts, and all were/are fairly periphery. What’s coincidental, though (or maybe it’s just the norm), is how similar each experience was/is. Using. Stealing. Lying. Wash, rinse, repeat. There’s a level of guilt from everyone involved when it comes to addiction. The user feels guilty for using. The friends and relatives of the addict feel guilty for not noticing sooner, or being able to intervene appropriately. There’s a pervading level of helplessness. The user wants to get clean, but they also don’t want to get clean. The loved ones want to help, but they have no idea how to help.
The end result of addiction is loss. Whether that loss is tangible, like possessions, or of trust, or even loss of life, there will always be that feeling of sleeping with one eye open, waiting for the other shoe to drop. With each case of recovery there is always the threat of relapse. But, the brave souls who finally reach the point of desired redemption should be commended. It’s a decision and ultimately a battle most of us will thankfully never know. The war-torn families who figuratively kill themselves trying to find every angle for help, lose sleep figuring out how to find a bed in a treatment facility, and run the gamut of every physical and emotional feeling possible also deserve a pat on the back. It’s a saga I’ve witnessed and wouldn’t wish on an enemy.
A month or so ago, actor Philip Seymour Hoffman died of a drug overdose. Among the things I saw written about him, one embedded itself in my mind: “Why are we still talking about this Hoffman guy? He’s a junkie that got what he deserved.” Taking that supposed high road negates the fact that at the root of that addiction is a human, a father, a son, and a husband. The same is true of all addicts, in some variation of that list. That’s what we can’t forget. In every case of addiction I’ve witnessed, the humanity of the addict has never fully been lost. Small glimmers of hope flash sporadically, but they’re there. They’re still in there. It’s easy to write off the addict, but it’s neglectful at best and inhuman at worst. I’m proud as hell of the ones I know that finally reached a stopping point and sought help.
Let’s not forget the person who wears the shoes we’ve thankfully never had to walk a mile in.
Have an awesome Wednesday,