When You Love an Addict

When You Love an Addict

Have you ever loved an addict? If you have, you know that it hurts. Back when I was in high school I had a boyfriend who was an addict. Of course, I didn’t know it until after we had broken up. I found out, in rather dramatic fashion, the morning I awoke to find my car window smashed and my very expensive stereo missing from the dashboard. This after-market radio had sentimental value (I got it from a friend). So, it’s not surprising that the combination of feelings of loss and violation made for one pissed off little cookie. I’m not sure when I realized that Sam had done it. Perhaps I knew the moment I stepped up to my car in ankle deep snow to wipe off the non-existent window. Perhaps it took a few minutes to realize that I lived in such a place that only someone who knew me well would dare enter and cause trouble. Perhaps it was because he was one of the only people I knew from the wrong side of the tracks.

The confusing thing for me, at least at first, was why he had done it to ME? When we parted ways, we did so in a friendly manner, promising to keep in touch. He was a really good guy and I was a really good girl. It blew my mind. Then one of our mutual friends explained to me, delicately, that Sam was snorting coke. Given what I knew about his non-existent finances, everything became instantly clear. I must have known at least a little about addiction back then as well, because it didn’t take long for my anger to dissipate. I knew that what had happened had very little to do with me personally.

Sadly, often it isn’t until an addict runs out of money that we discover he or she has a problem with drugs or alcohol. And, ultimately, only the independently wealthy will never run out of money. Even addicts with high paying jobs typically lose them. Even if they aren’t stoned at work, overall behavior and mood worsens during the course of addiction. After all, these are toxins being introduced to delicate brain tissue. In addition, an addict without a fix will quickly exhibit symptoms of withdrawal. Typical changes include failure to concentrate, negative sleep patterns, and irritability. Those who are employees will often be fired. Those who are self-employed will quickly alienate clients and miss deadlines.

Even though the money has run out, an addict’s need for the drug is the same as it ever was. In fact, as addiction progresses and tolerance builds, it takes more drug and, thus, more money, to get a fix. So what does one do when there isn’t enough money to pay the dealer? The addict does things we’d never do. Feelings of morality, of right and wrong, are outweighed by painful feelings of withdrawal. Thus, the addict breaks the law and steals money or something they can sell. Consideration for the feelings or welfare of others is overcome by relentless cravings – proven biological changes in the brain. Thus, the addict shows little remorse for stealing from friends and loved ones. The addict will use the mortgage money, let his kids go without food or clothes, or even worse. With nothing left to sell or steal, the addict may even sell herself for just one more fix.

For those of us without addiction, it’s almost impossible to fully understand how little free will an addict has when experiencing cravings for drugs or alcohol. And just when we think we’ve heard all the humiliating and immoral things an addict will do to score, we are stunned into silence by new revelations. In some cases, we’ll never know just how bad the situation got until an addict is in recovery.

If you love an addict, do yourself a favor and see a therapist even if only for one session. Feelings of betrayal, outrage, hurt and violation can wreak havoc on even the most well-rounded and adjusted individual. Although addiction is a medical illness that, ultimately, makes the sufferer unable to control his or her actions at times, it is easy to forget this when you are in the throes of dealing with the fallout. Acknowledging that a loved one is addicted, and learning how to avoid enabling him, are absolutely essential steps in addiction recovery. And remember… it’s really not you. It’s him.

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