Thursday, May 22, 2014

Hurting Some to Help One: A Look At Addiction

This blog post is going to run a little on the touchy side for some.

Because we're talking about addiction. And who hasn't, in some form or another, been touched by addiction?

I understand the struggle of addiction. Not because I've ever experienced a serious one, but because my life has been spent around those who have and do. Every one I'm close to, with very few exceptions, has struggled with an addiction of some kind. My small relation is cigarettes. I've smoked since I was 14, and quit two years ago. (Also, I've got a pretty serious relationship with coffee. I might rob a corner store for a cup of the sweet stuff.)

In the second book of the Long Shot Romance series, tentatively entitled Relapse in Paradise, addiction is featured heavily.

I have two characters with two polarizing views. One I get, one I'm having a hard time justifying.

The struggle here is the battle between helping loved ones, being there for them, and offering support versus enabling and allowing that addiction to be a part of your life, too. Because you cannot get that close without being affected. You have to get your hands in there. It's like a mud pie. There's no way to do it without getting dirty. 

To help, to be there for someone and enforce a lifestyle that promotes sobriety and allows precious little room for a slip, is more than making rules. It's coming to terms with what to do when those rules are repeatedly broken. Without consequences, (in any arena, not just in this particular situation) there's no incentive for an *addict* to fight the good fight.

---When I say "addict" I'm referring to both drugs and alcohol. An alcoholic is an addict, but I understand most people don't use this term in relation to someone with a drinking problem. I do, for the sake of using a single word to encompass all. Also, I use the term "sober" to mean "not high," not as it relates specifically to alcohol.---

But at what point is enough enough?

At what point do you decide to put your life ahead of a loved one's addiction?

At what point does removing yourself from the situation become the right thing to do versus a selfish decision?

Can you stamp it with a due date? What if it takes months? What if it's been three years? Do you give them five? Do you give them forever?

Say I have a loved one who's an alcoholic or addict living with me because I offer an environment with little opportunity to fall off the wagon. However, to have that person in my life means to have them around my kids, in my home, a part of my everyday routine. When they do fall off the wagon, I'm not the only person affected. My whole family is subjected to their episodes. Routines are disrupted, stress and strain are put on the people dealing with the addict (who's high and probably doesn't really give a shit...because they're high.)

And for anyone who's ever been around a drunk person when they're sober...Well, imagine it in your home. Imagine it in the middle of the week, when you and your spouse have to work in the morning. Imagine children waking up for school at 7 am and being confronted with a drunk/high relative.

To me, it would seem like you'd be choosing the addict's attempts at sobriety (not their continued, actual sobriety, or there'd be no conflict) over your own family's best interests by allowing situations to arise in a home that the children wouldn't otherwise be exposed to. How would you go about explaining to your kids what's happening?

It's times like these when someone who's fighting to help an addict keep it together might question whether it's worth it.

Does it depend on the addict?

If you're dealing with someone who wants it, who's truly fighting to become permanently better, then a little more forgiveness might be in order. Because addiction is a real thing, a legitimate disease. Retained sobriety is something they must continually fight for. This I know, because I still want to light a cigarette occasionally. Sometimes, it's seeing someone chain smoke on TV. Other times, it hits me out of the blue for no apparent reason.

However, if it's basically a countdown to the next possible opportunity for that person to give in to their addiction (despite the rules, despite the turmoil, despite the consequences), then perhaps letting that person live their life is all you can do.

Asking they live it elsewhere, in my opinion, is justifiable at that point.

In my book, I've included both types of people. One who sacrifices their own ideals and lifestyle to make a difference in an addict's life (while not making much of a difference), and one who chooses not to put themselves at the mercy of another's poor life decisions.

Your comments and opinions are welcome, as always.