I am discussing with Martin the impact addicts have on the lives around them. The partners, parents, sons, daughters and friends of addicts are drawn along too. Often forgotten victims of someone else’s emotional crisis.
Emotional disturbance and the behavioural change sparked by it alters the constellation of lives. The dynamics shift and nothing is the same again, ever.
For the years that Martin was in the grip of addiction, I too felt a loss. The loss of my friend, frequently unable to understand what had happened, wondering if it were something I had done or not done. My ignorance of his addiction, engineered by him at first unwittingly and then deliberately, facilitating an upsurge of my own self-doubt. In the end, I gave up and reluctantly accepted that our relationship was over, powerless to its inevitable ebbing away and wondering why I hadn’t been “good enough”.
The dislocation we experience in someone close to us can feel unbearable, but that is to make it about us when it plainly is not. At least, not at first.
One of the most disheartening things about addiction is the distance we feel from those in its thrall. Unable to save someone who cannot and will not be saved we become more ambitious for them than they are for themselves.
When people are lost to us through their own emotional tribulation we are frustrated and hurt, angry and despairing. But every part of this corrosive emotion we fling at them serves only to push them further away.
But the anger has to go somewhere.
Listening to the almost unendingly wonderful podcast “This American Life” recently there is a piece in the show called “Dear Dealer”. So honest and heartbreaking. So full of rage without anywhere to place it. The emergence of an anger so fulsome and absolute, freed from its shackles after the death of a sister.
It’s hard to imagine that complete self-destruction would not be in some way mediated if it had a peek at the devastation it so inevitably leaves in its wake.
Those who live with addicts, those who love them are largely silent. They have to be. Waiting patiently for the day they are needed for support in recovery if it ever comes. The silence weighs heavy.
It’s not just in addiction either. If you have ever lived with someone clinically depressed or suffering from an anxiety disorder you will know the stress and strain which comes too. This is a love stretched to extremes.
So many partners of those who suffer long-term with emotional difficulty find themselves falling inversely to the recovery of their loved ones. Finally the necessity to “be strong” begins to subside, and the walls begin to crumble. A sobbing held for so long inside now audible.
When we are utterly broken.
When we are dead.
When we have so successfully engineered our own demise that we cease to exist, we cannot offer a thought for those we might have taken down with us. But we may even bolster our own recovery by realising what it has taken for those that care for us to be unshakable in their love for someone who so resolutely and for such long periods, refused to be loved.