I have never been addicted to anything. Like really, truly unable to stop. Except maybe people. I have been addicted to some people who were really not good for me.
I can’t write this from a place of someone who understands substance (not people) addiction from inside it, but I can write from the place of someone who knows what it’s like to live with an addict, and be the person who made that OK.
It amazes me that given my experiences I came from a family of non-drinkers (well, my Dad would sometimes have a small glass of cask wine mixed with orange juice in the evening for a couple of years, before he gave it away), non-smokers, and complete drug naivety. Which I thought was a good thing. But I am not sure it prepared me for the reality of this life I have lived after that.
Someone gave me a book on co-dependency once. I wanted to shove it down her judgemental throat, after I’d shred it into a million pieces and raged at the universe for everything I read in it that sounded (mostly) like me. I am not a drug addict, an alcoholic, a food or sex addict, but I do get addicted to people and make their addictions OK. And dream of fixing them. And try to be their fix. And living that? That’s like filling your veins with chemicals anyway. Up and down. Good and bad. Moments of pure clarity, moments of dark hell. And if I am not true that it still haunts me, it will continue to haunt me.
I am not saying I have not tried those things. The truth, I have tried all those things – drugs and alcohol and food and coffee and sex. I like all of them in the moment, but when there’s a point where I have to stop or give it up or let it go, I just can. I have had nasty caffeine head-aches, horrible hangovers, come down like sack of shit and cried on Sunday, been briefly bulimic and tried stuff that only a good sex addict would ask of you. But when it was time to stop. I just stopped. I had a harder time walking away from people and relationships which pushed all the boundaries. And those people? They were addicts and liars and cheats.
My ex-husband is (Was? How do you know? Does it ever end?) a drug addict. I do not want to say that out loud. I do not want that to be the truth of him and us. He is still my daughters’ father and I do not know how to reconcile what I know about him and what they need from him. And he will lie. He will look directly into my eyes and lie and I will believe him because I would prefer his lie to be the truth than the real, actual truth. And in the end, when it comes down to it, he chose that. He chose “not us”. But “not us” meant he chose that and I am not sure I will ever not be angry about that. Not for me. But for them. Because 5 years on it is still the same and almost everyday (except the days he has them, I want to believe except those days) he chooses that and not them. And I cannot look into his eyes anymore. And I cannot speak to him about it. But I know what he is like when those addictions run him. He is better than without them. I know this seems like a weird thing to say. But whatever it does for him in his life and the brief bits of time we see him he is better. More alive. And I, for the life of me (because I am not an addict and I can not fathom what it’s like from inside it) cannot understand why that is. Does it hurt less? All the time or just for while?
And then the next guy (who is not my guy) is (Was? How do you know? Does it ever end?) an alcoholic. I do not want to say that out loud. I do not want that to be the truth of him and us. Somehow, because it was alcohol, it didn’t seem as bad and somehow (even though he told me outright in a semi-jokey way that he was) I would not actually accept that that was the truth. But he could drink a stubby of beer in three smooth mouthfuls. He could drink 8 beers a night without blinking and ¾ of a carton (18 beers) in a weekend evening. He would drink beer and smoke cigarettes and they would keep him alive (until they kill him, but when you’re addicted this doesn’t matter. It really doesn’t matter and I cannot understand that either). I wanted him to be addicted to me. I wanted to be the thing that kept him alive. That’s my co-dependency shit and as much as I tried it is not possible to be that for someone who is trying to fill some unfathomably deep hole. Or anyone, hole or not. Combine that with a sex addiction (not about quantity but about what it takes to be satisfied) and one person will never be enough. And although I never wanted to believe that either, that was also the truth of him. And so he too chose “not us” and finally I got that the addicts and the liars and the cheats do not want what I want and no amount of convincing about how great that might be will work. They want something else that maybe doesn’t hurt so much. But also maybe doesn’t have so much joy. I’m not sure because I don’t want what they want, and then I don’t really know what it is like from inside it.
This town (like towns all over the country and the world) has an ample supply of all kinds of drugs that all the young people (and the addicts who just can not stop) can access easily enough. I am not talking about alcohol here. But it’s just as bad. I’m talking about everything else. You just need some money or something to trade. My biggest girl tells me with openness about how it is. She doesn’t really get it. But I am the gladdest about anything that she talks to me about it, even though I know that some of those people (those young people, her friends) will be the same lost souls in 20 years time, and we will not understand how or why it happened.
I have learnt not be scared to hear about it. I have learnt to talk openly with her about my life experiences because I would rather her know the truth than just say “Don’t do it EVER”. I mean I’d like to say that, but I didn’t live that, and I had to learn and she will too. And if we are lucky she will learn and be OK and go on to do all the things she dreams of. Because for me that’s been possible. And not just because I wasn’t an addict. Because I wanted more. I always did, even when I wasn’t living that life. The desire for more was always there. Just not more beer or more drugs. And I guess that is the bit I cannot understand because it makes sense to every part of my being to want more, and to want to grow and learn and live life to the fullest. But trying to drag people along with you on that one? Doesn’t work. And all that does work it seems for me is just accepting that they only want what they want, and they can only cope with what life is like in the way they can cope with it, and it is not and was not ever anyone else’s job to fix that. As heartbreaking as that is to me.
I have never been addicted to anything. Like really, truly unable to stop. Except maybe people. I have been addicted to some people who were really not good for me. So I could learn about being an addict from inside it. So I could find a way to get free and guide myself home. So I could be the thing who kept me alive.