When Someone You Love Suffers From Addiction: Refusing To Let Them Be Forgotten

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I’m not sure how old I was when I learned the word “addiction” but it’s a concept I’ve known for the better part of my life.

Even as a child, I understood it, though I didn’t have the vocabulary to put it into words.  All I knew was that there were things that my Dad couldn’t control.  Things that he just couldn’t say no to.  It sounds like such a naïve way of putting it, but maybe that really is the best description of it.

I understood that he couldn’t help those things that had control over him, but what I couldn’t grasp as a child and still find hard to wrap my mind around as an adult is why we couldn’t have been one of those things.

Drugs.  Alcohol.  Gambling. Lying. Cheating.

Of all the things that he was addicted to, why couldn’t he be addicted to us.

Sometimes it would be days, other times it would be months that would pass by without us hearing from him. And then he would just pop up, like nothing ever happened, like he couldn’t fathom that he was worried about or missed.

For as much as he couldn’t grasp that he was loved, I loved him even more.

As a little girl, I’d pray the same prayer every night.

Dear God, please be with my Dad.  If he’s sad or lonely, make him happy and help him to know that you love him and we love him.  But if he’s dead, please send someone to tell us so we don’t have to worry anymore.

As an adult, my prayer is much the same.  That he wouldn’t just know that he was loved, but that for the first time in his life, he could understand it.  That he could look past all of the reasons that we have not to, and understand that this kind love is void of reasons.

I can’t imagine how it feels to be him. To live inside of a body and a mind that you can’t bear the site of.  How it feels to have a life that you are so ashamed of that you can’t bear to acknowledge it, so you make up another.  And after a while, you spend so much of your time living the lies that you forget what is even true.

And when the truth begins to creep in, you kill it.  With a drink or with pills or with a thrill, anything to keep from having to live with the real you.  And maybe worse than being lonely is knowing that you didn’t have to be.  Maybe it’s even harder for him because I love him.  But we still won’t give up.

In the coming days the media will turn it’s attention to the life and death of Phillip Seymour Hoffman. Clips will be shown and his colleagues will talk about the man that he was, about how bright his future was, about how sad it is that he is gone.  People will talk about his passing as if the tragedy in it all is that we are robbed of his next performance, all the while forgetting that he left behind family and friends with things left unsaid.  That it wasn’t his star in Hollywood that burned out.  It was his life.

And for all of us who can close our eyes and put ourselves in that place, who can and probably have imagined what it would be like to get that call telling us that the one that we love is gone, what do we do now?

And how do we make sense of it all? How do we look around at those that we love and see their struggle?  See that they are teetering on the edge of this life and finally escaping it.  What do we do with that?  What do we do when the ones that we love still can’t fathom that they are?

We keep fighting. We keep shining a light into their darkness.  We refuse to be quiet.  We refuse to let them forget.  We refuse to let them be forgotten.

And we own the fact that we will never be able to make that change for them, that their addiction is theirs and not a result of anything that we did.  We know that the power to change them doesn’t lie in us, but that doesn’t keep up from offering them up daily to the One who can.  The One who created them, who has never left them and who loves them more than even we can fathom.  The God that is mighty to save.

For me, it’s my Dad.  For you, it could me anyone.  It could even be yourself. And to my own heart and to yours I say this, don’t ever give up hope.  


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  • http://www.jenniferkaufman.net/ Jennifer Kaufman

    Girl, I almost felt the need to add expletives to this comment to express how deeply it made me feel. I don’t have the right words, but thank you. I grew up with a father addicted to drugs, alcohol and gambling but he never physically left – and today, he knows more about the grace and love of God than anyone I know. I have tears streaming steadily down my face – sadness for you and your family, for those in your shoes… overwhelming gratitude that my story had a plot twist already… And a little bit of guilt that I too easily forget how much the grace of God is at work in my life in these things.

    I’m behind on keeping up with you, dear friend, but I pray for you all the time. thank you for continuing to write! :)