Before my Nanny died she’d had several strokes which rendered her unable to move or communicate. All she could do was stare. I forced myself to visit her in the nursing home because I loved her, but every moment of it was upsetting. The geriatric screams down the hall. The smell of cleaning products and urine.
But the part I struggled with the most was watching her eyes.
They didn’t dart around as if she were frightened or confused. They rested on each person in the room for several minutes before moving to the next. Her mind still registered, but it was trapped inside of a body that stopped working. Sometimes I wondered if she felt claustrophobic, or if she wanted to scream. But there was nothing I could do but sit there with her and watch her die.
Loving an addict is similar.
One of my best friends (not my husband) has been a drug addict for more years than not. In the ten years that we’ve been friends, he’s battled the addictions valiantly and lived a relatively normal life.
But over the last year he’s slipped back in and has left me wondering who I really am.
When he binges I worry. I spend most of that time thinking of him and praying for him. Every time the phone rings I’m sure it’s someone calling to tell me he’s dead. The girls are off-limits and so far they accept that he’s “sick” without questioning. I guard over them fiercer than usual because I’m obsessing over things I shouldn’t touch, like what would happen if they saw him? How would they process it? And what if this was them and not him?
And then a week or two later I get a text or an email from him with some question that doesn’t require a real answer. Just a little stab to let me know he’s back and wants to jump back into life again. Which fills me with such rage that I want to break things. I never thought myself capable of feeling this way. So it takes every ounce of control left to curb it. And so I pace. And ruminate. And completely isolate myself. And let the girls watch extra TV because I can’t be trusted to speak.
And the shame of it is suffocating. No one wants to talk about it, so I don’t. Understandably the family is trying to deal with it themselves, but because they’re silent, they’re also alone. And because I’m trying to respect their desire for silence, I’m alone too. Which infuriates me even more because I see the way his addiction is eating a hole into the core of his family. Their insides are splintering. And because I love them I find myself trying to pick up those pieces in an attempt to help them stand again.
I willingly take his family on as my own, and maybe I shouldn’t. But I know if I don’t, no one will. And the people he hurts will hurt even more. But it makes me so angry at him it takes several weeks before I can even look at him. And forget about opening my mouth. I’ve said my peace but it doesn’t matter. An addict hears what he hears and perhaps lets it sting. And then gets high again.
So strong is this addiction I wonder how he went a decade without binging the way he has this year. It has absolutely consumed him to the point where he’s no longer thinking clearly.
Somewhere in his eyes I can still see him. But it’s fleeting.
I know he’s claustrophobic. I know he wants to scream.
He’s trapped inside of a body that is killing him.
And because he refuses any treatment,
I’m left to watch him die.
And pick up the pieces.
©2009 CEK. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED