Recently on my blog, Daisies From Dust, I wrote a post, “Stuff and…Things,” where I talked about a recent addiction-related death in my family and about my sister’s battle with addiction and mental health issues. My husband also battles alcoholism and depression. You could say I’m no stranger to this war they wage in their own heads — I grew up in it: aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, my father. I fear these things in the people I love, because I know I cannot save my loved ones; they have to save themselves. And that fear of losing those I love to these things — makes me angry. That I can’t wave a magic wand and make it all better — makes me angry. That anything can have such a hold on them that they can’t simply turn away or seek the help they need to beat it — makes me angry — and scares the hell out of me.
Fear and anger. I don’t think I’d be wrong in saying these are two of the biggest emotions families and friends feel for their loved ones who are deep in the trenches battling demons and/or addictions. I know, I know, how can we be affected by something that isn’t our cross to bear, so to speak. I’ve had both my husband and my sister say it has nothing to do with me, it’s not my problem, so why am I getting all bajiggity about it? Short answer–because I care. Long answer–because you’re part of my life, therefore your life affects mine. It’s the way it works, like it or not, a connection makes it my problem as well as yours. And so I get scared. And I get angry.
Often when my fear turns to anger, my loved ones think I’m angry at them. I’m not. (At least not always.) I’m angry at the disease. I may have smashed a thousand full beer bottles, but it wasn’t the bottles I was trying to destroy, I may have screamed in faces and stomped off in fits of rage but, it wasn’t them I was screaming at, it was the disease.
Those of us who love those of you who battle these things are held just as much hostage by them as you are. We fear for you. We get angry because we cannot do anything for you. We fear we’ve failed, or haven’t done enough, or could have done more. We fear for ourselves and our own mental states, because, believe me, in this you do not corner the market on rage, or dark moments, or despair. We all do.
When I began blogging I had no idea that the greatest strength I would find in the war my sister wages and the battle my husband faces would come from those who have already been through the trenches, both from the ones now recovering and the loved ones of the recovering. But every day that is where my faith comes from that my sister and husband can come back from their battles. Every day, connecting with others who have been there eases my fear and kills my anger.
This is why I want to write about things from the loved one’s perspective, because we are all in this together. I don’t want to judge, punish, or belittle, I want to understand and, in return, be understood. I want to talk about it, open dialogue so we can discuss both sides together. I want to cross the lines between A.A. and Al-Anon and discuss it together because, maybe we can help each other.
Maybe it’s time we do it together instead of keeping it to separate rooms.
In coming posts on “Addiction From the Loved One’s Side,” we’ll talk about topics of detachment, enabling, rock bottoms, support options, and more, depending on what events occur in my life and brain. I also want to hear from you–are you a loved one who wants to share your story? If you’d like to guest post, collaborate on a post, offer suggestions on topics you’d like to see more about, anything at all (even if you wish to remain anonymous), you can fill out our on-line submission form (via Google Forms), and I’ll contact you to discuss your thoughts and ideas.
I would also like to take a moment to say, while I did use the names of two programs, I did so because they are well-known and recognizable. I do not endorse any programs; I won’t shy away from discussing any, but I do not endorse one above another.
What emotions do you feel on an ongoing basis? What helps you tame those more tumultuous emotions? Do you feel differently than I do about both sides of the issue talking and working together to try to understand each side? Do you think understanding the “other side” is important? Why?
Jennie joins Running On Sober as a regular contributor to her new monthly series “Addiction From the Loved One’s Side” and to our weekly series “Life in 6 Songs.” Jennie is a talented writer and poet; visit her personal blog at Daisies From Dust. Along with Christy, Jennie curates Words for the Weekend and Words for the Year. In her spare time, Jennie channels Bukowski and teaches her goat, Goatacus, how to ride horses. (Okay, maybe Goatacus teaches her.) Please welcome Jennie to Running On Sober. – Christy