The Prison of Addiction

Kristi Keller

Photo by Denny Müller on Unsplash

You don't have to be an addict to feel imprisoned by addiction.

If you’re the parent, brother, sister, spouse, or child of an addict you already know addiction is a perpetual cycle that affects each and every day that you wake up.

When addiction touches your life you feel consumed by it, defined by it, stigmatized by it. No one knows who you really are anymore because you’ve become the person with the addict in the family.

Everyone calls, texts, or sends private messages asking how your addict is doing, but rarely do they ask how you’re doing. Maybe they’re afraid to hear the same story over and over again, because addiction happens every single day.

There’s never a good day, there are just days less bad than others.

Even when there’s no disaster currently underway and you get a couple days of downtime, you still live in a constant state of high alert, every minute of every day. The next bit of devastation is always imminent, just around the corner because that’s the way it is.

Regular conversations with outsiders rarely occur anymore. Even if it starts out as a neutral, everyday conversation, it always diverts back to the addict, his progress (or lack of), his whereabouts.

Sometimes you lose your temper with those who want to know how your addict is doing because it’s the last thing you want to talk about. You live it every single waking moment so you certainly don’t need to talk about it.

You often wonder why no one wants to know about YOU. The real, authentic you, outside of this bone-crushing affliction in your life. What do YOU love to do? What are YOUR goals and dreams? What was the last thing that made YOU laugh yourself silly?

Occasionally, you turn down offers to go for coffee or lunch because you know the subject will inevitably come up and you’re done talking about it before it even starts.

You can’t fault your friends and family for being concerned. It’s what good people do….check in to see how you’re holding up. The answer is always the same.

You’re a prisoner to someone else’s addiction. You have to be, it’s your family. What kind of person would you be if you ditched out on them in their time of need? What kind of person would you be if you ignored their problem to pursue your own life?

On the flip side, when outsiders don’t know this part of your life they treat you normally and you suffer in silence. You do your best to maintain appearances and stuff all the sadness away because why would you want to drag your sorrow and exhausted self into the only piece of “normal” life you have?

If you don’t tell anyone your truth, you get to be whoever you want.

At work you tell people “He’s away attending university”, because it makes you feel normal. It makes work seem like an escape from reality. You don’t have to talk about it because no one knows so they don’t ask.

If you’re single, it’s the reason you don’t get too close with potential partners because eventually you’ll have to tell them about your mess. There are only two options:

  1. Never bring it up and pretend it doesn’t exist. But that may come back to haunt you in the future when there’s a fire that needs putting out.
  2. Tell the truth and take the risk that they may not understand. They might judge, blame, and walk away.

Photo by Eric Ward on Unsplash

When you’re a prisoner to someone else’s addiction, anger and sadness become normal personality traits. Even when you’re able to experience glimmers of genuine happiness in certain situations, the weight that your addict will never experience the same happiness crushes you.

That’s all you want for him. You want him to find a little place in his heart and soul where he can feel genuine happiness, joy, and contentment. A reason to recover. A reason to live.

He is everything you pray for, to the point where you forget to pray for anyone else in your life, including yourself, because he’s all that matters.

Your addict thinks he’s a disappointment and a failure. He knows he’s destroying your heart so he detaches, stops reaching out, stops communicating in an effort to alleviate your sadness. But he doesn’t know it’s not that simple.

He is never, "Out of sight, out of mind."

We can’t let go because we want to fix them and we want them to want to fix themselves, but they don’t know how because the addiction is too strong to let go of.

The fallout of addiction never stops. Even when things seem okay for a while, you still sleep with one eye open, you still carry your phone to bed with you, you still expect that next tremor to hit. It always does.

You’ve spent thirteen years waiting for that middle-of-the-night phone call informing you that he didn’t make it. It’s the reason why you never put your phone on silent. You don’t want to miss that call, or any call that might be about him.

Or maybe it will be HIM who calls. Not for money this time, but to tell you he’s recovered. He’s saved his own life.

When the phone rings it isn't him. It's someone else bearing the news you've been fearing all these years. He has found peace and contentment because his struggle just ended - but yours never will.

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I'm an old school travel writer who's been flung into another writing world through life experience. I have a compassionate eye, a different opinion, and strong words for this world we live in. I also know a thing or two.


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