How hard is it to love someone who has an addiction? Whether it be gambling, drugs, or alcohol an addiction changes the person you love into someone else. I know this first hand because my father is an alcoholic. He was a functioning alcoholic who hid his drinking when we were growing up. It was not until my brother and I were in our twenties that we realized fully the extend of our own fathers drinking. He was a man we never saw hold a casual drink in his hand. He never had a cocktail or beer socially. All of his drinking was done secretly, and from my perspective today it was a way of self - medicating his own pain and depression. He was a man never cut out for parenthood. Perhaps not even for relationships. This might have all been changed if he sought medical counseling, but he kept secrets and secrets are at the heart of all addiction.
I loved someone too that had an addiction, clean for 12 years he began to use drugs again. What I witnessed was a repeat of behaviours I saw in my childhood; lying, secrets, and changes in personality. The person you love is a different person than the addict. The addict is a liar, a cheat and sometimes a thief. The addict is not the person you love, he or she is a different person. Ultimately it is hard to reconcile the two. When I was growing up with an alcoholic father I saw a quiet man in the morning. He was quiet, kind, somewhat gentle even. After he had his few drinks he became vicious, mean and vindictive. My brother and I made a pact, we would never go to his home after 3pm. Because after 3pm he had too many drinks to be nice and kind. The sad part is the only person that can help the addict is himself. He or she has to make the decision to change and get help. No one can do that for him or her. In my father’s case he was lucky, or should I say unlucky because he has a new wife that was willing to enable his drinking and his vile temper once alcohol took hold. I often wonder if she had put her foot down and said get help now how different things might be for him now. Sadly that never happened.
I know someone intimately who is struggling with an addiction. An evil one. Drugs are the devil, and I do not refer to marijuana, I mean the hard stuff, crack, cocaine, barbituates etc. they sink their claws into you and will not let you out of their grip. I believe this person honestly loves me. But his addiction and desire for his drug is more powerful than his love for me.
The one question that nags at my mind is whether or not addicts can ever change? Can they, with help and counseling give up their drug? I don’t know the answer to that. I do know however that places like CAMH (Canadian Centre for Addiction) have success stories. How many I don’t know. I just hope that my once best friend can get help there.