The truth about loving an addict

Hope is a pep talk for the disheartened. But what happens when hope starts to ravage? What happens when hope is actually perpetuating the problem? 

I have spent the last ten years in a permanent state of hope – an unwavering hum of optimism that someone close to be would change. I woke up, I hoped. I went to bed, I hoped. I lit candles, I sat by bedsides holding hands, I laser-focused my entire being hoping that I could love them back from the brink of addiction.

'I can save them', I vowed with a heady determination, 'I'll never give up hope.' And it was really, really hard to be so damn hopeful for so long.

It is a challenge to remain hopeful after your fifth hour sitting in the emergency room praying that your self-inflicted patient will be seen next while willing them not to walk out because you tried so damn hard to get them there in the first place.


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I spent three pregnancies in this cycle of hope and devastation — trying to mop up someone else's problems with my oh-so-tired mind when they were oblivious to the issue.

It is hard to beat that drum of optimism over and over again when you get the fourth phone call asking you to please come and claim this person who is causing a disturbance or unable to get themselves home.

You scrub the carpet and clean the house — if their surroundings are ordered, surely their mind will be too? And you cling tightly to that hope because that's all you can do. Besides, of course, contacting the experts. Then you spend hours filling them in, relieved that AT LAST someone else is going to take over — someone who is qualified to fix this, who knows what they are doing because this is just too big for just you.

The pieces of this puzzle are too jagged to fit back together on your own. You hope this time it will finally work. This time your person will choose you over the problem. Love always wins, right?

Black hole


But it doesn't. And there you are, in another small room with a chair and a box of tissues, that you refuse to acknowledge because your tears have shrivelled up a long time ago, and suddenly you realise that the only thing you have left is love.

The experts shrug, and your person shrugs, and you tell yourself that although you are so very tired — you cannot give up hope. Then a breakthrough — all that hoping must have paid off. The light suddenly looks different in the world. You admonish yourself for even questioning things.

Finally, you can lead a normal life — free from the black hole of addiction which sucks in everything around it, killing joy.

And then, like the time before, and the time before that — everything reverts. It is back to your version of normal. But you knew this would happen — you always knew. You are back to panicking in the night and wondering what scene awaits you as you turn the key in the door. And ultimately, that's the problem with hope.

Hope tricks you into believing you can iron things out, hope lulls you into a false sense that some day, everything will right itself. And the more I hoped, the more exhausted I became, until a painfully slow reality began to emerge. A chink of realism one day penetrated my turbulent mind.

Chink of light

It showed a reality where this person was never going to be saved. Not by me. It started as a minuscule thought that I banished over and over because... never give up hope... until I couldn't block it anymore.


And then I did what everyone says not to. I gave up hope.

I replaced it with guilt for a while, and then worry and fear — but I gave up on those too, eventually. I realised that I had my own life to lead and, more importantly, three small people to protect and a husband to love. I turned my back, I pushed hope away, and I've learnt that sometimes there is simply nothing you can do to help until they are ready.

I now feel a freedom of emotion that others find hard to understand. But they are back at the beginning — they are in the shallow end of this dark pool. They have never been pushed so far and so deep, so they can't possibly know that sometimes every last bit of hope gets sucked in.

I question if my lack of hope is a reflection of a lack of love, and that is something I can't yet answer.  I've accepted my choices. I still describe myself as an optimistic person but there is powerlessness in hope that I don't care for.

For now, I'm happier than sometimes I think I should be. But the point is that I'm happy.

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