Urban legends and medical lore are full of the things people do for love. The 22-year-old girl who lifts the car crushing her father. The mother who rushes into a burning building to rescue her children. The father who doesn’t know how to swim, but jumps into the water to save his drowning son.
There are some things, however, that push us to the edge of what we will do for love. Loving an addict is one of those things. It’s tough wondering when the phone call asking for bail money will turn into the one asking you to identify a body. No one’s morning should start in a bedroom doorway worrying if the person inside is passed out or dead. Life is hard enough without a daily routine of second guessing whether to argue or remain silent. After a while, silence is easier.
Because, after a while you realize that no matter how much you love the addict, you can never make the right decision, say the right thing, or provide the missing ingredient to keep them clean and sober. No one is capable of stopping the addiction except the addict. Until they admit their problem and get help, no amount of love will make them whole.
It truly is not you, it’s them.
And when you make the decision to leave, the heartache doesn’t stop. Who will take care of them if you’re gone? Make excuses to the few friends that are left? Divert the phone calls from work? Pick up the slack when they spend days in bed recovering from binges?
The pull to go back is stronger than a riptide. It sucks you back and keeps you in place. To apologize, to make excuses, to take the blame. It’s familiar, comfortable, and as reassuring and necessary as the booze or pills are to the addict.
Until one day you realize that in order to save anyone, you have to save yourself first. You can’t move the car off a loved one if you’re pinned beside them. You can’t save someone from a burning building dressed in gasoline-soaked clothes. You can’t rescue a drowning man when he’s pulling you down with him.
Read all the fairy tales, urban legends, and medical myths you want on the power of love, not all of love stories have happy endings. There are some things love can’t fix. Addiction is one of them.
All you can do is save yourself.
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