In the wake of the death of Phillip Seymour Hoffman it seems everyone is writing about addiction, about the addict, explaining their pain, their suffering and helping us feel compassion. It is desperately sad when someone succumbs to the throes of addiction and loses the battle, whether they are a famous and talented actor or not, but the forgotten victims, rarely mentioned in these article are the families.
Addiction destroys not just the life of the addict but the life of their families. Their partners, children, mothers, fathers, brothers and sister are all impacted. It's the most selfish of conditions. The selfishness and deception is so utterly intense and so utterly difficult to comprehend that it's truly hard to feel compassion. Having lived half of my adult life with an addict and having finally let go of him, I am only now coming to terms with the pain of loving someone who you cannot help and who cannot help themselves. But worse is the disappointment, the self-blame and the confusion.
For me it started with confusion, not understanding why my ex-husband was behaving so strangely, the mood swings, the constant hiding, the deception and the lies. Life feels shrouded in a permanent fog, living under a cloud, never knowing how they will react, whether it will be a good day or a bad day and not understanding why. You live with so many questions. Why? Why does a successful, attractive and highly intelligent man chose drugs and alcohol over his loving family? Why couldn't we help him see how much love there was in his life? What could I have done differently? Why me? The questions are never ending and ultimately we have to realise that is has nothing to do with us. There is nothing we can do to help the addict. It has to come from them. It has to come from someone who is incapable of putting the needs of others before their own desperate need for oblivion, so compassion for the addict is hard to find.
You oscillate between feelings of intense disappointment, helplessness and guilt. Knowing how capable and wonderful your addict could be and never being able to make a difference in their lives. No one else seems to matter, not their partner, their children, their family or friends. Everyone comes second, third and fourth to the addiction.
I am though moving on, the clouds have lifted and I am rebuilding my life and so are my daughters, but sadly they will always live with the knowledge that their father could not put them first. Perhaps the only way then to deal with this is to find compassion, to look beyond the affect it has on us and try and understand this illness more and realise we are not to blame. But we cannot ignore or minimise the affect addiction has on others. The reality is that there is no happy ending for anyone involved in the life of an addict. My children have lost their father and I have lost my best friend.