You’ve read things here by my friend, Lisa Brock, before. She posts some of the most interesting commentary on Facebook and is one of the most interesting women I know. I got to know her when we both taught at the University of Tampa but I came to appreciate her even more over the years we’ve been Facebook friends. A few months ago, I read this on her page and she graciously agreed to let me share it here. But first, a few words from me.
I know this because someone I once loved was an addict. He told me when he was in recovery that well-meaning friends and family would ask, “why can’t you just quit?” and while he understood the question, he thought it showed they didn’t understand addiction.
Addiction changed his life for real and for good in ways large and small. Its power is awesome and not in a good way. And so, in the interests of maybe helping someone else understand what is almost un-understandable, I am sharing Lisa’s most excellent words.
***** ***** ***** ***** *****
Some years ago, my husband, Farrukh, through a series of somewhat random events, met a young African man I’ll call ‘Whoever.’ This brand new acquaintance presented in a very positive way that drew Farrukh and then me, to him.
Farrukh led the effort to find out more about his life, his youngish marriage, his family, his wife’s family and his hopes for a new life in America. Life was hard for him but he was optimistic and his smile was high voltage! As time wore on and we peeled back the inevitable layers of a life, we learned that Whoever had a terrible secret that often kept him from being completely honest with us. And while it is always disheartening to learn that what you think you see is not the reality, we understand that life is complex so we hung in there with him.
The terrible shame
We dug a little more and learned a little more about his life – including a terrible shame he could not shake. It was not his fault but that is how shame works I guess. We tried in earnest to help, finding and offering resources that were solid and readily available. But as we leaned in closer, we began to understand that our collective reach was going to be limited in ways that signaled a treacherous undoing.
Slowly and painfully we watched him unwind, loosen then lose his grip, and eventually succumb to very dark behavior that he was unable to manage or confront. Eventually Whoever left the place where we knew to find him. And over time, he became one of those wafting memories that we visit from time to time – never seeming to settle…
I can’t say I had confidence that he could do what was needed to escape his demons but I never – EVER – lose hope. I learned how to do that from people (including family members) who beat theirs when no one would have given them odds. But today when I got home, Farrukh called me over to look at his phone and it was obvious the news would not be good. So I read with trepidation as the wife of Whoever recounted how sorry she was to let him know that Whoever had been found – dead.
She was so sorry to share the news but she wanted to thank Farrukh for the help he had offered the man she loved. Even sadder, she recounted how she’d had to leave him, afraid for her physical safety but never losing her feelings for a man who became someone else when he drank.
NOT a moral failing
Recently I was talking with a psychiatrist friend and I asked about the curse of addiction. I have read pretty deeply about brain research and I know good people who cannot seem to win this battle. I don’t believe it is a moral failing. It can’t be. Because even when they lose EVERYTHING…family, friends, dignity, health, wealth, the ability to enjoy life…you name it – they keep going, living in constant search of their wicked coping substitute – even when they KNOW better. We can love them, loathe them, beg and cajole them but addiction is a formidable foe, often leaving those who love them in a painful, sadistic almost, chaotic or catatonic state.
But my doctor friend described it in a way that really grabbed – and helped – me.
“It IS a brain disorder.”
“Okaaaayyyy. Well…” I slowly ventured in…”what about the choice to do it in the first place?”
“Ahhhh, that is the RISK” she said. “It is a silent disease that is triggered with use. If the risk is never taken, it lies dormant, but if triggered – addiction can take over. And since addiction is a progressive disease, it inevitably brings about an early death.”
At 33, Whoever surely testified to that.
And what an absolute, terrible, awful, heartbreak that is.