Thursday, February 6, 2014

Living with an Addict

Philip Seymour Hoffman 2011.jpg

Philip Seymour Hoffman died of an apparent heroine overdose. He seemed to have it all but fell to weakness. It's so sad. I can't imagine the hell going on inside an addict's head. But I do know all too well the hell going on inside the home of an addict. It is a nightmare beyond belief. And that is my post for today.

Living with an alcoholic or a drug addict is a nightmare of chaos, uncertainty, anger and embarrassment. Rob and I would get in these huge fights. He would scream, wring his hands, jump up and down-- all in attempt to get me to scream back. Whether I walked away and went silent, packed my bags and left for a few days, or screamed back, we would then have a period of a few days where I wouldn't speak to him but we would exchange emails and texts. Many of those emails I've posted here and, no doubt, I will post more.

And then there would be a period of calm. That "calm" would last either a few days or several weeks. And during that time, I would feel such enormous relief and almost, dare I say, happiness. Maybe he really was sorry this time and wouldn't do this again. Maybe this "happiness" was a trend. Maybe this time when he promised to get help for his alcoholism, he would mean it. And during these times I felt something close to love and pity and sorry and commitment. I felt protective of him and my heart would break because I knew he was so very sick-- emotionally, mentally, spiritually and physically. He was broken and I needed to help him get well. And at these times, I felt so useful.

...But on the other hand, I was always waiting for the other shoe to drop. When was the next drunken episode going to happen? Was it in five minutes? Today? Tomorrow? Next week? At any moment, it could and would happen. And of that, I was certain.

Rob used to go to his favorite bar, The San Diego Brewing Company (the BrewCo). One of the managers there committed suicide. He was a very heavy drinker put a bullet through his head. The night before the funeral, Rob screamed at me like only Rob can. It was horrific. I didn't understand this manager enough. I wasn't bereft enough. I didn't even know the guy. I had met him once. And yes, it was very sad. Tragic. But I'm not sure what he was looking for from me. Actually, no reaction I could have had would have stopped that screaming fit. He just had to scream and I was the one there. He then jumped into my car and took off. A few hours later, I drove around looking for him. There he was, at the BrewCo, slamming back drink after drink after drink. Big surprise. What a great way to remember a guy he apparently really loved after the guy, who had a huge drinking problem, commits suicide: drink again!

Rob's daughter, Nic, who had a major alcohol and marijuana problem when she lived with us, had a friend who died of a heroine overdose. Nic was distraught. How could this happen? She could see how awful drugs were now. And the next night, a bunch of this kid's friends gathered together to... guess what? Shoot up, smoke up, and drink.

Makes sense, right?

Of course not.

But addicts can't stop. No amount of clear thinking makes any sense. I can't fathom it because I'm not an addict. But I've seen it. I've lived with it. It is horrific. And it never stops.

Rob used to go on the wagon for a period of time. Once, I believe, he stopped drinking for six months. I say "believe" because who knows? Rob was also a closet drinker. He drank in front of me, he also drank when I wasn't looking. So how much he drank and when is a really big question. But after going to his alcohol therapist, I learned that even if Rob was on the wagon, unless he was in intensive therapy over a long period of time, he was just a "dry drunk." All of the same pathology was still there-- his behavior, personality traits... all of it. And, seriously, it was awful.

I forgive Rob for his alcoholism and his behavior. He is sick. I do not so easily forgive the lies, the broken promises and, most import, the horrific way he treated me when I found out I had cancer. Telling his family I really wasn't that sick-- that I had treatable myeloma and I would be just fine. Calling me names. Making fun of me. That shows a serious monster.

Hearing so much this week about Philip Seymour Hoffman lately has been so painful. Hearing others share their nightmares of addiction or living with addiction has been very raw. It has brought back so many terrible memories. And it makes me sad.

And what do we survivors do? Should we hold an intervention? Should I have held an intervention? Should his family? I don't know. But maybe.