If you have someone in your family who has an obsession–someone who is driven to partake in a self destructive habit that by definition leaves a trail of collateral damage in his, in its wake, you know the agony and despair in watching them travel a path into darkness. Perhaps the most difficult thing to accept is that YOU are powerless over their addiction.
Wiser words never spoken: “The only person you can control is yourself.”
I am in the the unwilling club of agony. My family member is an alcoholic addict.
A chilly May gray overcast hugged the L.A. coast, 6:45 a.m.– I attend an early morning AA meeting as visitor. A welcoming elderly gent with a twinkle in his eye and warm hug greets me after the meeting.
“Most people drift through a vanilla life, little good nor bad to color their days. We with the disease of alcoholism are blessed. We have been given the gift of desperation.”
People who suffer the disease of addiction travel predictable steps/stages as they descend into their own personal hell. To compound the tragedy, they do not travel this road alone. They betray their morals, their integrity, everything and everyone they hold dear to protect their addiction. They are self centered. They drag their most beloved friends and family down the rabbit hole. Those who love and care about a ____ -oholic, whether his disease drives him to drink, or drugs, gambling, overspending, over focus on sex, overeating, self centeredness or over-anything, are truly powerless over the goal of the addiction or the addict. The addict will literally walk into the gates of death and hell to maintain his ability to obtain his selfish goal.
Lie, cheat, steal, betrayal of all they know and love, addicts destroy everything good and true in their lives in service of their addiction. Warm, gentle, funny personalities erode into Mr Hyde, a shadow of their former beloved Dr Jeckyl-self. The addict is consumed by his addiction, and along with him, so goes his family.
“Dr. Henry Jekyll is a “large, well-made, smooth-faced man of fifty with something of a slyish cast”, who occasionally feels he is battling between the good and evil within himself, thus leading to the struggle between his dual personalities of Jekyll and Edward Hyde. He has spent a great part of his life trying to repress evil urges. He creates a serum, or potion, in an attempt to mask this hidden evil within his personality. However, in doing so, Jekyll transforms into Mr. Hyde, a hideous, evil creature without compassion or remorse. Jekyll has many friends and has a friendly personality, but as Hyde, he becomes mysterious and violent. As time goes by, Hyde grows in power. After taking the potion repetitively, he no longer relies upon it to unleash his inner demon i.e., his alter ego. Eventually, Hyde grows to be stronger than Jekyll.” – Wikipedia
Family members, as loving and helpful individuals, try with increasing frustration, to help the spiraling Mr. Hyde in their life. Surely he can be saved by love?
No. He can not.
There is no love, nor power strong enough this side of heaven to save the addict from himself. It is he alone that can do that with, as AA says, ‘help of his higher power.’ He is the only one who can save himself.
So what of the elderly alcoholic gent who so ebulliently proclaimed his gratitude for the tortuous path he has travelled, his genuine smile stark contrast to the dreary morning?
What is the gift of desperation?
When you have lied, betrayed, stolen from and cheated the person(s) you love most in your life. When you have lost every shred of self respect. When you rage against the very person’s who are trying to support and love you back to health– a moment of such desperate desperation brings the fortunate sufferers of addiction to their metaphorical knees. They face their Mr Hyde. Hideous and unconquerable.
It is only through a fearless moral inventory, confessed to God, self and one other human being–it is through reparations made to all those so harmed by the addict’s selfish destruction—it is through total surrender to the powerlessness, that the addict is reborn.
And isn’t it this very descent into hell that provides the stark contrast to the light and life of living in personal truth?
It is through honesty that intimacy is built. It is through the nakedness of self awareness and total willingness to be transparent that the morally, emotionally destitute rise from the ashes of their addiction into the light of truth and honesty and love.
And it is only from this place in hell that an individual can experience the gift of desperation.
Are you or do you have an addict in your life?
How have you survived the hell on earth of the addict’s personal and corporate destruction? As part of the wreckage strew in the addict’s path, what brought light and love back into your life?
As a family member wounded over and again by the addict you love — How have you experienced your own gift of desperation?