Grieving for the Things Lost to Addiction
Growing up I was a good student and daughter. I participated in sports and my local debate team. I took several advanced placement classes throughout high school. I worked after school as a nanny. Punishments were rare; I got grounded once for getting a speeding ticket. Every boy I ever dated, my parents approved of. Senior year, I began dating a gentleman that was tall, handsome, and had a good head on his shoulders. He turned 21 a month after we began dating. Sadly, it was that birthday that led to an ongoing problem that I could neither recognize nor understand.
Recognizing ‘the signs’ is harder than you think
I figured that if any of my friends or family had serious problems, such as drug abuse or addiction I would recognize it. How naive that was. My boyfriend didn’t drink much, smoked tobacco on rare occasions, and never pushed drinking onto anyone. While he had difficulties with school (finances made it hard for him to stay in school long enough to complete his degree) there was very little stopping him or negatively impacting him. Over the next few years that we dated, the drinking became more and more, while the smoking became a habit hard to break. Since I had just begun college, I saw drinking every day, and the amount didn’t faze me. It was normal.
Recognizing ‘the signs’ is even more challenging for those addicted
Several things happened before I realized how serious my boyfriend’s drinking and smoking addiction was. There were times he would ‘disappear’ for a day or two and couldn’t really recall everything he did. He yelled at me because I had to have surgery on a potentially cancerous tumor (we never had arguments prior to this particular situation). And he showed up to an event drunk. Drunk at 7:30 in the morning! I had no idea what to do.
A flurry of emotions overcame me. I was saddened, angry, frustrated, and depressed at the same time. I ended up calling his mother, who took him home. After he had sobered up, his mother explained to him what had happened since she had also called an Al Anon family group hotline on her way to pick him up. He refused to believe he had a problem. We couldn’t do anything. Eventually, I left the relationship. It left me hurt and confused.
The aftermath may be a struggle for awhile
I was confused for several months after we broke up. I had never realized my ex had an addiction problem until the tail end of our relationship. We attempted to remain friends, but the drug rehab center he ended up at slowly encouraged him to stop conversing with me as often. While I understood our friendship would never be the same, it was a drastic change in my life. I was never able to grieve or get help, and then I lost my best friend. Eventually I was able to work through my feelings, but it was something I never thought I would face.
Today, I am dating someone new who never smokes and enjoys a beer every once in a while. I myself drink on occasion, and particularly enjoy a good stout. I have read several books on alcohol addiction and keep the messages close to my heart. While my life has moved on and is wonderful in almost every way, I can never forget the things I lost to alcohol and tobacco addiction: a wonderful friend, an important love, and my naivety to the harsh world of addiction.
I hope anyone that is currently dealing with a close friend, spouse, or loved one that has an addiction problem knows that it is not your fault, and you can only be there for them. I can’t speak to how such relationships will turn out, but there is always a brand new day, and everything happens for a reason.