Some Things You May Not Know About Substance Abuse, Part 5: Addiction Takes Hostages

Addiction Takes Hostages

The further people go into addiction, the more their lives center around it.

They discard all forms of recreation in favor of activities that include substance use.

All of their friends become using friends. Non-using friends drift away and the addict is drawn to those who don’t judge because they, themselves, are doing the same thing.

Sometimes particular careers are chosen for their proximity to the drug of choice. Alcoholics become bartenders; potheads, musicians; drug users, drug dealers.

In some cases, intimate relationships end as the loved one finds that he or she is a low priority compared to the drug. They are replaced by one of two kinds of relationships: either the type where the loved one picks up after the addict and helps the addict escape the consequences, or the type where the relationship is all about use.

Things go like this until the person enters recovery, then he or she finds that all the things they love are connected in some way to use.

He can’t see his friends because all his friends use and are unlikely to support his recovery because it would challenge their own use.

The alcoholic bartender can’t return to work without being tempted to drink; the marijuana smoking musician has to watch what she does on breaks; the addicted drug dealer has to learn to sell something else.

Otherwise innocent forms of recreation, hobbies, or art may put the recovering addict at risk. A writer who cannot write without a bottle of scotch at hand is in trouble; a painter who seeks inspiration in LSD has got to find a new muse.

Even intimate relationships can be a problem if they were associated with chemical use. The wife who lovingly keeps your refrigerator stocked with brewskis, even though she hates your drinking, is as much of a problem as the breswkis themselves. The boyfriend who was your connection to a dealer may have to go as well as the dealer.

The general principle is this: first the drug takes you hostage, then it takes everything you love hostage. Even if you get yourself free, the drug still has the other hostages in its clutches. You want to be near them, but to go near puts you at risk.

Every recovering addict wants to go in and free the hostages. They want to save their loved ones who are still addicted. They want to continue writing that novel that was started under the influence of scotch, finish that painting, inspired by a meaningful trip, work at their job, see their friends. But, consider this: you’ve seen enough hostage movies to know, it’s dangerous to free the hostages. Be sure you are safe and secure before you try it.

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One thought on “Some Things You May Not Know About Substance Abuse, Part 5: Addiction Takes Hostages

  1. empoweringaddiction says:

    “…either the type where the loved one picks up after the addict and helps the addict escape the consequences, or the type where the relationship is all about use.”
    I am curious about this. Very. In the field of addiction and recovery, there is a plethora of professionalized content, which, at the core, boils down to some of the messier, and quite beautiful, aspects of the human condition. Things like connection. Isolation. Loss. There was grief so powerful, it became void of any action until it just folded in on itself. And in those faces, and behind those stories, there was a vulnerable seeking that often went unanswered — for years. There is no answer, and there are never only two categories of relationship between beings — addicted or not. There are hostages, yes. And there are partners — the points you are making, I can see — and some of them resonate with some of the situations I knowingly walked into.
    The paths through or alongside addiction are never bland. There are things we don’t hear, that we even refuse to see, in the rising of our own pains when we are confronting the experiences of another human being. I believe we need to add to our language surrounding addiction, recovery, and relapse. I believe we need to expand our awareness of what is going on beneath the surface. When we engage with people in that curious and vulnerable way, we allow room for them to drop some of their defenses. That stillness can be consequence enough for a person in active addiction to feel supported while they sort through the piles of garbage around them. I enjoyed your post and I’m going to be reading more. Thanks for this. Great site so far.

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