Coming out of a relationship with an addict was like breaking out of a nightmare when you lucidly realise you’re inside one. This experience happened so much to me as a child I still remember it despite the easy evaporation of that Land of Nod reverie. It wouldn’t be a nightmare immediately but I would sense the change in tone and atmosphere of the dream and then it would feel like something was coming, slowly stalking me in the dark shadows encroaching upon the misty landscape. Panic would set in and I would will myself, pinch myself, try to break the walls and facade, ala The Labyrinth, of wherever I was. You feel like you’re pulling yourself up and through something like heavily weighted water and since I can’t swim – it would almost be impossible sometimes as that “thing” got closer and closer.
I’d make it out but the terrifying feelings would remain, persisting well into the morning of the real world.
This isn’t a post about giving advice but recognising the familiarity with which co-dependents share in the experience. If only addicts would realise what they put their loved ones through whether they are past or current. Watching a relapse on a recent episode of #RHOBH and having the most recent episodes happen to me sparked a motivation in me to make a post. There’s a lot of talk regarding how addiction can be overcome and addicts can make it out alive but what about all the people they affect? There are many in my addict’s arsenal whose lives will be changed negatively forever because of him – it’s not just me. More often as I lose any care I once had for the addict, I wonder more about the consequences and state of these people. Are they okay? How did they survive?
PART ONE – SIGNS
I haven’t dealt with much addiction in my life. My parents were not addicts, up to a few years ago none of my friends had been addicts although I remember accusing my first boyfriend Ben of being an alcoholic because he could drink an entire bottle of vodka and still be relatively sober. I used the term because obviously I had no true experience of it much like you would over-exaggeratedly call someone psycho when they act bizarre the one time. Ben wasn’t an addict though – he drank like most Australians on the weekend but maintained many friends, a well-paying job, fantastic reputation as a wonderful and reliable friend and still does to me to this day.
An alcoholic, however, if we’re going to be technical is someone who suffers from alcoholism which is the compulsive and uncontrolled abuse of ethanol usually to the “detriment of the drinker’s health, personal relationships and social standing” not to mention career and psychological health. It’s strange to type that but also have first-hand experience of the disintegration of someone’s entire being with alcohol.
When the addict drank, at first I didn’t notice because living in Australia – drinking, unfortunately, is a big part of the culture. People will buy beer and wine most nights even during the week and because I’m not a heavy drinker myself and never will be; I always knew that people could drink and consume far more than me without it being a problem. A drinking culture is not a good thing but it’s pretty status quo here. But unlike most of my other friends who drink or drink to have fun/get drunk – the addict would drink all the time, any time in extremely copious amounts (an entire bottle plus beer, several bottles of wine etc) to cope, to deal with boredom but the more noticeable factor would be the way he would change.
(Full episode – start at 25:52)
“What is wrong with her? We were fine on the car road over. Clearly, she’s had a few drinks and she’s going to the dark side.” – Kyle, referring to Brandi as she gets drunk, RHOBH
The change I would always refer to Dr Jekyll/Mr Hyde-ism and the addict’s split personality disorder that would only show face once a lot of alcohol had been consumed. The manner would change almost immediately from loving and thoughtful to belligerent, cruel, crude, ugly and utterly bizarre. Words would slur, thoughts would jump from one area to another without logic or follow-through and most importantly there was an extreme loss of short term memory. For example one night I would borrow keys to go to the toilet and within five minutes, the addict would be calling me angrily demanding to know why I had stolen his keys and blocked him from going inside his house. He had no memory of the conversation, had apparently engaged in bizarre lewd behaviour within those few moments and was suddenly so furiously angry at me that he physically assaulted me on the street when I attempted to leave in peace. Earlier that night he had come to collect and surprise me at my house because I had been upset which had been a sweet move but was completely destroyed by his descent into buying too many drinks, insulting the really nice bartender, ignoring me when I had asked him repeatedly and coaxingly to stop – all of which cumulated into the above behaviour when I tried to take him home to sleep.
This Mr Hyde-ism was a terrifying state to live in. We would make plans to catch up but if I turned up an hour later due to an emergency or because I had missed a train – the addict would have drank a bottle of whatever and turned into a furious monster with no conception that we had made plans and demand I leave. I learned quickly to always stay in contact with them to either adjust my behaviour, prepare myself or keep them “sober” with reminders that I would be there soon. I also had to adapt to the fact that plans could be cancelled at any moment and any frustrated feeling I attempted to express would result in him screaming at me, insulting me till I cried, telling me to get the fuck out or embarrassing me horrifyingly in public while refusing to return my personal things. I also learned to be quiet or cajolingly persuasive as if I were speaking to a small child in an attempt to get them to pick a carrot over a lollipop. (“How about we have some water and go home? Let’s not get another drink, okaay”) Looking back on it now as well as other over-zealous protective behaviours, it’s ridiculous for anyone let alone the addict’s parents to be forced to monitor and worry like that. Despite his constant admittances that he recognised his problem and wanted to change it, the addict refused to follow through and see a therapist (he believed he was better than them and knew better – classic narcissist behaviour patterns), go back on medication or consider rehab as an option (“I’m not an alcoholic! You’re insane.”) Worse still, despite many professions to do better and ascertain forgiveness from me, the behaviour continued again and again as if his behaviour had never been wrong in the first place. I soon began to realise there was a strong inner block of denial that could not be scaled despite his delusory words to the opposite.
It’s a common thing to be in denial and not necessarily a bad thing. I’m in denial about how good I look tonight, she’s in denial about her progress towards weight loss, he’s in denial about his potential career advancements. Denial can help us through the day when things are lost and our confidence is down. But true insistent denial can be as terrible and stupid as irrational thinking or illogical falsifications to prove a point – I’ve heard too many stories about parents being in denial about what’s happening to their child in front of them (bullying, sexual assault by their partner, suicide and depression) and it’s the same thing here. The denial isn’t just coming from the addict themselves but all their loved ones. It’s easier to live in the fantasy than realise that someone you love and care about is in serious trouble because a part of you hopes maybe that they’re not part of the statistic or that things aren’t really that bad? They really are, though, I realised specifically when a friend of mine met him who worked nearby and actually said she remembered him out of her hundreds of customers because he would come in frequently very drunk and make disgusting remarks to the waitstaff on hand. Of course, I never mentioned it to him nor would he remember but if that’s the unknowing reputation you’re developing, that’s horrific.
The addict’s family and friends seem to be in serious denial about his state or enjoy enabling his addictions by urging him on to drink or engage in other illegal activities. It’s truly miserable that those who attempt to really press forward with getting him help have been shut out. I suppose it’s easier to deny it and believe otherwise when someone seems to have it together with a rented house and seemingly impressive career. But there are always cracks and at that point, you’re choosing to ignore the situation and not get them help when they need it. But why rock the boat? No good deed goes unpunished. When I have attempted to do it, I’ve been dealt with a number of severe consequences like as I’ve said above – being told to leave, being screamed at and insulted as “punishment” or being railed at for “abusing” him because I’ve “instantiated” (read: reminded) him of people who have come before who have been hurt by the same problems and issues that are now hurting me because of his denial and his compulsive need to drink.
It’s a line few people are willing to cross – where’s the border between becoming too overly investigated in someone where it’s to the detriment of yourself and the relationship? It’s a line you deal with in every friendship and relationship. You dislike a friend’s boyfriend – do you talk about it with them and risk the possibility of them ditching you for the boyfriend or do you play along? I’ll admit I shy away from becoming involved now because I have learned that people like the addict for cannot be trusted with any tangent from their own thinking but real friends should do and in response, friends shouldn’t punish someone for expressing how they feel. I personally never have – one time a friend of me told me she felt like we were growing apart and felt stupid telling me and I immediately told her I didn’t feel that way but would make more effort and did. I can’t say that was reciprocated a few years later.
The number of times the addict has come to me whether in the depressive state of his alcoholism or in a sobering moment and told me: “I’m so sorry for my shit,” or “I know things have to change,” would go into the thousands but like a moment of clarity that today’s the day I’m going to change my life and diet forever; it’s always only temporary before out comes the chocolate and sneaky cheeseburger. There is no true acceptance of the problem if the addict’s behaviour is continual and becomes worse and worse and the denial becomes stronger and stronger. Recently, after being let down by the addict again due to drinking, I sent him this as an explanation as to why I was not coming over to help him move his belongings:
“I’ve already stated this above which you can read again when you’re sober. We agreed originally for me to help you out on Friday – but you got wasted, called me completely off your head and as you said the next day it was good I didn’t come. Your choice. I’m deciding NOT to come again because you’ve done the same thing. I’m not exerting myself to help someone out who can’t stick to plans or act like an adult. I’m not discussing this further. You are a child and you need to learn the proper behaviour towards your friends and to those who you want help from. Have a good night and good luck with moving.”
“I’ll find my way out of this place. I love you but we’re different people.” – WTF?
“Thanks for the insults.”
“It’s funny cause you’re like omgs he’s wasted when you’ve spent countless hours with me drunk and drunk yourself.”
It’s extremely amazing to me that along with the general crazy and denial of addicts comes a lot of “buck passing”. This was completely relevant to this conversation but had happened many times before. Let me detail this specifically:
Friday: Addict asked me to come over and help take some of his stuff as he was moving. I agreed and changed my plans so that I could come over – I had originally said 7 which addict agreed to. He texted me around 5 to ask if I was still coming over, I texted back saying it would have to be later as I had some stuff to do. Around 8 – 9, he called me and I realised immediately he was wasted. There was no point talking to him as he was speaking in tongues and couldn’t focus coherently on anything I was saying. I decided not to go. I was peeved that he had done this again but I let it go.
Sat – Sun: Checked in on him, he asked me now to come on Monday night. I agreed half-heartedly as I would be busy that day with work, driving a friend to the airport after a big weekend and it was Australia Day.
Monday: He checked in with me to see if I was still coming. I said I wasn’t feeling well but he kept pushing it so I kowtowed. He sent me a few nice messages telling me to buck up, that it would be okay. I told him I’d be there after work. I was at work at the time and came back to my phone an hour later to find a multitude of messages, missed calls etc. I answered another missed call of his despite texting him earlier that I was busy at work and couldn’t speak. I answered and again he was extremely wasted. He was barely coherent and couldn’t remember anything that had passed between us (like I was busy at work and couldn’t talk) and didn’t realise I was at work. I hung up, texted him that I wasn’t coming as he had done the same thing again. After I left work – the missed calls and messages continued well into the early morning of the next day with the same basic bullshit.
“I need your help. You said you were going to take this art.”
“Why are you doing this to me? I’m fucked up as, just stop!” (I hadn’t replied, this was just trying to get me to reply)
“I need you to take this shit you said you would, either tomorrow or else it’s going in the tip.”
“I’m not [sic]drink and I can’t sleep because I have to get up at 5am tomorrow to move out, now with a bunch of stuff I have to move because I relied on someone that bailed on me?”
There’s lots more but it’s quite obvious how manipulative he is trying by guilting and passing the blame buck to me. Nothing is his fault – it’s everyone else’s that he couldn’t get his shit organised, it’s my fault I didn’t live up to my promise to do him a favor (but he can do and act however he pleases to me) and now it’s my fault he has to suffer. It’s not his for CHOOSING to get drunk or CHOOSING to insult me or CHOOSING to act like a child instead of apologising (as he should have) and rearranging to make plans when he was sober the next day (which could have happened as I had the day off). This doesn’t occur to the addict as they will wheedle and cajole and use any manipulative technique necessary to get what they when they want it. No, it didn’t work and I didn’t show up because the simple truth is if you expect someone to do you a favor (drive you somewhere, help you move, check something) – don’t be disrespectful full stop but also don’t be a dick to them by engaging in behaviour you know destroyed your relationship. But that doesn’t occur to him because he’s in the throes of the drug and like a child expects to get his own way because like most addicts – he’s an expert manipulator of people and need to help.
I guess what happened a few days later then is my fault, really but more of that in the next post…
There’s lots of signs as well as abuse of substances although that can often be hidden but these were the most prevalent in any relationship with the addict. I noticed them in the relationships I saw of other addicts – it was strong in Kim in the #RHOBH episodes – Kim denies, passes the buck and the distinct rude change in personality as evidenced by Lisa R’s ride with her to Malibu was exactly what I dealt with and how I felt every time the addict warped into Mr Hyde. It feels good to know I’m not alone in the experience but I’m also horrified that so many others must experience this of their dearest ones.
Post Two will be on what I wanted to focus on which is the subsequent effect, which I’ve touched on briefly here, dealing with their addiction does to the co-dependents. More soon…