For the last couple of weeks, a pattern has emerged around me that I’ve been partly ignoring. You see, it’s possible to ignore things like these when you don’t have them being thrown directly in your face. It’s easy to ignore them when they don’t affect anyone you personally know. It’s hard not to ignore them when you’re a large, intimidating man. The problem is, ignoring them keeps perpetuating them. It doesn’t help anything. It makes these things worse.
But, what can we do?
In most of these situations, we ignore them because we can’t find a good solution, or we have something holding us back from a seemingly valid solution, like a nagging voice in the back of our head that reminds us that it’s against the law to strap someone to a time bomb and fire them out across the desert from our home-made trebuchet. Maybe not, maybe it’s just the silent knowledge that there isn’t really anything you can do.
You see, there are things in this world I avoid because I am completely incapable of tolerating their existence, especially when I know that there isn’t a damn thing I can do about it. That’s why I try not to read too many articles like this one by my friend Stereo* (@Uncletypewriter). It makes me feel weak and impotent.
Something People Should Know
I want to make it very clear going into the next section of this post that I do not endorse domestic violence, and I do not believe the victim is at fault, ever. However, I want people who are not victims to understand exactly what the mindset of a person is when they stay in a bad situation, and maybe even give them the bit of insight they might need to save the life of the ones they love.
There is a very important lesson that a lot of people need to learn, and it’s a very simple one:
You can’t fight someone’s demons for them.
At its heart, that’s what we really want to do when we have someone we love in a bad situation. From our perspective we can say, “Just get out of there,” or “Call the fucking cops,” but it isn’t that simple. It isn’t that these people aren’t capable of thinking for themselves, “Man, this kind of sucks, I should get away.”
Oh, no, it is exactly like that.
You see, victims are addicts. No, I’m not blaming them, I blame the pusher, the person that has broken them down and conditioned them to the state when they can’t get away on their own anymore. What I am saying, is that most victims have no more ability to perceive their situation as broken than a person popping thirty diet pills a day can. It isn’t something you can just point out to them. They won’t believe you when you tell them that they are in danger, or what they are doing is unhealthy.
Hell, they’ll get pissed if you try to interfere.
This is a very dangerous situation, because their addiction is to a person, and that person is a fairly predictable time bomb, and sooner or later, that bomb is going to go off and kill everyone around it.
Here is the dark, painful truth about addiction, though:
You can’t stop.
That’s right, there isn’t any good way of stopping an addiction. You might want to, you might even try to, but in the end, it comes back into your mind. Addiction is something you have to actively fight against every day. Once you are an addict, you will always be an addict. There is no cure.
And that is dangerous.
One more important truth about addiction:
NO ADDICT WILL EVEN TRY TO STOP UNTIL THEY HIT ROCK BOTTOM.
For some, that means the day they are sitting in their living room, popping a handful of pills and thanking God they suppress appetite because there isn’t any money left for food. Then as they sit there, alone, contemplating the best course of action for committing a painless suicide that would be easy for some coroner to clean up, they have an epiphany.
For others, that might mean waking from a coma after their spouse beat them.
Either way, it generally comes at a moment when you’re about to die, or cheated death in some way. It comes when the only thing left for you to lose is your life, or worse, the life of someone you love. That’s the moment you find that hint of strength that you need to get through it.
You can’t force that moment.
You can’t protect an addict from them, either.
What You Can Do As a Friend
Your job, as a friend, is integral to recovery, but it comes in three stages, and it’s hard. So very, very hard.
Before you can do anything for your friend, you have to wait for them to be ready to make a change. They have to hit that low point, that dark moment. You won’t be able to help them at all if you try to push them there early. They will cut you out of their life. That is the nature of addiction. I recommend you spend some time in prayer, and if your friends addiction is an abusive asshole, maybe some time in Krav Maga classes. This might come in handy later.
2) Holding the Hair
Withdraw is about temptation. Your body temps you to start popping pills again because it will make you stop puking, and some emotional scar in your brain will make you suddenly miss the person that hospitalized you. It’s a hard struggle, and that’s really when you need your friends the most… to lock you in a small room with a bucket and sponge the crap off your face. It’s a dirty job, but it is something you can actually do.
3) Shining Armor
The first few weeks, months, years, decades of being clean are very hard, and that’s when you need your friends to make sure you’re not slipping up, or the process will start over. So, as a friend, you can have an active role now. You can make sure there aren’t any drugs around, sometimes by employing that Krav Maga training. Pushers don’t like to let go of an addict, and abusers are just pushers that you have less of a problem with hitting.
The important thing to remember and take away from this is that you can be there for your friend, but you can’t save them from themselves. Some battles have to be fought alone.
Your support is going to cost you. Heartache. Pain. Possibly cold, hard cash.
You have to decide if you can be there for your friend. There is nothing wrong with not being able to be.
Because here is something else you should always remember:
You can’t help anyone else, until you have your own shit together.
I’m certain it was Jesus who said that.