This is not going to be one of those “The Truth About Addicts” posts that people seem so fond of writing. I am not a counselor or any type of specialist, and my opinions on drugs and addiction only come from the past eight years and my own personal experiences (only). I was driven to write this post for so many reasons, but a recent death moved these thoughts into something I hope is more tangible.
I know a thing or two about addiction.
When I was twenty one, I started dating a man with a serious addiction. I did not know it in the beginning, but I soon found out, and tried my hardest to “make it better”. It was naive of me to think that I could make anything “better”, but I tried for three and a half years to show him how beautiful life was. What I know now is that addicts are fully capable of seeing the beauty for themselves, and the point of addiction is not their lack of sight, but their understanding of what they see. There is no changing that (ever), and your only hope is the slim chance that you can shape their understanding into something new, so that even if they see a square they know that a circle does exist somewhere.
This is all a very sweet way of telling you the truth: An addict will be the best and worst person you’ll ever know.
Philip Seymour Hoffman died on Sunday, and his death was so incredibly overshadowed by another huge event, the Super Bowl. It makes me very sad to think that such a beautiful man is gone from this world due to his addiction, while most of the country spent Sunday screaming at their television. Another sort of addiction, though widely more accepted, is the celebration of football with beers, shots, shouting and high fives. This is not to say I do not enjoy football, as I have genuinely learned to enjoy the strategy, admire the athleticism, and appreciate the spectacle. It has always seemed so excessive to me though, and as any of my friends can tell you, I do not enjoy excessive behaviors. Anymore at least.
The man I dated in my early twenties taught me a few very valuable lessons about drugs and addicts. The first and hardest being that you will never be more important to an addict than drugs. Never, ever. I say this is the hardest lesson because it is something you will have to learn and re-learn a million times, and it does not get easier. In my case, cocaine was more important than paying rent, putting food in the fridge, the water bill, the health of my car, and my feelings on any of those things. For years, I battled my own addiction to the addict himself, wishing so desperately to be worth changing for. The best part is there will be so many moments of fun, of insightful and deep conversation, because addicts see the world on another level. This is what drew me in (and still draws me into people like this), the whole “seeing the world on another level” part because I can appreciate that in a person. Some might argue that these moments could be experienced elsewhere too, with someone who doesn’t harbor a dark love for illicit substances, and I would agree with those people.
However, second lesson: You’ve just met an amazing actor. This beautiful, insightful and (often) smart soul you’ve just fallen for is going to play the hero, best friend and villain in your story. You’re in for a lot of lies, whether they were meant as truth at the time, they will almost always turn into lies at the end. I was talked out of money time and time again, left hanging on date nights, ditched at bars, concerts and even my own birthday party (three years in a row). I cannot even explain the depth of apologies I received for each offense, accepting them because I was naive and believed people can change.
Third lesson: People can’t change. They can try their hardest, wish for it with everything they have and more, but the fact remains that they can’t go back. Once someone has gone from casual experimentation to using on a regular basis, there is no going back, and they’re in for a daily struggle for the rest of their days. This third lesson is the saddest of everything I have learned, and one that I still fervently hope is not true. So far it has been.
Phil, you will be so missed.
“I will be dying and so will you, and so will everyone here. That’s what I want to explore. We’re all hurtling towards death, yet here we are for the moment, alive. Each of us knowing we’re going to die, each of us secretly believing we won’t.”
Synecdoche, New York