I have a loved one who was recently hospitalized as a result of addiction. I haven’t talked a lot on my blog about my depression yet, but it’s definitely something I’ve been struggling with since I was a teenager. I was even hospitalized for it in my early 20s. I used to hide that fact, embarrassed that I was so weak. Ashamed and guilty that, even though I had a pretty damn good life, I just couldn’t be happy. It wasn’t that I hated myself. I wasn’t numb. I was just incredibly, incredibly sad and lonely, even when I was surrounded by friends. I have learned, over the years, how better to manage my depression, but I’d be lying if I said that it doesn’t still sometimes win. But I’m learning and practicing and learning and practicing how best to fight my way out of it. I imagine that addiction is much like depression in a lot of ways. Out of shame and despair, we isolate ourselves and end up feeding the disease. I will talk more about depression in the future, I’m sure, but for now, on the thought that it might help someone else out there, I’m sharing a letter that I’m sending to my loved one:
It’s hard to know where to start, but I guess I’ll go with this: you are loved. I can only imagine how hard the last few days have been, and you’re probably feeling embarrassed or ashamed, but please don’t. Addiction is a disease, not a character flaw, and I hope you know that we are not judging you for it. Diseases of the brain are tough, because our society does not fully understand that it’s the same thing as a disease of other organs. I have been ashamed of my depression, but I’m learning to recognize that it’s no more embarrassing than my endometriosis or fibromyalgia. It doesn’t make me a bad person or a weak person, it just means I have to work harder than other people for my mental health. And it means I have to reach outside of myself to my friends, family, and doctors to help me with that work. The only way to do that is to be honest with them about my struggle.
Like other chronic diseases, you need treatment with a specialist who can help you learn how to combat and manage it. You need the support of other people who go through similar battles (their battle will never be the same as yours, but they’ll have good insight and understanding, nonetheless). You need to learn your triggers and what you can do to circumvent them. When I’m going into a depression, I tend to isolate myself and I’m betting you do the same. Dealing with the outside world seems totally overwhelming, but I promise you it’s worth the discomfort. So is dealing with the pain you’re feeling, both physical and emotional. Pain sucks. Who wants to accept that pain will be a part of their life forever? I fully admit that there are days that I desperately want to escape it. That may be at least a part of what drives your addiction.
But here is what I’d like to ask of you: instead of reaching for the glass or the pill, reach for the phone. I know I’m simplifying things, but you have to start somewhere. Talking about the pain doesn’t make it go away, but it makes it bearable. You can always call me, but I really hope you’ll also consider AA so that you have someone local who’s fighting the same fight.
Your husband loves you more than you know. He doesn’t want to lose you to this disease. None of us do. Again, you are loved. You are loved. You are loved.