Every friend or loved one of an addict has experienced it: that desperate and sickening frustration and fear that comes from watching the people they love destroy themselves with drugs and alcohol. It’s not uncommon for a person in the deep throes of addiction to do unspeakable things; they would never do under normal circumstances and this can be an irreversibly jarring experience for their friends and family. The person we may find stealing from us, threatening us or attempting to manipulate us may have our loved ones’ eyes, their hair or their body, but they are, by no means the same person we have come to know and love.
When we consider the dramatic and lasting changes in brain chemistry caused by addiction, it’s little wonder that we find the people we thought we knew so well acting so out of character when they’re in the grips of addiction. The vibrant, loving and caring person we’ve come to love is no longer themselves, and we have to recognize that in all of our decision-making. It’s important to remember this, as well as the reality that they can be saved and they can heal from addiction, no matter how far gone we think they are, and no matter what they’ve done.
Why is it so important to remember this? Because the minute we stop remembering is the minute we give up on the person we care about and the person who so badly needs our help. We stop trying as hard, we declare our loved one a “lost cause” and we resign ourselves to the assertion that they’re lost forever and that there’s nothing we can do. Whether we like it or not, it is often up to us to guide our addicted loved ones toward the care they need, however necessary. This starts with recognizing that they are still worth helping.