Sunday, March 9, 2014

Running on Empty

Some days it seems like the whole world is running on fumes, our tempers are short, our patience nearly non-existent, and we're all looking for that fuel to fill our souls.

Some eat their feelings (guilty as charged), some choose a more healthy route and sweat out the stress, some take it out on their wallets, others might blow off steam by dumping it on someone else, and sadly some find the need to chase the high and try to find peace by masking their pain in dangerous addictions.

I've been trying to find the words for months, long before Phillip Seymour Hoffman or Cory Monteith overdosed.  To say I don’t understand why or how they did this to themselves is an understatement, but not a judgment.  I do understand that depression and addiction know no income bracket, career success, education level, skin color, or national origin, and they don't discriminate.  There isn't some magical formula to decide who will be able to manage their depression in self destructive ways or who will channel it into more healthy outlets.

I'm not going to lie or pretend that it doesn't scare me to see someone I care about battle with their inner demons; it’s hard to watch someone you love be lost.  It’s hard to know that all you can do is be there for them, sometimes it’s hard to WANT to be there for them, because you don’t trust them not to hurt you in the process of hurting themselves. 

I dated a guy once upon a time who was clinically depressed, and when he was on his meds and was gainfully employed, he was a caring, generous, empathetic, awesome man… when he was off his medication, he was a different person entirely, he would be mean just for the sake of being mean, he would disappear for days at a time, and would go so far off the grid that there were times I called his parents to make sure he was still alive.  It’s not easy to love someone like that; it’s an effort you have to make every single day.  You also have to find a way to keep from circling the drain yourself.  In the end, we weren't right for each other and we went our separate ways; but not without leaving some emotional scars behind.

I've learned from other experiences that you can't force anyone to change in ways that they aren't ready for.  It doesn't matter how often you offer to help them, or scold them for making bad choices, they have to reach the decision to climb out of the darkness on their own. 

It's hard to be understanding, it's hard to not be judgmental, it might be impossible to put yourself in their shoes to see exactly what someone else is going through. I know I've sat in judgment of those around me who have struggled with addictive behaviors.  I've asked the questions "Why would s/he do this? They seem to have everything, they have no excuse to not be happy. Why are they so weak to turn to something that they know is bad for them? Didn't their parents pay enough attention to them? Maybe if they hadn't been given everything they wouldn't be seeking this never ending high. Don't they know they're hurting everyone around them? How can they be so selfish?" The truth is none of those questions are helpful, none of the answers change the fact that someone is hurting, and all they do is further traumatize the ones who love the addict, and make the person who is using feel more alienated.

I don’t have the answers, I don’t know when you should stick around and love someone through the pain, or when you should cut them off and save yourself.  Maybe there isn’t an answer, maybe it’s somewhere between, maybe it depends on your relationship with the person and their willingness to get the help they need.  It’s easy and common to be frustrated, disappointed, angry, sad, defeated, guilt, and so much more when you are on the sidelines of someone’s destruction, that’s why there are so many support groups for not only the addicts, but for their loved ones.  Please if you need help, or someone you love does, know that you are valuable, you are needed, you are loved, you are important, and can be stronger than the false ties that bind you in the shadows.

Alcoholics Anonymous

Narcotics Anonymous
Suicide Prevention Hotline
Al Anon, for families of alcoholics
Narc Anon, for the families of drug addicts
for the families of addicts