Written by: Joey Porchetta
Loving an addict is hard; it requires patience and acceptance. It requires you to have hope even when you feel completely hopeless. It can be the hardest thing you ever have to do. The return value of loving an addict, though not easily quantified, is not something that’s talked about much. It’s easy to give up on us; I know the feeling personally, being an addict in recovery.
In my state of active use I certainly felt incapable of giving and receiving love; I pushed people to their limits and most of them broke, but not all of them broke. Often times I would think “what if everyone had given up on me?”.
I think back to a moment- driving in a car with my identical twin brother around Christmas three or four years ago. On this particular day I had gotten a phone call from a family member who I had stolen medicine from. She told me that I wasn’t welcome home, and she asked me if I was ever going to change. As I hung up the phone, tears rolling down my cheeks, I felt my brother grab my hand and say, “I will never give up on you Joey”. To this day I cry when I think back to that moment. I cannot imagine how hard it must have been for him to love me as I was, nor can I begin to express how much that meant to me.
Addicts and alcoholics aren’t bad people trying to get good, we're sick people trying to get well – and we need you. We need your love and patience and tolerance. We need your kindness more than we need your anger and disappointment (although, I understand addict behaviors often warrant these sorts of feelings). THIS IS SO MUCH EASIER SAID THAN DONE. TRUST ME, IF THERE’S ANYONE WHO UNDERSTANDS THIS, IT’S ME. It’s difficult to quantify the return value of loving an addict, but what I can tell you is how much unbiased, authentic, relentless love impacted my own personal experience.
My recovery was built on a foundation of unconditional love from my family. A family who I lied to, who I stole from, who I did terrible, despicable things to. A family who I drove absolutely insane for 5 years. I split family members against one another, I fought physically with some of them (got my ass kicked), but at the end of the day, no matter how bad it got, they never gave up on me. Some hung in longer than others, some took days off from loving me, but not one of them broke. They stuck it out like champs just long enough for me to become willing, or pained enough to change. There’s no way I can pay them back, but the plan is to show them that I understand (that’s a Tupac song lyric).
If you feel like giving up on your addicted son, or daughter, or husband, or wife: Don’t.
Love them knowing they can recover. Love them for their light, not their darkness. Love them because they’re worth it, and they need you.