Wednesday, September 28, 2016

The Bitter End

In every Narcotics Anonymous meeting, those attending are reminded twice in the first few minutes of what the ultimate destination of the using addict is, if we do not somehow stop using and stay stopped. Two of the readings feature the phrase "jails, institutions, and death." It is inevitable; no one gets to go on forever in the desolate limbo of active addiction. Having traversed that no man's land myself, I not only refuse to sit in judgment on those that are still trapped there, but know that it is not a moral issue, that it is not a willpower issue, that it's not a desire issue, that it's not even a medical issue. The human mind is a wondrous thing, capable of astonishing ingenuity, incredible reservoirs of compassion and empathy--but also capable of harboring chimeras and demons that are far worse than the most macabre fantasies of soul-sucking succubi science fiction has ever imagined. The mind of an active addict, when they are strung out and degrading themselves all day every day, with hope for the future extinguished, is the most empty, horrible condition that human beings can experience, and it is next to impossible to convey the sense of how awful a state it really is to someone that has not gone through it themselves.
I have. And when someone that matters to you is going through it, it is like taking blows from a baseball bat to your rib cage seven or eight times a day. I've been pretty open the last couple of months about my struggling to come to terms with the descent back into addiction of my ex--how to be useful without being enabling, how to stay supportive without exposing myself to danger, how to keep from dousing what little embers of hope might still be alive by reacting emotionally when provoked, how to keep my distance when basic human decency is screaming that active intervention is necessary. The only other time in my life that I have had this close a seat to the active addiction of someone that I had a deep emotional connection to, I was not clean--and I ended up sliding into the abyss myself.
I did not this time. It wasn't a real close call, at any time, and for that, I am unimaginably grateful. I have learned over the years that feelings, however difficult to walk through, will pass; I have learned that life is complex and multi-faceted, and no one circumstance should dictate a crossing of a personal Rubicon. I am beyond grateful that as emotionally invested as I am, it is not on the same level as it was months ago, that detachment was in place and that I could maintain rationality in the face of the most intense yanking on the heartstrings possible.
And as sad as I am about one of the three outcomes coming to pass two days ago, I am grateful, too. Death, at least for the moment, is off the table. I would have preferred that institutions been given a chance to help, but it was not my choice to make, and the person has been in institutions twice in the last month--and heeded the call of the addiction and left them, knowing that this outcome was likely. I had my own moments like that at the end of my active addiction; four times in the last three weeks I was out there, I had a bed waiting for me at the Addictions Crisis Center, and four times I did not show up. I firmly believe that if I had showed up one of those times, if I had taken the bed, my story would include relapse, probably more than one. There are no coincidences. My belief, developed over years of developing a conscious contact with a God of my understanding, is that knowledge of what God wants for us is always available--and that if we repeatedly ignore the more subtle hints and then the pushier indications, eventually the direction He would like for us to go in is applied with a sledgehammer, in a way that even the most stubborn and the most dense of us cannot possibly miss or misinterpret.
At the time I was not showing up at the ACC, I wasn't done yet. It took jail, and a long time in institutions after jail, for me to be done. It takes what it takes, and whatever point is necessary to surrender is different for each individual addict. My ex has already endured far more misery and pain because of addiction than I think I ever could have, and I honestly do not know whether this is going to be The Time--I suspect she does not, either. I do know that she will have plenty of time to figure it out; she will not be at liberty for at least five months, and quite possibly for up to eighteen months.
And I know at least one thing is going to be different for her this time in her latest journey through the penal system than it has in the past. I did have a part in this; although my motives were good, and it was reasonable to believe that what I was doing would prove to be helpful--in the end, I served as a pillow, a way to make consequences less than they could have been. We are not a couple now like we were then, and my level of involvement now is going to be very, very low. I have done the major part of what I am going to do already; her material possessions are stored safely away, so that when she is through paying her legal consequences, she will not have to start from scratch like she has the last few times she has been in this situation. But there will be no daily phone contact, no regular visitation, no daily letters. We don't have it like that anymore.
But more importantly, I am a firm believer, based on my own and many others' experience, that the only--the only--motivating factor in people making the decision to make necessary, healthy choices for themselves is pain. When the pain of not changing becomes greater than the fear of the unknown--and the idea of all changes falls under "fear of the unknown;" no one knows beyond doubt what results a departure from established routine and patterns will bring, and our imaginations conjure up all sorts of possibilities that usually justify inaction-- then, and only then, is changing undertaken. For many people, spending twenty-one of the last thirty-eight months in jails and prisons (and two more in a rehab), and six of the other fifteen in active addiction would be enough to effect a desire to change. For others, the pain has not been great enough. Maybe another five to eighteen months incarcerated will finally tip the scales. I don't know; I fervently hope that it does.
But this is the point where our stories are going to substantially diverge. I am not wrapped up in her any longer; we have apart for months now. Do I care about her? Of course. She will always have a part of my heart; I will never not care about her, and I don't feel like I have to justify that feeling. But I have detached. I did not want to see her die, and I was truly hoping that she would take advantage of the opportunities she had to arrest the downward slide she's been in recently that did not involve incarceration. That hope proved vain, but she is still alive, and as long as an addict, any addict, is drawing breath, change is still possible. And I pray every day that it will come to pass.
But I pray to God. I am not God, and I can't make it happen. Intellectually, I've known this for a long time, but in my heart I see I was trying to help the change along for a long time. I'm not there anymore. I reached my own bitter end a long time ago, and I have no desire to stamp my passport back there, for any reason, for anybody.

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