Observing the Pattern.

“I woke up twice last night. And not to go to the bathroom. My body was sweating, heart racing, my eyes impossibly open. Normal nightmare body response. Except this was not a typical nightmare. I wasn’t falling, or being chased, or recycling scary bits from a ridiculous movie. This was real. I saw Sarah running up to my car window proclaiming that she had been discharged from the hospital, and asking me to buy her some cigarettes, that “she’ll owe me one.” I was so happy to see her. And then it dawned on me that she had run. That she wasn’t going to accept any help. And I was filled with anger, and fear, and sadness and anger and fear and sadness – I was spinning, and sweating, and desperate. And she was tying a long pink lace on a fancy hightop sneaker.”

Just another dream. But it is uncanny how the subconscious pinpoints the most fearsome fact of substance abuse: that the addict appears ignorant to the danger they are courting. The family, however, sees the train wreck approaching. It’s a well worn cyclical pattern. First you note the restlessness, the mounting body tension and the explosive language. Then comes the quiet storm of evasiveness brought on by late nights, sickness and lies.

This is the worst part of living with an addict. Seeing all the signs that they apparently miss. I have heard it said that the addict is a “selfish person.” A “liar.” And “hopeless.”

Addicts definitely lie to cover their tracks for as long as possible. And they are selfish – to a degree. But it is hard to think of someone who is self destructive as truly “selfish.” Hopeless? – yes, it often does seem hopeless.

Putting all labels aside; how in God’s name can you help someone who does not think they are in trouble? Who will sweetly tie a pink shoelace while contemplating where to score their next hit?

I am convinced that the addict has to slow down long enough to recognize the internal rhythms of their own bodies and minds.  Not an easy process considering man’s natural tendency is to tread the well worn path – thoughtlessly.

Unfortunately the addicts behavior is so extreme. And the consequences of their behavior that much more obvious. What they really need is the space and time to redefine their relationship with their own patterned responses.

Insurance companies, in our experience, have offered ten days within which to make this lifestyle change.   Ten days!

But your husband might run for office.

The key word in this sentence is “but.”

(Because my husband is not going to run for state office!)

These words were said by a well intentioned family member. It was a warning that having a known addict as a child would most certainly preclude any future political appointments.

So secrecy, or discretion, is key.

The problem with secrecy is that it doesn’t invite change.
Your “problem” remains hidden – swaddled in shame.
Addiction is one of the last frontiers to be openly, and honestly, discussed. It used to be common to deny a relative’s homosexuality. (To put them in the proverbial closet!) Thankfully those days are behind us. Many parents will proudly introduce you to their child and their child’s partner. But not many will freely admit that someone in their home struggles with the disease of addiction. However, numbers don’t lie. And the alarming number of young people overdosing across the nation is testament that the problem is right here…. and right there… and over there. It is no longer expedient to be discreet.

As for politicos with addicts in the family… I can think of quite a few. In the recent primary debates Carly Fiorina spoke of the loss of her step daughter to addiction. Ted Cruz’s sister overdosed. Jeb Bush’s daughter smuggled crack cocaine into her rehab facility. Donald Trump’s brother died of alcoholism. And how about those who suffered from the disease of addiction themselves? Our very own mayor of Boston, Marty Walsh, is in recovery. Our nation’s Drug Czar, Michael Botticelli, is in recovery. Former President George Bush freely admits that he had to give up alcohol because he couldn’t control his use.

And what about the first lady Betty Ford? In the words of Barbara Bush, “Betty transformed her pain into something great for the common good. Because she suffered, there will be more healing. Because of her grief, there will be more joy.”

Now that’s worth talking about.