There are very few things more devastatingly heartbreaking than loving an addict. Alcohol, drugs, sex, porn, gambling, it makes no difference. Addiction is an equal opportunity destroyer. No matter what you do, what you say, how much you beg, or how many tears you shed, they will always, always choose the addiction over you. Even when it means that they lose you – lose their spouse and children. Even when it means they will lose all the good things in their life. The addiction will always win. Always.
And all you can do is watch while your heart gets ripped out a little more each day, while your gut churns constantly and you can’t stop shaking. You cry silent tears until there are none left and swallow that constant lump in your throat. You always know that they don’t love you enough to do what they need to stop.
You always know you are second choice – because the addiction will always come first.
And if you try to make them choose, they will never choose you.
The addiction always wins.
You will never be attractive enough, smart enough, interesting enough – you’ll never, ever be enough – for them to choose you first. Still, you try. You try to make yourself more attractive, kinder, smarter, more interesting. You bend over backwards to give them everything you can, trying to make yourself more enticing than the addiction. Hoping against all hope they will look at you and say, “You know what? What I have right here is too good to lose and to precious to hurt and destroy. I choose you.”
But that never happens.
Instead, you are constantly vying for their attention, saying, “Hey! I’m right here! Look at me! Choose me! Please!”
And you cling to every crumb of attention they give you, living for the moments when they pretend you are first. You go along with the charade, pretending to believe because it is the only way to maintain your sanity. Other times you sit near them, longing for a glance, a word, a touch, something, anything to let you know that they feel something for you.
It’s the same with the lies. They will look right at you, right in the eye and lie without flinching. They lie about their addiction, lie about where they’ve been or what they’ve been doing. They lie and tell you that you come first, that it’s “only you.”
You know it’s a lie but you want so badly to believe. You fool yourself into believing that this time, finally, what they say will be truth.
Problem is, you can’t believe a word that comes out of an addict’s mouth. They get angry because you don’t trust them yet they refuse to make themselves trustworthy. They give you reason over and over to not trust then get upset when you don’t believe them.
And somehow that’s your fault.
You hold so tightly to that hope, that prayer, that one day they will choose you. One day they will turn away from the addiction and find a way to break it, to make it stop, to end the suffering and destruction. One day you will be able to believe them, to trust them.
And so many times that never happens.
Then there is the blame.
In your mind you know it must be irrational, right? Yet you can’t help but believe it, at least a little. It is your fault they have the addiction, can’t or won’t break the addiction, why it escalates – it’s all on you. On the darker days, every bad thing in their life is because of you or something you’ve done.
Their words are so vile, so hateful. They cut to the bone. But what is most disconcerting is that they like it. They enjoy seeing the pain register on your face, seeing you recoil from the vile spewing of contempt they direct at you. They want you to hurt and they know just what to say to get the job done. They want to tear you down until you are nothing, until you leave them alone with their addiction – until you stop begging for them to choose you.
The pendulum swings.
On the good days it’s not so bad, you just feel shaken, exhausted, hollowed out, worthless, discouraged, but you can mask it fairly well. You can’t let them see how seriously they have hurt you, how they are destroying you, what they’ve done to your mind, your body, your spirit, how they’ve crushed your heart again and again – how they’ve shattered your self esteem and broken your spirit.
But they really don’t care anyway.
You feel ugly, worthless, distraught, raw, useless, alone, unwanted, unlovable as you wait for the next time they have a good day – then the next time they chase that addiction. The next time they don’t choose you.
And you never know when that will be.
So, you live in your own, private hell, knowing you are second choice to something that is destroying the person you love and destroying you in the process. Most people won’t understand why you choose to stay so you don’t really talk about it.
Leaving or turning away from them is never an option. You think about it, but then your heart plays that cruel trick and reminds you of the good times. So you hang on, thinking, “Tomorrow may be the day. Tomorrow I might come first.” But tomorrow never seems to come, so you just keep waiting.
You just hold it all inside and hope that one day, one day they choose you.
The silent victims.
When you are praying for addicts, take a moment and whisper a prayer for the people who love them, the mothers, fathers, husbands, wives, children – for they are all suffering deep, unimaginable pain as well. Addiction leaves a hole in your heart. It destroys lives and families.
But what most people don’t realize is that they are devastatingly destructive to the people who love that addict. They are the ones who are neglected, abused, used, manipulated. They are the ones who are trying to desperately to make it stop because they know that person they love is in there, somewhere.
They are the silent victims. The ones who have to watch and feel that pain and devastation over and over and over. They are the ones caring for that addict, feeding them, paying for their needs, keeping their clothes clean, giving them shelter – giving of themselves just to be ignored, disrespected, hurt. Just to know that they aren’t enough. No matter what they do or how much they give they will never be enough to be first choice.
The addiction always wins.
They are the ones who cry alone at night and stay in their head because who would understand anyway?
They are the ones waiting, waiting for the addict to choose them.