“Hope leads to a broken heart.”
Is all I can think about when I receive bad news about a close friend. It hasn’t been smooth sailing but I was so hopeful for them. They were making progress, they had a plan. They were working hard. And then things fly off the rails for them.
It slapped me right in the face when I found out.
I think one of the biggest things I’m learning as I get older is that there’s a limit to what we can do to help others. We can tell them how much we care about them, we can support them, we can be there for them, but there’s a limit. This realization doesn’t sit well, but few things about getting older sit well.
After the sting of this news about my friend has worn off a bit, I think about what we’re doing when we’re drinking or using drugs or harming ourselves in various ways. And, I think, mostly what we’re doing is trying to avoid whatever it is that we can’t stand. We’re running from the pain. We’re distracting ourselves from a problem in a manner that creates more problems. These new problems might be more palatable. They might be more acceptable in a certain light. But ultimately, they just compound whatever it is we don’t want to face.
And for the people who have the biggest struggles with addiction, I think it’s because they have the most pain and are the least able to cope with that pain. Drinking day after day after day doesn’t make sense to some of us, until you consider that the alternative might be such an intense pain that staying perpetually drunk is actually preferable, regardless of how much it might fuck up a person’s life.
So what’s the secret to getting past this?
Unfortunately, I don’t think there is a secret.
Sometimes, I think we just need to stop running. We need to try to sit there with whatever it is and not resist the pain or try to escape our current reality. The first step to getting better is being able to sit with whatever it is that’s causing us pain. It sounds simple, but I’m constantly amazed at how difficult the simplest things in life can be.