Addiction Is a Thief
He wanted money for pills.
He, the man I loved. The man I poured my time and energy and hope into over and over again, because he had no time or energy or hope for himself. The man I thought I could rescue before I finally opened my tightly-shut young eyes and realized it was not my job to rescue anyone but myself. The man who taught me life lesson after life lesson over a number of years that can easily be called “too many.”
On this one particular night — in the midst of a sweaty hot August when I should have been spending my days on the beach rather than curled up in my bed all day too afraid to face the world and too ashamed to ask for help — he wanted money for pills.
It was dark, maybe 9 PM, and I was home while he was at work. He was somehow managing to hold down a job, but beginning to falter once again under the pressure of responsibility. Access to a weekly paycheck was still not enough to support his growing habit. He called and texted me earlier that night saying he wanted me to help him with money.
I said no repeatedly.
I said I couldn’t help him anymore.
I wanted no part in paying for his drugs.
He called again later and told me he was going to spend the night at Q’s house. Q — as I only ever knew him — was the faceless, nameless drug dealer who I’m sure was a person with actual struggles and loved ones just like me, but who I will only ever despise and unfairly blame and wouldn’t hesitate to stab in the stomach if I ever had the chance.
I felt angry that he would choose to stay with Q, that he was choosing drugs over me and that he was giving up, or so it felt, in the battle he’d been fighting so long already. The lesson I forgot is that conscientious choice is often smothered by addiction.
He called me after he left work and repeated that he would not be home that night and that he’d call me in the morning. I know he was hoping I’d tell him to come home. He was hoping I’d cave again.
But I said, “Okay. Talk to you tomorrow,” trying to convey that I was serious about standing my ground this time.
About a half hour later, though, he came home. He marched in the house and said, “I’m not really staying at Q’s house. Did you think I would? When are you going to bed? Go to sleep already.”
He said he would just take what he needed, meaning my debit card, after I went to bed.
His words managed to come out of his mouth through his grinding teeth. His eyes — completely blank and yet completely fiery at the same time. His deep brown eyes, now black, were completely void of any empathy, compassion, or understanding. The person standing there talking to me, with gritted teeth and soulless eyes, was not the person I loved. This was a different person. This was the addiction talking.
I said, “No, I’m not giving you any more money. Do you realize how fucked up it is that you’d steal from me? You should’ve went somewhere else if you only came here to threaten me.”
My hands were shaking. My voice was quivering. I can hold back tears for only so long. I tried to be bold and angry and defend myself for as long as possible, so those feelings of fierceness could contain the tears. I’d given in to him before — I’d given him plenty of money for drugs — but he’d worn my spirit down so much that I’d reached my breaking point. This was me drawing the line in the sand, or trying to anyway.
His hands were fists. He’d never once physically hurt me before, yet I never felt so threatened. He was staring at me. Glaring. Fists clenched. I think he was fighting with himself more than with me.
Him versus the addiction. He was losing.
He’d get really close to my face and yell, his saliva speckling my cheeks in a show of power. He put his hands on my arms and yelled, shaking me slightly like a child. The small, helpless being that I was. I reached for the phone.
“Who are you calling?” he growled.
“I’m gonna call 911. I don’t know what else to do. You need help.”
He spoke slowly and clearly in a voice I barely recognized, “I will hurt you. Don’t. Call. Anybody.”
We argued more. Back and forth. Tears and yelling. The neighbors must have heard us. A huge part of me was embarrassed that they might hear, but a larger part of me was hoping they’d call the police or come knock on the door. I was hoping they’d send someone to save me.
He kicked the coffee table, overturning it. He punched a hole in the wall. That hole remained in the wall for months, until he finally did repair it the following spring. Everyday, for months, that hole was a reminder of this very night. It was a painful reminder, but I’m also glad it was there during his first few months getting sober again. He needed to see that hole everyday even more than I did.
He said he was going to end things permanently so neither one of us would have to deal with this anymore. He went to the garage for rope. This wasn’t the first time he tied a noose. This was a go-to move for him. This move always earned my pity: give him money or watch him kill himself. In hindsight, this was surely an empty threat, but I didn’t have hindsight then.
So, I gave him my debit card because I felt trapped. I felt that I couldn’t just let him go through with suicide because I cared about him so much and because I saw value in his life that he couldn’t see at the moment.
We’d played this scene before and this was how it always ended. I really wanted this night to end differently. I tried. I failed.
He won his money for drugs. He went to see Q, got his fix, and came home again to me curled up in my bed of depression.
I gained incentive — more incentive that I added to my stockpile, which would eventually become large enough for me to make real change. It’s the memories like this that keep me motivated to keep moving forward.
Today, I know that saying “I couldn’t just let him go through with suicide” is wrong in so many ways. His life — or suicide — is not within my control. It never was and never will be. My thinking during this time was warped and twisted. The mental exercises and emotions one goes through when being in a relationship with an addict are difficult to describe to someone who hasn’t been in those shoes. It’s a battle of control. Him trying to control his addiction and exhibit control over me; me trying to control his actions and maintain some semblance of control over our perceived lives — always trying to maintain that pretty picture, never letting on that we both went over the edge long ago. I was just as crazy and fucked up as he was. He and I both were trying to overcome the fucked-up-ness together. In time I managed to find my way out of that place. Just not on that particular night.
On that particular night, even though he never hit me before, I believed he was capable of injuring me in the moment. He was certainly capable of hurting me. He’d already inflicted plenty of damage.