On loving an addict

This week, a long time friend of mine passed away.  I’d like to say that it was unexpected but, unfortunately, that wasn’t the case.

My friend was a heroin addict.

That path often leads to a less than happy ending.

Dave was handsome, funny, and a talented, fierce drummer.  He was also one of the sweetest people and surrounded by a loving family and plenty of friends who cared deeply about him. My friend had “everything going for him.”


But addiction doesn’t give a damn about any of that.  None of that matters one iota when it comes to addiction.

That’s because addiction is not discriminatory. It doesn’t give a shit about your race, your politics, your income level, your background, nothing.  Addiction can happen to anyone, at any time.  And sometimes there is never a “good reason” for it. (If you ever watch the show Intervention, it seems like every addict has a backstory loaded with tragedy.  That’s not always the case.)

So this week, I bid my friend adieu.

I want to remember all the good times but, sadly, the most recent times were so heartbreaking, I’m having trouble going back there.


We shared an intuitive connection and a brotherly/sisterly telepathic vibe (we were both Geminis, born a day apart – cosmic twinship was at play), so it wasn’t shocking when a year ago, I sensed his energy in my bones.  A quick online search and I discovered he was sitting in jail.

My husband and I decided to visit him.  We wanted to make sure he knew that we still cared, even though we had been out of touch for a few years.  (That often happens with addicts…they seem to drop off the face of the earth.)

When we saw him behind the little television screen, he looked good and healthy.  He had the same old humor and kindness that we remembered so well.  And he was sober and looking forward to starting over once he got out.

He was delighted with the visit and we told him to look us up when he got out.

I left thinking maybe…just maybe…he would make it.  I was woefully naive.


A few months later, he did indeed look us up.

But the man who showed up at our door that night was not him.  My beautiful friend had been replaced with a changeling that was ravaged, worn out, and out of it.  He was filthy and living on the streets – and, worse yet, didn’t seem to care. The once vain stylish rocker wouldn’t even let me wash his clothes.  He wasn’t interested in the toothbrush I gave him or the dinner we cooked.

In fact, he didn’t seem interested in anything at all except the money I pressed into his palm.

My illusions were shattered.  I knew right then and there that this wasn’t going to end well. 

After he left, I cried. And worried. I wasn’t going to be able to help him.  He was too far gone and didn’t want my help – he only wanted to feed his addiction.


Two weeks later, he was back in jail, where he sat for another nine long months.  (I was secretly relieved because I knew he wouldn’t be freezing on the street.  Wisconsin is NOT a good place to be homeless in winter.)

On occasion, he tried to ring us from jail, but we decided to maintain a boundary.  (This is not easy to do when you are a “helper” personality.) Until he got his act together, we didn’t want to support his downward spiral.

Last week, he got out and tried to call again but those slurred messages were a sign that he was right back on something (not sure what).

A few days later, he was dead.

Rumors are still swirling.  Some say it’s an overdose.  Others claim it’s a heart attack.  It’s all hazy.


When you love an addict, you’re always prepared for the worst.  You imagine what the end is going to be like all the time.  You expect that knock on the door, the phone call, the sad email.  You try to brace yourself.  But in reality, you are still surprised because even in the worst cases, families of addicts try to carry a seed of hope somewhere deep down inside.  It’s because they remember the human being behind that addiction.


The hardest emotion to deal with when an addict dies is not grief – it’s the crushing, nagging guilt. The guilt of “what could I have done differently to help him” or “did I help him enough?” (There is also the guilt that comes when you set a boundary.  I’ve been struggling mighty hard with that one.)


The truth is, you’re powerless.  There is no right nor wrong way.  And there’s not much you can do except love them, try to support them as best you can, and pray.  (When you love an addict, you pray a lot – even if you are not religious.)


And then, you move on.  Because you have to.  You can’t dwell in that sadness too long.

I’ll never know what kind of things my friend would have achieved if he would have chosen a different path.  But I do know one thing: he is leaving a hole in my heart and nothing, nothing will fill that.

RIP Dave.  I’m so, so sorry and I’m going to miss you, my brother.


“Every pain, addiction, anguish, longing, depression, anger or fear

is an orphaned part of us seeking joy, some disowned shadow

wanting to return to the light and home of ourselves.” ― Jacob Nordby




© Theresa Reed | The Tarot Lady 2014

 image from stock photography

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