the heartbreak of addictions

Just to be clear.  Addictions do not discriminate.

Two men.

Two very different lives.

Both losing their lives to this disease.  And yes, addictions are a disease.  That’s non-negotiable.


Born to two who had been longing for him for years.

Raised with everything he needed and many things he wanted.

Born to a woman who couldn’t or wouldn’t

with his bag packed he became a part of a new family

A family where his needs were met, but love looked different

He took his first taste of alcohol at thirteen

and he liked it

He took his first taste of alcohol at thirteen

and he liked it

He had friends and they played football, had good times,

worked hard, played hard

and hung out at the pool on the weekends

He graduated top of his class

and made the highest score even though he was hung over when he took the test

He had friends in the neighborhood

They were full of mischief and mayhem and laughter

He dropped out of school as soon as he was able to

He went to college, graduated

moved back to his hometown

He married, had a precious child

became president of the company,

grew apart and divorced

He moved out on his own, lived hand to mouth

paycheck to paycheck

Worked construction

Severe injury and a settlement

Lived it up for as long as the money would hold

Bought a place, a motorcycle, lived with his love

He worked, he built up the business,

he married again, had a beautiful child

the drinking became harder to say no to

He started hiding it, morning, noon, and night

Passing out sometimes

Entered politics, wore his mask well

For a while

He lived it up, as did his friends,

until the money was gone

Then he moved home

He drank, his father died, his temper flared

He had nowhere left to go

He went to the woods

and the streets

and wherever he could find a place to lay his head

He made poor choices, judgment clouded by the alcohol

Divorced again, mask and business crumbled

Found another job, a good one, and somehow made it work

Landed on his feet, surrounded by friends and co-workers

who loved and cared and didn’t know

or turned a blind eye

He made poor choices, begged for food

Found a community of friends who took care of each other,

shared what they had

including the alcohol

His parents watched, hearts broken, but faces looking forward, hopeful

When his father died, his voice cracked and his heart broke

He married a third time

They drank together

He was trying to rebuild his life, but relationships fell apart

His mother watched and loved from afar, heart aching

Meeting him for breakfast, giving him a few dollars when she could

Taking him to get things he needed sometimes

He camped out in one spot until the police told him to move it along

So he found another place until the next time

In and out of jail, public drunkenness, loitering, panhandling

Jail was hard, detoxing each time, but there was food and a roof and warmth and air

He got sick

Scary sick

He was told his life was at risk

No more alcohol, no more, he was poisoning his body

He.  Must.  Stop.

And he tried.

As long as he could.

No one knows why he faltered.

He was in court-mandated rehab.  Once.  Twice. 

It was the third time that a door opened.  

One of the best programs in the country. 

He went there, he got stronger, he succeeded.  Made wise choices.  Sober.  SOBER.

Then a transitional program. 

But he couldn’t work for pay. 

His former injury or all of the drinking–who knew which? or both?–

had rendered him unable to work 

He wanted to do more, like all the others

He struggled with it

He came home for a visit, staying in a hotel, as he wasn’t allowed back home

And he drank just one.  And then another. 

Back on the streets. 

Hard.  Cold.  Hungry.  He was allowed to come back to the transitional home. 

Another visit home months later. Doing so well. 

And another visit.  And he made the choice. 

Powerless over the disease. 

He reached his hand out and took it. 

Sobriety thrown out like week-old bread.  Almost without a thought. 

Members of clubs, titles like president, treasurer, trusted friend, respected co-worker

Such a good mask wearer, even when his own body was betraying him

Smiles and handshakes and an aching pain

He went back to his life on the streets,

depending on the missions and the kindness of strangers

He is alive but he must bow to the whims of others

To those who turn away when they see him,

to the police who chase him from his safe places,

forcing him to leave his few precious belongings

with the hopes that he can return later and retrieve them

to the alcohol addiction that has such a strong hold over him.

So many things he has lost over the years

So much life he has lost

So many dreams

He wanted more, he still does,

he just can’t connect the dots–he can’t put it down for good. 

The disease is in control and taking his life. 

In the end his body could take no more.

The damage had been done.

He had dreams that never came to be.

He wanted more, he wanted to do more.

But it was over.  Way too soon.

The disease was in control and took his life.


Addictions do not discriminate.  They take the educated, the well to do, and the poor.  The charming and the loners.  The good friends, the fathers, the sisters, the children, the brothers, the mothers, and the ones no one seems to know.  The only difference between the addictions’ taking the successful and their taking the forlorn is that more people mourn the loss of the successful–they seek answers and make up excuses for what happened.  The loss of the forlorn somehow makes sense to people and they don’t struggle with it as much.  If they even hear about it.  The truth is that every loss to this disease is tragic and awful and a heartbreak for all of humanity.  And it won’t change until we recognize it as a disease and start treating it as such.  It’s not easy.  In fact, it’s a very complicated disease, and it hurts not just the person who has it, but all those who care about him or her.  We have to somehow separate the addicts from the disease, love them, and assist them in finding the help they seek.  In the words of my Daddy, “You can want it for them, but you can’t do it for them.”

This is an equal opportunity disease.  Folks from all walks of life are vulnerable.  It must be talked about and prevented and treated.  The best way to begin is to love and offer understanding and support.

Great thoughts on other addictions can be found in this great post here.

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