I’m sure most of you are familiar with the show “Intervention” on A&E. It’s brilliant. And heartbreaking. And frustrating. And gut-wrenching. And uplifting. It is all of those things and more. Which is why I consider myself to be a bit of an “Intervention” addict. I cannot get enough of this show. Sunday nights I am glued to A&E. If there’s a marathon playing, I’m watching. And don’t even ask me how many hours I’ve watched online. I have truly lost count!
This show is REAL. It is filmed documentary style and the things you see happening are scary as hell. The struggles of the addicts are real. The anger and frustration of the families and loved ones are real. And again, I cannot get enough of it.
Why? Because I have been there. Smack dab in the middle of that shit-storm known as addiction. That is the only way to describe it. Addiction is a literal shit-storm. For the addict and for their loved ones. I know this because I found myself unknowingly in the middle of that shit-storm for 8 years. That’s right, I spent 8 years of my life married to an addict. I am well-versed in the conversations of co-dependency and the delicate web of lies they will weave to keep you believing that things are okay. Addicts are master manipulators. And if you are the spouse, or family member, or loved one of an addict, you will eventually come to believe that YOU are the crazy one because the web of lies and manipulations have become so thick you cannot tell the truth from the lies any more. And it truly will make you crazy.
My 8 years with an addict, doing that manipulative dance, led to my eventual diagnosis of PTSD. The relationship was traumatic. The things I endured throughout that 8 years were traumatic. The 5 year legal battle that ensued upon our divorce in order to ensure the safety of my child was traumatic. And so those of us that manage to extricate ourselves from the addictive cycle do not escape unscathed. We are damaged as well. And this is why I sit transfixed in front of my TV or computer watching “Intervention”.
I grind my teeth in frustration at the addicts that refuse to put their own children ahead of their addictions. I scream at the TV every time a child is left with a relative so the addict can “prioritize.” I feel compassion towards the addict when I hear their stories of childhood trauma, and hope beyond hope that someone can get through to them so they can pick up the pieces and attempt to start over. And I cry in solidarity with the husbands, wives, mothers, fathers, and children, who have watched the person they love slip away. They feel helpless. They feel hopeless. They feel hurt and anger. And they feel sadness. Sadness for the life they are watching slip away. And sadness when they look inward and realize how much of their own lives have been lost to someone else’s addiction. It is a heartbreaking disorder and I would not wish it on my worst enemy.
The last 30 seconds of “Intervention” is usually a black screen where a written update is posted on the addict and their progress. I hold my breath every time. And every time, I cry. If the update states that the addict has left treatment early and gone back to their old habits I cry tears of sadness for them, and tears of anger and frustration for their family members. I have been one of those family members, and knowing you and your child were not the priority just breaks you all over again. And if the update is positive, something along the lines of “So and so has been sober since May, 2013”, I cry tears of joy, for the recovering addict and for the people who love them.
I have the utmost respect for those who can bring themselves to get help and turn their lives around. You are the bravest of the brave. My heart aches for those who cannot, as I have seen first-hand the kind of life that will lead you to. And to those of you who love or have loved an addict, I send you strength. Strength to deal with your own issues while the addict you love is in recovery. Or the strength to hold to your boundaries and walk away. Because sometimes THAT is the act of love you need to give yourself.
I chose the latter. The act of love I gave to myself and my then 5-year-old son was to walk away. Because his father had chosen his addiction over his wife and child.
And that is why I hold my breath during those last 30 seconds of “Intervention”. I hold my breath in anticipation. Hoping that the addict that has been offered this amazing gift of a new life will be smart enough and strong enough to take it. My ex-husband did not have that strength. But I continue to hold my breath each week for the millions who do.
LazyGourmetBlog is a Grimsby, Ontario mom, navigating the daily struggles of a personal PTSD diagnosis, and the challenges of raising an almost-teenager with Generalized Anxiety Disorder. As a former professional ballroom dancer, her personal struggles with anxiety and PTSD have very often been hidden in plain sight, presenting their own unique challenges in this very public former profession. One of her favourite quotes is, “The journey is the goal,” and that motto carries her through each day, learning, supporting, and carrying on.