“Shouldn’t you be over that by now?” is what she asks me. Before I elaborate on what “it” is, the following analogy:
Let’s say you’re a kid. Your dog has puppies. Your parents, bless their hearts relatively loving yet decidedly overburdened, can’t handle the additional expense. No one means to traumatize you for life. In fact, your folks do their damnedest to hide from you what happens to the fuzzy little pups. Nonetheless you take off in secret, following your dad who has the bag of yelping whelps. Imagine your reaction when, peeping through the tall grass you witness the scene: your parent, the person you love and trust to care for you, is bashing the heads in of those four baby animals.
No one lifts a finger against you. In fact, your parents try specifically to exclude you. So why? Yes why – does the memory still haunt? Shouldn’t you be over that by now? I’d say “no,” not if you’re a sensitive person. Why would you be over what seems to be a senseless death? Those poor dogs are never going to know walks at the beach, nights by the fire, hands to pat their heads. Those dogs will never enjoy eating treats, chewing on rawhide, jumping, climbing, digging, tracking, joy of life. They’re dead.
In a very similar way, much as he tried to hide it, I witness my former husband bashing his own head in. At any rate his brain is permanently damaged from his voluntary drug abuse. Like the parent in my analogy Howard is basically loving but definitely overburdened. Life is too much for him. Drugs represent “better-than.” Better than real life is being dead, because life, life is terribly painful. Feelings and emotions must be blunted or they overwhelm him.
When she asks me, “Shouldn’t you be over that by now?” I can’t help thinking of puppies and kittens and other helplessly vulnerable animals who are never going to know a life. The morphine pumped into Howard during an emergency room visit, on top of his ubiquitous use, deranges him. He loses the him-that-is-him. What is left is a full-time drug machine devoted to finding – using – finding – using until death do they part. The rational part of Howard’s brain is forever severed. He’s frighteningly paranoid. There’s literally (not figuratively) actually, physically, unfortunately, painfully, no talking to him.
The talking walking remains will tell anyone he meets how he suffers. He wants love, longs and yearns for unconditional acceptance. Be careful what you promise such a person. Be sure you are really ok with Howard continuing to kill himself before your very eyes. Unconditional means no conditions. You have to be ok with the fact that he is going to have a continual, devastating, hell-bent need to use. There are no small joys to being a using addict, only the big score. A using addict is emotionally fragile, exploits support and love to his own detriment. If Howard could have what (using) Howard craves it is the right to remain using until his death, unmolested by others, untroubled by their nagging, their demands, their needs. I get that.
It would not be unlike the last few years of his dog’s life, addicted as she was to very strong painkillers for her arthritis. When people ask “Why don’t you put that dog out of her misery?” Howard shrugs. Is she miserable? Maybe we all should be so lucky as to go through life in a fog. Howard doesn’t do drugs in a vacuum. He drugs because the alternative is too painful too awful too unappealing to face. Drugs is a step up. No one kills himself for the downside of giving up evenings by the fireplace, parties and social events. Howard drugs because life is freakin’ untenable. Until or unless life is willing to step up to the plate and offer a better option drugs will be done.
But shouldn’t you be over that by now? is what she asks me. I guess I should be ok with him throwing away his life. Stop having a judgement. Heartbreaking can be banality depends on yer point of view. Caring for others requires an ego, which is mos def what some of these yoga/spiritual/new age types aim to erase.
With a small push I delete her troll. There is ever so much I’m tempted to say about her Dalai Lama quote “My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness.” She is not kind. Does she even read the shit she posts? I don’t admire people who desensitize themselves. To feel ok about puppies and kittens and hopeless addicts dying brutal violent deaths, is harsh. I say “hopeless” addicts to differentiate from the ones with hope. Surely there are addicts who manage to find love, stay sober and create lasting friendships. Just not my ex. The cumulative use combined with the concoction of drugs given to him at the emergency room permanently altered his psyche.
When I caution Howard’s family he’s a using addict they unload an earful on me. Heaping me with abuse for heaping him with abuse. Since when is calling an using addict a using addict an insult? This really hurts the situation. If only Howard hadn’t been so charming he might have sobered up a long time ago. People hate to think a goofy, well-meaning guy like Howard is actually calculating what he can get for his next fix. It’s nothing personal that he’s raiding your medicine cabinet. Don’t expect a using addict to use food money for food. Give him food if you want him to eat. Don’t come crying to me about – “He has no food and he used my money to buy drugs,” because that is on you as much as if you handed him the Vicodin.
Handing him Vicodin is not a kindness.
Until, or unless, people are willing to drop the cultural assumption that “using addict” is an insult and accept it as a factual observation there’s no help. Even Howard knows that. The last lucid conversation we had we talked about what life would look like if he could just be honest. What if he could just say, “I’d rather be high right now than eating dinner with you?” The playing field would be level. Instead, I remember, a truly awful birthday when he insists on taking me out. I agree, solely to avoid a fight. There is no fun in watching him pass out in his plate. It’s not a hilarious rom-com, it’s a pathetic scene at the end of our lives together.
The waitress packs the untouched meal. Two days after my birthday Howard demands to know why we didn’t go out. There seems to be no acceptable way to observe “because you’d rather be high than eat dinner with me.” He’s going to take offense. Instead I show him the styrofoam boxes in our refrigerator. Because he has no memory of the event he invents one that includes my treating him poorly, excluding him purposefully. He hungers for the feeling of being part of a family but quite frankly the drug use obliterates any chance. This is painful for me to observe, even when I strive to be dispassionate. Not hurtful, painful – a blow to the chest that shakes the heart.
But I know, I know. I should be over it by now. After all, like the puppies, no one meant to traumatize me for life. He did his damnedest to hide from me what was going on.
Now y’all play nice!