My brother-in-law is a heroin addict. Unbeknownst to many, he suffered from a 20-year pain pill addiction before falling prey to the black tar. I’m not here to tell you about his downward spiral. Addicts’ families know the plummeting hole that consumes their loved ones. What I am here to tell you about is how enabling is a death sentence. When I see some homeless people walking along the sidewalk, distributing their worldly possessions across their shoulders and bearing heavy burdens in the carved out worry lines on their faces, I am deeply saddened. My mind wanders to their families. They must have decided not to enable and gone through sheer hell standing by their ultimatums. Throwing money at addicts and death is far easier than not enabling and choosing life. To not enable is the most difficult challenge families face. I am guilty of enabling. How many times I listened to my brother-in-law’s stories, took pity on him and brought him gifts, cooked his meals, or was lenient with his rent getting paid, I don’t know. I am guilty of not seeing the signs of his slow demise – the dark circles, the thinned out sallow cheeks, graying skin, erratic mood swings, and strange behaviors. I knew deep inside that something was wrong, but I buried that little voice, rationalizing everything and not wanting to analyze the harsh facts that were staring me in the face. It wasn’t until the police brought us the tip of the iceberg that we dug to find the bottom of this massive weight. What we found shocked us. While we felt profound betrayal, the hardest emotion to ignore was the pain in my heart. What I could have done differently, replaying so many moments in my head, seeing how all the missing pieces of his strange behavior puzzle were coming together to form a grizzly image. So I would learn not to enable because I want him to live, I got professional help. I want his kind, generous soul and loving spirit to return to us. The brother-in-law I loved and cherished, I want to know again. I believe somewhere that person is still in his current shell, but it’s going to take a long road of recovery for him to return home. The late nights spent researching detox and rehab, the hours pouring over his insurance, FMLA requirements and looking into dual-diagnosis programs to realize that his underlying depression had never been adequately treated – I’m not here to complain about those missing hours of my life. If my brother-in-law returns to us a whole person, every day, hour, minute and second spent trying to give him life is worth it. I have no regrets. Human life is valuable, and his life means everything to me. Life is worth it. Death is not. Death is forever and enabling is a death sentence. We love the person, not the fractured addict. There’s a difference. I know that underneath the layers of addictive traits, drug use and sadness, there sits my humble brother-in-law, allowing feelings of inadequacy, shame, guilt and self-loathing to take over. Black tar is the monster. Its demonic pull has taken over the person I love, leaving a shell of a human being who doesn’t value his life. He has abandoned life and lives in a fog where he cannot see how much the people around him genuinely love and care about him. We hurt just as much as addicts do. Our hearts break to see those we love choose a self-destructive path. Black tar has ripped our family apart. It has pitted brother against brother, mother against son, father against children and the damage it has left in its wake is irreversible. Things have been said, actions have been taken, lines have been drawn and our family is forever changed. We no longer share holidays, big game events or the most important things in our lives. Instead, we live compartmentalized from one another, friction brewing and anger surging. Sadness wells within me that there is no going back to the days when we were all naive to drug addiction, and its tentacle-like suction that wraps everyone into its folds and consumes all happiness. Guilt is the core of enablement. We have all heard family members feeling sorry for addicts, blaming the abusive step-dad, child molestation or tragic childhood experiences. Yes, these issues are at the center of why many people choose to go down the dark path of addiction. However, the guilt that we enablers live with fuels this disease. Instead of suffocating the addict’s disease and not giving it the necessary financial aid to survive, we throw money at the problem to satisfy our guilt. It makes us feel better, but all it does for the addict is give him the necessary cash to score a hit and get high. It is one step closer to overdosing, and it is one step closer to deadly finality. It’s hard for families not to enable. It’s even harder for family members to agree not to enable and follow through with their commitments. Typically, looking back at successful rehab stories, they involve all family members. They all hold a firm line not enabling the addict. This suffocates the necessary resources from addicts that give them the financial ability to afford their habits. However, all it takes is one person to hold out and enable. Doing so effectively gives the user the ability to let his addiction grow even deeper roots and flourish. This is what happened to us. It’s what happens to so many other families in America. When someone does not understand how enabling kills they are the weak link. It will be the downfall of an addict. I long for the days when life was simple, but yet I know I cannot return to those moments. They are but distant memories of my past before black tar tore apart our family and our futures.
Get Help at Acqua Recovery
Located in Midway, Utah, Acqua Recovery has the necessary resources to help you or someone you love overcome heroin addiction for good. In addition to our heroin addiction rehab program, we offer a wide range of substance abuse treatment programs in Utah, including:
Don’t let black tar heroin continue to tear you or your family’s life apart.