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As I sit down to write, uncertain where to begin, I feel like an old suitcase. An old, weather-beaten and worn out suitcase with a broken lock. A lock that provides an access to the long forgotten memories; an escape route. After being hidden away for long, these memories come tumbling out from the dark corners of the attic of my heart.

I am a vicarious addict. I have lived with one for  close to half a decade. After his demise I am drawn to books that address the issue of addiction. Many have asked me why I read such books that unleash the pain, each time with greater intensity.  To this all I have to say is that like everyone else I have the need to be understood and be accepted.  Not many people understand what I have been through, am still going through. I have never been to Al-Anon meetings.  In these books (Million Little Pieces, Dry, Beautiful Boy, Rachel’s Holiday, The Tennis Partner), I see my own struggles and confusion being reflected.  I cry as if they are my own, in a way they are.  I feel understood. 

Every time I think have wiped off the mist from the mirror of my life, I can see a thin film again coating it.  Just when I think I am completely over the pain I come across a phrase, a book, a song that triggers the memories that I so want to leave behind. “Beautiful Boy”, my current read   is a father’s Journey through his son's addiction.  Every page of this book speaks to me. I feel a kinship with every emotion that the author feels. I experience sameness in the difference. Places, people and details differ but the feeling, a loved one of an addict goes through are the same.  Feelings of helplessness, despair, denial, anger and self blame. 

I have always loved a bow on a b ’day package. It makes the whole deal more arrtactive and consequently more appealing.  Somewhere in my mind I was hoping for such a bow with Ryan’s recovery. What I got was an ugly ill made bow called death.

My entire being was a battlefield of antithetical emotions. I loved him. I loathed him. Ryan became my drug of choice, my preoccupation.  He consumed me and I was never me again. When did I become so helpless, so not in control? Just like him. My life had become a bundle of contradictions. Hope and despair; sympathy and apathy; love and hate.  I was left wondering about how I can love and hate Ryan all at the same time.

The first time I admitted Ryan in a rehab, I was desperate yet full of novice hope that everything will be alright once he completed the programme.  However, what become clear as   time passed was that rehab would become a ritual of sorts.  With each successive admission the hope of full recovery dwindled.  A time came when committing him in a rehab meant that finally I could sleep freely. Free from the fear of being lied to, free from the perpetual worry that I wore like a second skin.  Rehab was like a vacation for my battered soul.  But the guilt was always there. Guilt of sleeping peacefully while the centre of my life struggled to find the centre of his life.

The trajectory of a loved one of an addict mirrors the trajectory that of the addict.  So it was with Ryan and me. The initial phase was almost quixotic where we both   thought things would be back to normal.  Soon however the drugs took over our lives.  Where Ryan was busy plotting and strategizing his next move to procure drugs, I was busy thinking of plans that would keep him away from drugs. When he rationalized his slip convincing himself that one drink or one line would not make a difference , I too viewed a peg as an innocuous one.

It is jarring when we don’t recognize a person whom we intimately know.  As an addict Ryan transformed into a completely different person.  The transformation from a loving, full of life and passionate person to someone who is a compulsive liar and a manipulator of emotions was so great that I was   totally stupefied. I wanted desperately to hold on to the Ryan I knew but he slipped off like sand from my hands.  Smoothly and effortlessly.

An indissoluble feeing of alienation had swept over me. I felt uniquely singled out by the higher power for the pain and mistrust that was thrown at me without any second thought.  How can I ever trust the God I so blindly believe in, when my only wish, that of sobriety for my loved one, was so blatantly denied.  A sense of powerlessness enveloped me. My life became unmanageable just like Ryan’s.   Any thoughts other than that of rescuing him from the clutches of addiction eluded me. Mirror on the wall became my worst enemy. The face that peered through it was vaguely familiar. Dishevelled look, dark circles under the eyes, and a mask of worry. It was me, but where was I? Drugs had made me their slave and I wasn’t even an addict.

One day at a time became the mantra of my life too. One day at a time of sobriety, of genuine remorse, of immense love and care from him. And then?  I didn’t want to dwell on “and then” even though it loomed large over me. I deliberately pushed the question away because it robs you of the certainty of today. Better to live with shreds of certainty for the day than a whole bundle of uncertainty.  I prayed for the sobriety of two people instead of one.

Oftentimes I would want to be Clementine from “Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind” wanting to erase every single memory of Ryan from my mind.  With this I risked losing the memories I cherished with him. So I erased the thoughts of erasing his thoughts from my mind.

  His demise has allowed me to reconstruct the Ryan I had known.  My Ryan now witty, kind, caring, filled with love and a childlike enthusiasm, with a disarming lop-sided smile that had swept me off my feet when I had first met him lives in my heart forever. The Ryan I am not ready to give up on. Not now. Not ever. 



Love is forever

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