This is for all the people that are struggling to hold on while loving someone struggling with a substance use disorder (SUD). This morning I was returning a text to a friend, whose son is in inpatient treatment for SUD once again. Her message said in short, this is such a rollercoaster and it feels so hopeless.
To love someone one with a substance use disorder is incredibly hard. The fear you carry on a daily basis is all encompassing and threatens to pull you under at any moment. I can remember so many days with Taylor grieving the person standing right in front of me, because I hardly recognized him. The behaviors that go with SUD make them incredibly hard to love at times. As a mom, it was so gut wrenching to be afraid every single second to know that today could be the day you lose them or something awful could happened. I tried not to let myself go there, but you do. It is such a dark place, but I couldn’t help it at times. It is a rollercoaster as my friend reminded me this morning. Only it is not like any rollercoaster you have ever ridden. It is like being on a rollercoaster with no safety harness, hearing the ominous click, click,click of the car as it climbs the hill, knowing what awaits when you get to the top. Then the shear terror of knowing you aren’t strapped in as you drop down that hill unable to breathe knowing the car could derail at any moment. It is the nightmare of all rollercoasters.
As awful as it is at times, there are also moments of Hope. In those moments, you are scared to exhale. Scared that hope is so fragile if you exhale too much it will shatter into a million pieces. I found that having faith and hope in the darkest moments with Taylor was difficult. Ironically, faith is hardest to have when you need it the most. I was scared to hope too much because I knew the other side of that coin and perhaps I thought it might protect me somehow. It doesn’t protect you by the way.
I pray that if you are reading this and you love someone who is struggling you give yourself permission to have HOPE. Because as awful as it was in Taylor’s darkest moments; the crazy, the lies, the fear, the frustration and the anger, that was so much better than what it is like to actually live in a world without them. The heartbreak is so profound and gut-wrenching. To lose a child, is to lose a part of yourself and then have to figure out how to live in the world with a huge part of yourself missing.
If you are reading this and you love someone who is struggling with SUD or mental illness please allow yourself to HOPE. When you do that, I believe you bring that into the world and to your loved one. They need to know that there is HOPE because they too lose HOPE. Hope is light and we can help them find that light even in the darkest of moments. It is one of my biggest regrets looking back that I didn’t allow myself to hope very often because I was so afraid all the time.
Taylor taught me so many things on this journey. One that resonates with me today as I write this is, that people who struggle do not need fixers. I am a life-long fixer by the way. They need people who can walk beside them on this journey even on their darkest days and love them. Just simply love them when they are finding it hard to love themselves. It is no easy task because none of us know how the journey will end but I do know this: as long as they are breathing there is still HOPE. Believe it and put it out into the world. I told Taylor so often that I was always rooting for him. I would forever be in the stands of his life, cheering my fool head off. I learned that from my high school spanish teacher of all people. It is so powerful to know there are people in the stands of your life rooting you on. So know that I am rooting for all of you out there that are struggling and loving someone with a SUD and I believe there is always HOPE.