Are you an addict too?

The only witness to my brother-in-law’s death was someone who may have alerted the police by cell, but fled the scene on foot.

The details are still sketchy. After a long struggle with addiction his soul exited. At first my husband was relieved. His brother’s phone calls from Vegas lately had had a familiar tone, slightly unhinged, with a good helping of self-pity and bravado.

I’d only met him once when he’d come for a sober week’s visit to our farm. By the end of those few enjoyable days, he’d become great friends with every shop owner in our little town. He had a magnetism that made people fall for him. A heady mix of lost soul philosopher and ridiculously funny dreamer (when he was sober). When he wasn’t he was pure hellion.

I’d never seen him that way but my husband had witnessed his older brother tear holes in the family all through childhood.

His parents had their own hurts, so my husband became the mender, the good son. He mentioned recently that when he was about 16 he’d taken a rock song about bravery and independence after fear and invisibility as his anthem. He’d typed it out and kept it in his wallet for years.

I worry sometimes when I think about men marrying some aspect of their mothers. Will I become a bitter old lady, nagging my aloof husband who retreats so often into his work to keep his demons at bay? Will we sit in some darkened room in our eighties with our laptops opened, eating silent dinners? Will I still get aggravated by his comfort eating (which triggers my anorexic tendency to worry about healthy foods way too much)?

I definitely married my father this go around. The good and the bad, of course. My husband is reliable, smart and thoughtful. Yet both my father and husband find it almost impossible to celebrate other people’s achievements (or their own). I’ve brought that thirst for approval into every intimate relationship I’ve ever had. Maybe my husband and father have too.

It’s funny that I never thought of starving myself as an addiction.

Being thin was the only thing that ever made me stand out at family gatherings. I don’t know if anyone ever heard me speak a word. I was a statue, a totem, something used to decorate. I’m not sure if any of this is true, but it’s how I felt. I was superior at withstanding the grinding pain of passing up even one cookie, one bite of a disgusting, sweating bologna sandwich at lunch. Food was for lesser beings. Food brought a greater pain. One that brought back the desire for a full life. A life I didn’t think I deserved.

Without any knowledge of what my weird eating habit was, I decided one day to eat before it was too late. I embraced “healthy” eating. Anyway, all of that for another day.

Are we all addicts? Are there normal people somewhere?

I feel like there may be, but not sure. I’ve often kept a distance from people who seem well-adjusted to this planet. My shadow side has it’s benefits though. I think I understand certain types of human suffering, and have a compassion for others, yet not so much for my husband at times.

Maybe I need him to be perfect.

My husband’s brother was far from perfect. He told me he’d never felt loved as a child on that one visit. That I could understand. I knew my parents loved me, but I could never really feel it. No. Maybe that’s not true. I think, in my case, that they had lived so much trauma that they unknowingly passed on a fear that the world would not love me — only they could. My first experiences seemed to prove that. Maybe that was my brother-in-law’s experience as well.

My husband chooses to prove his value through work and mask his pain in more acceptable ways. But the pain is still there. I love my husband but marriage and friendship are hard things especially for engineers and artists always planning, building, deconstructing and questioning. Again, maybe this is a universal thing.

My husband had a dream two days before his brother’s death. His brother answered a call from the help desk.

“Why are you working here?” my husband asked.

“My work is done. My new job is to help you.”

8 responses to “Are you an addict too?”

  1. I was thinking today about how often we look at someone without even having a clue about the demons driving them. I’m sure most people who admire your beauty wouldn’t have a clue about your relationship with food. Or those who admire your husband’s success wouldn’t suspect that anthem in his wallet. I’m so sorry for your family’s loss. From that dream, it seems like your husband has been processing that loss for a very long time.


    • Loving someone with addiction or mental health problems is so challenging because to the non-addict the behaviors seem so stupid and destructive. And then realizing that you can’t control them–or anyone! There’s that trite saying: Love the sinner not the sins, but things get very muddy and hard to manage when they threaten to pull you under.

      You’re right though, we only know the very surface of most people and we are so quick to judge.


  2. Wow. Such a revealing post and I mean that in a good way. You are sharing the very marrow of human experience and it’s to our benefit. A lot to ponder and learn from here. Thank you.


  3. What a beautifully poignant piece of writing, Adrienne. I don’t know if we’re all addicted, but I do think most of us are wounded in some way and trying to heal. I think we’re built that way, to hurt, because through pain, reflection, and insight we learn compassion, forgiveness, and hopefully the true grace of loving despite it all. I’m sorry for the difficult journeys you, your husband, and your brother-in-law endured. May you find your strength and peace. ❤


    • I agree with you completely. We learn a lot about ourselves and others through pain. It’s one of my main interests–seeing how people overcome the painful parts of their lives and the painful things about themselves they’d rather not consider. It’s funny though how some people I find easy to empathize with and others not as much. There’s so much to learn and understand! It keeps life endlessly interesting.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Sorry for your loss Adrienne. No matter what happens and how distant, Family is Family. And yes, there are traumas passed on form generation to generation. I guess the only way to deal with it is to keep your eyes open. Are we all addicts? Maybe. As a matter of fact, we probably all have old traumas sneaking back under the surface…
    Am I an addict? Don’t know. Chocolate, that’s for sure… Au revoir…


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