Musings About Addiction - Does It Ever End?
Wasn't She Cured of Her Addiction?
As many people were, my daughters and I were really saddened by the death of Star Wars icon Carrie Fisher. My kids are 12 and 7, and they had seen all the movies in the Star Wars saga, particularly the original three in the series, multiple times. They were well acquainted with Fisher as the heroic Princess Leia, and they were thrilled to see her reappear as a wise general in Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
After our discussions about how she died, why it was a big deal, and so forth, my older daughter said, "I thought she wasn't an addict anymore."
That was probably one of the most challenging statements I'd heard, and it reminded me of when I spoke to the kids about my own father's addiction to alcohol and painkillers. It was desperately hard to have that conversation. Some of the difficulty was simply that you don't ever want your kids to think unkindly of their grandparents. But I had to have the conversation; they were curious about why their grandpa just wasn't around—and why, the very few times we actually saw him, he seemed irritable and unhealthy.
My kids were more resilient than I had given them credit for at the time, and especially after my father passed away following alcohol-related complications, I wanted them to understand what addiction is and what role it has in their family history.
So when it came to Carrie Fisher and whether she had stopped being an addict, I did what I'd always done; I told them the truth. I explained that in her writing, in her stage show, and in interviews, she had always introduced herself by saying, "I'm Carrie Fisher, and I'm an alcoholic."
That is a pretty blunt way of introducing yourself and expressing your addictions. It's also a very honest way of acknowledging your addictions. I explained to my girls that Fisher was always very open about the fact that she's a recovering addict, and I told them that ultimately, addicts are always in recovery.
It's like a maze from which there is no escape.
Addiction And Mental Health Warrior
Addiction - An Endless Struggle
People fool themselves all the time about addiction. If you ask anyone who's struggled with it, some will tell you that they are healthy and done with addiction—and that one little drink won't hurt. Others will tell you that addiction is an unending battle between themselves and whatever it is they are addicted to.
In her book Wishful Drinking, Fisher was open about the fact that she had relapsed no fewer than 4 times within 23 years. She acknowledged that her struggles with addiction had caused some pain for her family, which she hated. This means that over the course of just over two decades, she'd relapsed about every five years. Reportedly, a "friend" said that Fisher had relapsed within a month before she died. If that's true, drug use may well have led to her cardiac arrest.
For addicts, there is always a struggle. They never - or at least rarely - intend for anything to go awry when they're popping pills, dropping acid, or doing whatever it is they do with their drug of choice. They believe, even when it's impossible to do so, that things are well within their control, when to everyone else, it's not.
I saw that happen to my dad. If you mentioned anything about his drinking, he'd get very angry and impossible to talk to, or he'd get so terribly morose that there was no way you could get any sort of communication flow. Ultimately, he paid the price, dying of cirrhosis and alcohol-related complications.
There is no official end to addiction. Addicts are always in recovery, and it is possible for them to live very fulfilling lives. There's hope that there will never be a relapse, until it happens. That's what makes addicts who are fighting to stay sober so brave. They know how badly they want whatever it is they're addicted to, but they find ways to distract and distance themselves from whatever it is they want. However, there is still that demon, whispering, wanting them to take that next step into oblivion, where edges are blunted and numbness settles in just enough that they can survive.
It's easy to claim, when you're an addict or related to one, that they are officially "free" of their addiction. Unfortunately, addiction is never that simple. Would that it could be that simple, but it's not; people fight against their addictions throughout their entire lives, and like many battles, this sort of battle may not end until someone ends up dead.