Collateral Damage of Addiction

Part I

When you love an addict,
you become the collateral damage
in the peripheral that is
their car crash habits.
Everybody stares from the side of the road,
but everybody knows
that there is no help to offer.
It always looks like a lost cause from a distance.

 

Their tunnel vision blurs you out of focus.

Misdirected anger
becomes your only mechanism for coping.
You begin to dissect the definition of “enabler,”

because if you cannot help,

the least you can do is cause no harm.

 

You play damage control,
because their outer layer
has thinned into eggshells
that you are trying hard not to crack.

They use their addictions like glue,

and you don’t want to be added

to their list of reasons to use.

 

The night before your big interview,

you learn about the arrest.
The first day at the new job,
is their first court date.

Like Pavlov’s Dogs,
you begin to associate
the sound of your ringtone
with the news of an overdose,
but instead of salivating,
it’s palpitations and panic attacks.
It’s allegations and childhood flashbacks.

 

It’s being in a burning building,
when all your firefighters
are busy fighting someone else’s flames.

It’s being in the emergency room

with a severed finger,
but they are always taken care of first,

because they are losing limbs.
It’s feeling guilt because you know

this shouldn’t feel like a competition.

 

It’s feeling the loss of every battle,
when the war is not even yours to fight.

But even the United States needed France

to succeed in revolution.
Even World War II
needed intervention before the solution.

 

Maybe we all need allied nations,

even when we don’t know
exactly who the enemies are--
the users, the dealers, the legislation,

the doctors, Big Pharma,

this list could go on.

 

So when you love an addict,
it’s like being selected for the draft.
It’s boots on the ground,
standing in their front lines.
It’s stockpiling pamphlets of resources,

keeping support groups on standby.
It’s loading gun powder into shotgun shells.

It’s knowing the risk of casualty,
but learning how to take care of ourselves.

It’s only letting our trauma out at night.

 

It’s carrying the shame of a story

that is not even ours to write.

 

Part II

 

When you love an addict,
you become the collateral damage

in the peripheral that is
their car crash habits.
You watch them let go of the wheel,

because deep down you know

that letting them lose control
is the only way to force yourself into surrender,

the only way that maybe
they’ll wreck into something better.

 

It’s letting yourself drive right by
the scene of the crime,
waving a white flag out your window.

Your help is a resource,

but all resources run out,
so you can’t waste this weapon

on somebody who isn’t ready

to declare war for themselves.

 

It’s seeing leaking yolk
because their thinning shells have broken.

It’s Pavlov’s Dogs being too tired to drool.

It’s going numb where the panic used to be.

It’s yoga, writing, and therapy.
It’s letting go of the anger,
and finding new ways to cope.
It’s visions of courtrooms and coffins

replacing your hope.

 

It’s being your own doctor,

and fighting your own flames.

It’s losing the battle,
but standing back up anyway.

 

Because even allied nations
need to fight their own civil wars some days.

 

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