“I know addiction is a brain disease, and I’m certainly no expert on how or why some people are afflicted with it. Why do certain people abuse substances? Why did I depend on amphetamines for ten years? And how could I stop and never start again? Why did I smoke all those years and why was it easy for me to stop? Why have I been a food addict all my life and why am I just one bulimic episode away from relapsing? I have no answers to these questions. But I do know that learning to love and value myself through my work in all the Twelve-Step Programs I attend has made it easier for me live well and put an end to my self-abuse.
“Expectations, when dealing with loving an addict, can be killers. We want our loved one to seek recovery and remain there, of course—for the rest of his life. We want the nightmare to end and to stop waiting for the other shoe to drop. As my friend Michael said at an Al-Anon meeting: “We all live in this forest. We can remodel our house, add to it, and greatly improve its value. But we’re always going to live in the forest.” Philip Seymour Hoffman’s recent death reminds us that “once an addict, always an addict.” We may stop abusing substances at last—and forever if we’re truly blessed. But we always carry within us the addictive gene/tendency to pull us back into that dark world of relapse and—in the case of this brilliant actor—destroy us.”
Of course, there is always the possibility of relapse. But I like to remember that there are MANY success stories of addicts and alcoholics who have gotten and remained clean, one day at a time. But this is a cunning and ruthless disease, and it will bite us in the back if we’re not careful. So it’s important to remain vigilant and guard against complacency. People with cancer need to be careful in recovery; so do addicts.