Living with addiction can be hell. As I write this blog, the week after Easter Sunday, the week after celebrating the risen Christ and new life and resurrection, this hell can seem like a paradox to the season. But the truth is that addiction has plagued my family for over 20 years with no sign of stopping, despite the resurrection. Experience tells me that there is always hope, but all too often, addiction seems to loom right around the corner, ready to infiltrate joy and happiness at the drop of a hat.
My brother, Jeremy, has been a drug and alcohol addict since we were teenagers. I’ve watched his life deteriorate on a downward spiral that cost him relationships, jobs, and his health. He continues to be financially dependent on family and has accrued hundreds of thousands of dollars of medical bills. But for me, the most frustrating part of this disease is its rock-steady grip on the addict and the addict’s loved ones. Despite intervention, therapy, and doctors, we continue to struggle with my brother and with one another. Addiction is ever the elephant in the room, talked about or not.
In my family, each person has their own expression of co-dependency. Mine emerges as the researcher/expert, ready to jump on the phone with solid advice (mostly unasked for) and ready to send information on treatment centers, interventionist numbers, and family counselors (also unasked for.) It’s co-dependent because I ultimately need the family to need my input. It follows one of the definitions of insanity because I have been doing this for over 20 years but somehow expect a different result from the predictable one that happens.
At the same time, I’ve also come to the conclusion that fighting addiction can be a marathon of insights, lessons, and perseverance. I’ve learned a humility from facing my co-dependency that keeps me from getting on a high horse with others. I’ve learned that Al-Anon and other groups can be true strength-builders and support systems. And I’ve learned that I am truly empowered to make the choice whether or not to get sucked into the chaos and drama of addiction. And of course, I also learned that these lessons can be re-taught at any time.
But most of all, when I look through the lens of prayer, I learn that there is always hope, even when all the signs stay the same. For that is where my family is right now – not fighting addiction or pursuing health. My love for them remains, whether or not we ever get our act together. Yet being stuck with addiction because I choose to stay in relationship with my family does not mean that hope is lost. For hope actually resides within each one of us. Hope is an individual choice. Change can happen at any time. Freedom can be found at any moment. And new life is always waiting to be grasped.
Rev. Shell Kimble is the rector at St. Barnabas, Temple Hills, MD. We invite you to share your thoughts, responses, and reflections with the Diocese of Washington on Facebook.