How to Not Hate a Drug Addict

I think it’s easy to hate drug addicts and alcoholics. Call me cold, but it’s true– ask anyone who’s dealt with an addicted family member. I’m blessed to not have any immediate family or friends that deal with addiction, and for myself, despite my difficulties, I wouldn’t call myself an addict. No, I’m talking about someone deeply and irrevocably addicted– in this case, to pain killers. Addicts will do many things, including many evil things, to get their fix. They use and abuse their loved ones. They choose their addiction over their families, and in a way, they don’t have a choice– they’re addicted. Obviously I’m generalizing but… not that much.

So, knowing that an addict can do horrible things to the people around them, but keeping in mind that they’re addicted, have a form of disease and need help, what do you do? How do you not hate a drug addict?

I have an extended family member who I am visiting today who is addicted to pain killers. She takes them daily and when she does, she gets high and calls her family to cry and ask them for money. She tries to commit suicide. She gets fired from her job for starting fights, when her family doesn’t have enough money to pay the bills. She is an addict that sacrifices the wellbeing of herself, her family, her children in order to continue being addicted. And I hate her, for the damage she has inflicted. From the outside, she seems selfish, stupid and self-destructive. But I know, intellectually, that it’s much more complicated than that. Still– how do I look past all that and forgive her?

I grew up going to church, and have instilled in me the “turn the other cheek” message, as well as that of ultimate forgiveness. I may not be a Catholic that goes to confession, but I do believe that forgiving others is crucial– somewhat for their benefit, but mostly for your own goodness. So I believe firmly that it’s my task to forgive her for her addiction, forgive her for all the abuse she has inflicted on those I love, and find a way to support her and feel compassion.

I’m just not sure how.

I’m holding a lot of grudges lately towards people that have caused me pain, and though I’ve never been a grudgeful person, I’m finding it surprisingly difficult to let go. But ultimately, I don’t want to die hating the people I love. So, during my visit today, which is sure to test the limits of my patience and sanity, here’s what I’ll be trying out:

  1. Keep reminding myself that this person was once a child with hopes, dreams, and purity of heart, and that that person is the same somewhere.
  2. Remind myself that we could die tomorrow, and that I don’t want to die hating this woman, nor do I want  her to hate me, if that’s the case.
  3. Remind myself that drug addiction and depression are powerful– I’ve very much experienced the latter and perhaps had a taste of the former, and I’ve experienced how it can change your temperament and make you unkind. And try to forgive her actions and words.

Wish us luck.

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