It’s week 21 of the Working On Us mental health series hosted by Beckie of Beckie’s Mental Mess. Please see her post for details on how to participate. This week’s topic is addiction.
Addiction has never been an issue for me personally, but it was for my last boyfriend, so I thought I would talk about his story.
We met during my first hospitalization – me for depression, him for schizophrenia. I think I found out about his crack cocaine use before we were discharged, but I’m not entirely sure about that. He never used around me and he knew I wouldn’t have been okay with that, but the few friends he had other than me used drugs as well, and he would use when he spent time with them.
Looking back I’m not sure how much he was using, although I know it was probably more than I thought. The effects of crack wear off pretty quickly, so it wasn’t always apparent to me that he’d used. He could go for extended periods of time without using and not have cravings, which made me think he had somewhat more control over it than he actually did.
While occasionally his use would cause significant problems, on a day-to-day basis it didn’t have much of an effect on our relationship, which was otherwise very good. He ended up moving in with me, and I was hopeful that with the mix of a stable home and a stable relationship he’d be able to get his addiction under control, and that was something that he wanted as well. That level of stability was not something he’d had much of in his difficult life. However, it wasn’t that I thought I could fix him; I was nowhere close to being that deluded.
Unfortunately, nothing was stronger than the pull of the addiction. After three years together, that became clear, and I ended the relationship. A couple years later we reconnected as friends, although I was very clear with him that his addiction was a deal-breaker in terms of rekindling the romantic relationship.
In 2015, he was coming to the end of a long hospitalization. I dropped him off back at the hospital after he’d come over for a visit while out on pass. That night he was going to spend the night at the new housing the hospital had found for him to move into upon discharge. We planned to meet up the next day.
Instead of hearing from him the next day, I got a call from the hospital social worker to say he had passed away from an overdose. I knew right away what the toxicology report confirmed later – it was fentanyl. Heroin wasn’t his drug of choice, but he sometimes would do “speedballs”, a combination of morphine and heroin, and a fair bit of the heroin on the streets at the time was cut with fentanyl.
Addiction isn’t logical. There’s nothing easy about dealing with addiction. So often it’s based in trauma, and breaking free from those demons is far from simple. Sometimes addiction is a lethal illness. But it’s not about weakness. It’s not about being a bad person, despite the bad things that may be done that are fuelled by the addiction.
People living with addictions, and those who love them, deserve society’s compassion rather than disdain.
My book Making Sense of Psychiatric Diagnosis breaks down the different categories of DSM-5 diagnoses, explaining the diagnostic criteria and providing first-hand stories of the various illnesses. It’s available on the MH@H Store, as well as Amazon and other major retailers.