When Someone You Love Is Battling Addiction


The waiting room has stories written about it. Songs, TV episodes and movies. They all take place in hospital waiting rooms. Airports see more hugs than anywhere else in the world, but waiting rooms see more tears.

I’ve sat here a few times, waiting to hear the news of some sort about a family member or a friend. There isn’t much to do but stare at the floor, counting the number of squares until the wall ahead of you. Or maybe the ceiling tiles. There isn’t much to do but wait and pray and watch reruns of the same daytime TV soap operas that play both in real waiting rooms and in waiting rooms on the soap opera hospital itself.

Addiction is a chronic disease that often invites those who are suffering from it into the hospital, especially when their drug of choice is easy to overdose on. And when you’re standing in the waiting room, again, it’s hard to retrace your steps and figure out how you got there. You just know that you did.

My brother’s addiction has a life of its own. It wasn’t stirred up in a recipe of childhood trauma or emotional issues. He played lacrosse, an all-star athlete, and he had a bunch of close friends. It moved in unbidden beneath a veil of college parties and classes and girls and booze and the other vices that make them the best four years of your life.

You can’t heal when you won’t cut out the infection, and that’s just what addiction is. An infection. If you put a bandaid over it without cleaning it out, the infection will rot you away. He didn’t ask for help, couldn’t ask for help, needed to ask for help…

Suddenly, he didn’t play lacrosse anymore. Suddenly, the friends he had made early on in his life, circa recess in elementary school when they played tag still, were no longer close. College classes were left unattended and my parents received a letter that he hadn’t been to class and was on an academic suspension. It wasn’t just my brother that moved home from college that next summer—it was my brother and his addiction.

It’s a devastating roommate, addiction. I loved having my brother back at home, but it became apparent that he had a friend here to stay. For those who are unaware, the basic signs of addiction include weight loss, sallow skin, sallow eyes, unfocused or red eyes, a difference in sleep patterns, and a variety of other symptoms that you can highlight if you read the behavior closely enough.

The second time I went to the hospital to see my brother, my parents were angry. I struggled with it too, to be honest, because I’d like to think I knew him better than that. That he was better than that. Time would tell another story though, proving addiction is a devastating disease that causes irreparable damage to both the addict and their loved ones. But you can’t be angry with the addict because it isn’t necessarily their fault—the behavior, that is. At some point, their brain is constantly seeking the high it needs. Drugs and addiction affect the brain, changing its very makeup.

I watched my brother’s health spiral for a few years. From skin infections and the oxidative stress of the substances he was fond of, he looked so much older than he really was. His clothes fit differently and he didn’t care. His focus was elsewhere.

The beginning of the spiral looks very different from the end. What I mean by that is that there are signs. Warning signs of drug use, misuse, abuse, and addiction. Becoming familiar with the signs of addiction benefits all of us because we will be able to identify issues hopefully before they become unmanageable.

If you or a loved one is suffering from addiction, you don’t have to wait any longer. There’s help.