An Open Letter to an Addict I Love

This past week I had a visit from the son of a longtime friend who is struggling with a challenging journey from addiction to someplace else.

He’s trying to find a way to live outside of heroin and other drugs. He’s been to rehab and back again, and yet he’s still struggling.

He’s 24-years-old now and trying to take small new steps in a real-world not masked with drugs and medications. He’s a good person with a loving heart who has become a prisoner of addiction.

But he is trying.

I’ve never been an addict, though I’ve had close friends that confessed they were. I have absolutely no experience sharing from those shoes, so I struggle trying to know what to say and do. I do know that “Just Say No” isn’t going to do the trick.

During his brief visit here, he fell from his struggled accent towards continued sobriety. While he didn’t dabble in illicit drugs, he brought a smuggled alcohol bottle with him that nobody knew about.

Not knowing what more to do, I wanted to write a letter to my friend K. It’s what I know how to do.

And I wanted to publicly share it in hopes readers might have other words of advice and wisdom to share to help. Please do chime in, in the comments below.

Maybe together, we can make a difference in the life of this wonderful person trapped in a sarcophagus of despair and help him and others to open the lid and let happiness in.

My Letter

Dear K,

Thank you so much for having the courage to come to visit us this past week. I know you struggled to make the trip and deal with the anxiety of being out here in Wake Forest, a strange area for you and maybe even some of us. It was a big step, and it was not unnoticed.

While you were here, I recognized you tripped and fell. But I wanted to share some things that have helped me in life, and maybe they can help you.

First off, many scientific explanations describe the mental health, chemical, and physiological changes inside your body that you have to deal with to break the chain of addiction. For that, some medical professionals are skilled and know what to do, if you let them.

And while I’ve never been an addict, here are some things I’ve learned along my journey in life that might help. I’ve walked in these shoes, and so I feel I can offer some real advice on these things.

There is No Sense Wasting a Perfectly Good Mistake

Everybody makes mistakes. I make mistakes. You make mistakes. The key is not to beat yourself up over what you might have done but to learn from the experience and do better the next time. Don’t put the mistake out of your mind. Actively think about it and learn from it. Then put it behind you. Failure is a priceless lesson that can be a gift if you let it.

Turn Around

brand new endingFar too many people keep walking backward in life and are constantly looking the wrong way and regretting the wake behind them. That’s not where life is really lived. Stop. Turn around. And look forward.

Instead of dwelling in the past, keep your gaze on tomorrow, not yesterday. Every day is a new day to do better in life, and if you are not looking forward, you will most likely trip over something unexpected again and fall.

Don’t Be Your Own Victim

Accept responsibility for the things you’ve done. Nobody made you do stupid things. Nobody made you do the things you know you’ve done. Nobody put a gun to your head and made you do anything but yourself. Don’t blame anyone else for your situation. It is what it is, and you not powerless at the hand of someone else.

Life is Hard and Has No Guarantees

I think while people might not show it, everyone struggles with life. People struggle with depression, anxiety, addiction, dependence, being a victim, not taking control, giving up, running away, more depression, and all the other things that makeup being perfectly flawed to various degrees.

While life is hard and obstacles may seem gigantic, each day is a new opportunity for a fresh start and a healthy dose of gratitude. There is so much opportunity for joy in every waking moment if you let it in. The key is to learn how to pull the drapes open enough to see the sun.

Be Grateful

appreciate what we do haveYou might not feel you are worthy or amazing enough, but none of that really matters. You don’t have to be awesome or multitalented to be amazing. You can be a celebrity just by being nice to everyone you meet. You can be grateful for every little thing that comes into your life tomorrow. Be happy for the person who held the door open for you or the person who says hello at the grocery store. Be thankful for the roof over your head or the hugs that wait for you on demand. Be thankful for someone in the world who knows how you like your coffee.

You Are Not On Fire

Right now, you might be really down and feel like you have failed everyone in your life. But no matter how bad you might feel right now, Do not allow that weight to drown out your life because the situation could always be worse. While you are struggling with addiction, someone else is being sold into sexual slavery.

My good friends know a life motto of mine is, “at least I’m not on fire.” No matter how bad things might feel at any given moment, being on fire always seem like a fate that could be worse. I might have a nail through my hand, but you know what, I’m not on fire.

And speaking of not being on fire, you don’t have Ebola, and you don’t live in a garbage dump. Things could be so much worse in so many ways, but they are not. So celebrate what you do have and stop allowing your regrets to eat away at your future like acid on metal.

The Secret to Success is No Secret

workI’m not sure what success means to a lot of people. For some, it is the accumulation of material goods. For others, it is the accomplishment of a bucket list or goals.

In my life, I’ve met so many wealthy people who are just plain not admirable. I’ve met people in bad neighborhoods who are the kindest people on earth. I’ve met a lot of good and great people in between.

But here is what I’ve learned, there is no shortcut to whatever your success is. Success requires hard work. Hard work is the secret to success. Maybe for you right now, hard work means being clean one hour at a time and one day at a time. That’s probably arduous work, but that’s what it will take. You become successful by being determined and stupid enough to keep trying, not by deserving success and getting it that way.

When You Fall, Take a Day Off to Regroup

We all feel regret and remorse for screwing things up or making a mistake. Depending on the error’s size, you might need to take a day off and try to process what happened, learn from the mistake, and put it behind you. Once you’ve done that and had a day, get back to the journey ahead. Life isn’t going to wait for you.

You Fucked Up. So What.

changeStop apologizing for fucking up. You fucked up. You know it. You might think other people know it. You might worry about what other people think about you. Who cares what they think.

The best way to neutralize a massive fuck up is to let it be a life-altering lesson. There is nothing that prevents you from being a better person, living a better life, and being a ray of sunshine in the lives of others on the other side of your mistake.

You Are Owed Nothing

Life owes you nothing. You are not entitled to your next breath, the next “I love you” from someone dear to you, a hug, the next beautiful day, or a better tomorrow. Whatever lies ahead of you is not something you are entitled to. The only thing you can do is apply what you’ve learned so far, make tomorrow a new day, be grateful for every little good thing in the day, and be a better you hour-by-hour.

The Only Person You Should Change for is You

change 3You are a smart person and know the people around you want you to break the chains of addiction to live a different life. But their desire and hopes for you are not going to change you. Only you can change yourself. Only you can stop smoking, drugging, selling, snorting, popping, pushing, drinking, and whatever else. I can’t do it for you. Your mom and dad can’t do it either. Your sister can’t change the course of your life. We all want to, but we can’t do it for you.

Until you can find the strength to fight the battle to be clean and sober from all drugs, one hour and one day at a time, it’s going to be hard for anyone else to stop you from failing.

Nobody is going to work harder than you are willing to work yourself.

Let Good People Help You

All that being said about having to do it all yourself, there are people around you who you can turn to for help to make it across those rickety moments. Let us help when we can, and people who care about you will walk with you on your journey to help you when you need help.

K, I Love You

I don’t know what else I can do for you right now, but I’m always willing to be here to hug you, tell you I love you, help you through those tough times, and most importantly, be your friend. I will kick your ass, and I will pick you up.

It’s time to decide if tomorrow is the first day of a walk on a different path or are you condemned to walk backward forever facing the night.



1 thought on “An Open Letter to an Addict I Love”

  1. Thanks Steve. Great letter. You hit some very key points that I have observed in similar situations: blame, ungratefulness, feeling unworthy, not looking ahead. The only thing that I would add from my own perspective is God's amazing Grace in sending us His Son. It made all the difference when I was a lost teenager.

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