If you are looking for a light hearted, witty post, you will want to stop reading. This post will not make you laugh. It won’t be sarcastic or funny. This post deals with something very real and very difficult, because sometimes life is very real, and very difficult. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
I met my husband at the end of 2011. We were both broken people, trying to figure out how to Love and be Loved. We made many mistakes in our lives before each other, and we each carried with us a lot of history. But we also carried something more. You see, my husband and I are not alone in our marriage. We are joined in our union by a companion of sorts, a third party. A terrible creature raised in the confines of our histories.
His name is Addiction.
For those of you who are familiar with him, you know that Addiction is a force to be reckoned with. Seemingly quiet and unobtrusive, he creeps in so often without us even knowing. He lives in the shadows, lurking behind every unspoken word, every white lie or untold truth, clinging to the darkness brought on by fear. Fear is his greatest weapon. He feasts on it, and feeds it to us in turn. Tells us we are unlovable. Tells us we cannot trust. Tells us we cannot go on without him, and in so doing we are consumed by a fear so great we lose sight of all that is real. And so we devolve into hopelessness and despair.
He is not a welcome companion. Our only advantage is that we knew of his presence when our relationship began. And so we sought to contain him, to pour all the light we could procure into our marriage, eradicating the shadows in which he flourishes. We pushed him out as best we could, naming our fears day by day, unraveling our secrets, chipping away slowly at the darkness. We worked so hard, and we made great progress.
But Addiction is much smarter than people give him credit for. As hard as we were working to limit him, he was working just as hard to limit us. Addiction delights in inching us apart. He pries us from one another, reveling in each step we take in opposite directions. His only goal is to have us each alone, because in our solitude he becomes our only companion. He is a jealous being. He does not want to share.
He does his work well.
He starts small, with whispers that it’s not really a secret. He tells us that the not telling is an act of Love. He makes the omissions seem like acts of mercy – not lies, just a means of protecting the other from unnecessary pain. Then one day we find ourselves standing beneath a mountain of lies, pebbles piled one on top of the other, so high now that he assures us should we attempt to move even one stone the whole mountain will crumble and we will surely be crushed beneath it. And so we cower behind our mountains, anchored there by our shame.
He cajoles us into believing that if we know more, we will trust more, that the constant searching and questioning of the other is the path to healing. He offers a sense of control, all the while stoking the fires of distrust within us. He tells us that if we know, we cannot be hurt. The embers start so small that we do not even notice them; sparks in the night. But his whispers turn embers to flames, fanning the fires with our fear that not knowing will destroy us, until suddenly we are being consumed by a fire so hot we cannot breathe. We have no idea how we came to be in the middle of it, or that we are accomplices in our own destruction.
We would be utterly destroyed, trapped forever, burned alive at the hands of Addiction, were it not for the one thing we possess that is more powerful than Addiction: Love. Love is stronger than fear. Love is greater than shame. Love is a fortress that no mountain can crush and no fire can consume.
When we find ourselves cowering behind our mountains, and burning in our fires, we reach out for the other. We cry in the dark “Please Love me! I’ve forgotten how to Love myself…” We cover each other in Love, wrap each other up in it. We hold tightly onto the other and as the mountains crumble around us and the flames slowly die, we look up to find ourselves still whole, even amidst the shambles of the life Addiction tried so hard to have us build for him. Our Love is a light, permeating every corner, and Addiction has no choice but to cower in the shadows of the rubble and ashes his lies have left behind.
And so we begin, as before but stronger. Addiction will never leave us completely, but we have hope that our Love will keep him at bay and illuminate his whispers for the lies they are. Love is not control. Knowing is not trusting.
To be Loved allows us to trust that we do not need control to be safe.
We rest within the safety of our fortress. For today, at least, Addiction cannot get in.
Don’t open the door.