Commentary: Be the intermediary for someone struggling with addiction

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Hearst Connecticut Media

Sometime in March of this year, I stumbled upon a meme on Facebook declaring that America’s children were being taught by day drinkers, a consequence of the stresses of homeschooling in quarantine.

Around the same time, a local radio station’s hosts laugh over the recent data showing a spike in the intake of alcohol among Americans.

I was angry and jealous.

Turns out, I had hit my bottom one year too early to participate with everyone else in the rampant drinking that accompanied isolation during quarantine. Instead, I listened to men in recovery meetings in churches in Westport vent over the temptation to relapse, with the pandemic providing the perfect excuse to drink.

Who would blame us? Recovery meetings around Fairfield County were canceled one by one, loved ones were dying, the economy was headed towards collapse. Some of us expected a statement from an imaginary “board of directors of addiction” declaring it okay to use this year — these circumstances were extra special.

Just a few years ago, I drank to excess when my own circumstances seemed extra special. Maybe my boss was being particularly harsh this week or maybe I couldn’t stand checking my emails in the morning without something to take the edge off beforehand. However, in this special year, for many, this behavior was a sort of joke, one that permeated Facebook and TikTok for everyone to see and cautiously chuckle at.

Soon enough, most of those adults who drank like college kids during quarantine moved back to normalcy after some months. However, those who do not move on and transition back to moderation are no longer laughing.

The truth is, as funny as alcohol abuse can be to one who doesn’t suffer from alcoholism, the one who does suffer has to face a scary process — the process of grief. This year in particular, grief and loss have been a part of our lives and I’d like us to consider the grieving process of the drug addict or alcoholic as they face recovery.

As you hold the hand of an alcoholic or drug addict through this grieving process, understand that they are not mourning the loss of fun and partying. The party ended long ago and the addict or alcoholic is not worried about missing out on playoff football beers or the loss of expensive wine with dinner.

The addict or alcoholic is not mourning their youth. They are mourning the best friend they have depended on for years to calm the noise in their head and tell them it’s all going to be okay. This comfort seemed extra necessary in the last six months.

As we mourn those who died at the hands of COVID-19, understand the magnitude of the loss an alcoholic faces as they lose their crutch matches the level of grief of any of us losing a parent or loved one. This isn’t dramatic. The anger at the unfairness of it all is the same, the bargaining deals with God to just let us have one more chance look the same, and the depression can often be worse as it is amplified by physical withdrawal symptoms.

This depression stage never gets traversed alone. It requires support from those who have been there. Family and friends are great and can provide all the love in the world, but the most important thing they can provide is the phone number of someone they know who has been there.

If you know someone struggling, be that intermediary. There are enough of us recovering alcoholics and drug addicts in the world that for you there exists a friend or a friend of a friend in your life who can be the lifeline to the suffering one you love.

Jack Neuhuas is a 2012 graduate of New Canaan High School who is now a math teacher in Bridgeport. He is active in the recovery community in Darien.