An Unexpected Revisiting

Last night we watched the fourth episode of the series The Haunting of Hill House. It was called “The Twin Thing,” and it made me weep.

Not for the death of certain characters. It was for the portrayal of Luke’s addiction. It showed so very well the stages of addiction, the depths of it, the well of dependency you fall in. Above all it perfectly captured the despair.

In the recesses of addiction, at least for me, every moment is spent in wretchedness. You forgo the trust of loved ones to feed its greedy hunger. Over and over again, until they can no longer trust you in any fashion. Then those folks tell you plainly how angry they are at you, and rightfully so. You KNOW you’ve taken an emotional sledgehammer to that relationship, that you may have pushed it into unrecoverable territory. Yet that insidious need requires you to grab that handle and take another swing. And you do, damage and love be damned. Through disappointed and livid stares, you shatter hope.

You travel in spaces reserved for the despondent. Life’s cast offs, scrabbling for satiation in places where none can be found. This is your tribe; you share in their desolation. Your home is in the fringes, your bed is shame. Yet you push on, scheming for ways to at least take an edge off the craving, knowing it will not be the end. Moments are all you have now, moving from one to the next, praying for the pain to go away, if only for that moment.

There’s a freneticism to addition that is exhausting, but such is the power it has over you that you dare not stop. If you rest for even a second, your mind may replay all of the awfulness you’ve inflicted on others. Rarely does that correlate to the damage you’ve done to yourself; the movies your mind will play on a loop have an exclusive fixation on what your actions heaped upon your loved ones’ lives, strangers’ lives. You have no self-worth. You are worse than trash, for at least some of that can be recycled and reused. You don’t deserve any reclamation.

In the end, all you have is the high to make it go away for however brief a time. Nothing else matters. Sobriety is hell, being high is a temporary reprieve from the flames.

I did not expect a horror show like this to hit me so squarely in my past. All the feelings, all the loathing of self, all the utter despair shown on the screen in front of me wasn’t a show. It was me. No matter the fact that it has been over 25 years, it all rushed back, making me feel small and out of control. I was back in that well, scared that was where I belonged. All the years I’ve worked to restore trust, to build a better life, to be the very best man and father I can be, all of that fell away. The despair was front and center. The ugliness hit me, and I cried. A big heavy cry, the type that comes from the depths of self-imposed exile.

Jill, my anchor and the person who values me more than I do myself, turned as I started sobbing. She didn’t know that would hit me that hard either. But her caring face and thoughtful words lessened the demon’s grip, and her holding me brought me back to the life I’ve made. The life I’ve earned.

There were no trigger warnings. It just came in a rush. But when a story can capture something so dark and real that it pulls you into it, that is the sign of excellent story telling.

I never expected that the part of a horror story that would scare and affect me so profoundly would be an addict’s backstory. But let me assure you, that is the scariest thing of all; knowing that you have the capacity for harming those you love and care for, and questioning whether or not you’d be strong enough this time to battle it off if it came for you again.

Photo credit: lisado