Addiction, Acceptance, Approval


Below is a poem about addiction. I know there are many many angles to view addiction from, but I’m coming from my own experience: a relative of someone I love who suffers from addiction.


My older brother has dealt with addiction all the years that I have known him (he’s much older than me).


I would remember the disappointment each phone call would bring when he would ring at two, three, five in the morning slurring his words; terrifying car accidents and police statements, always coming just when we had finally let out our breaths and trusted that he had really made a change.


Recently this year he hit rock bottom: sunk the lowest any person can sink and still manage to survive.


I can’t describe the pained look on my father’s face; the worry on my mother’s. And me, secretly, being the one he liked to call when he was intoxicated, feeling torn completely between anger and unconditional love. 


Here’s the thing about unconditional love that makes it so hard for people to buy into it: we all think that we have to accept and approve everything about that person, and we are just not wired to do that. But unconditional love means separating between the acceptance and the approval and finding an area where we can see someone’s faults-maybe even have disappointment-and still not let them interfere in any way of our acceptance and love for them.


I wrote this poem as I was trying to sort out these ideas and find out where the place in my heart for my brother was. I learned that- honestly- it’s harder, always, for the one who is causing pain to themselves and those they love. Moreover, if we were in that person’s situation, we would not be able to expect any better from ourselves.


With this idea, I like to think that I’ve come to help my brother more than when I covered up my hurt and anger. Now I’m able to admit his faults but also believe in his potential for a healthier future. Confidence and support have a much more positive effect than any rebuke ever could, and I’m privileged to be his sister if only for learning that.

The Poem:

I know when I hear that phone ring

That your second, third, fourth chance

Has expired

I know it’s hard for us to hear

Harder for you to bear the burden

I wish I didn’t know

And pray to G-d each day

That tomorrow you should wake up healed

Don’t give me that talk; I know it’s all lies

Don’t give me that look; I can’t bear your eyes

Reminding me

The hell you’re putting us through

Is the hell you live in every day

You haven’t earned it any more

Than fate

And the guilt

If it’s eating at me

It must have swallowed you raw

If you look at me one more time

Maybe I’ll lie too

Say it was me

You spin in circles, pulling yourself down

Dragging us with you for a minute

Until we step off the ride

I know it’s not as easy for you

If I stay on

I bear the risk of no return

But offer you the company

Please come off

If I could do it for you

Take your place

Maybe I’d consider

Don’t tell me you would do the same; I don’t want to know

I just want to know there’s some other way

Rifke Anolik
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