Is Addiction Stronger Than Love?

My friend Becca looks like a model, lives in a beautiful home, and has an adoring husband and three young children.

But she’s also an alcoholic who struggles to stay sober. For the past ten months she’s worked hard to recover from a series of devastating relapses that almost cost her everything—including her marriage and kids.

A few weeks ago, I attended a surprise party she threw for one of her children. It also felt like a celebration of Becca’s return to health and happiness. She looked radiant. Her kids clung to her. Her husband beamed with obvious pride.

Only days later, she relapsed again. Friday, she called me crying and asked for help.  I went to see her where she’s staying—a skanky, drive-up motel, the kind where drugs are rampant and no one is actually on vacation.

I hardly recognized her. She looked scary thin. Her eyes were flat and dead, her face blotchy. She couldn’t sit up, kept falling sideways. Clothing and garbage were strewn everywhere. She denied being drunk or on drugs, but she could barely form the words, “I’m not lying.”

And there, on a nightstand by the bed—a mattress with no sheets—was a beautiful framed photo of her three kids. The incongruity and irony made me want to scream, “How could you! Don’t you love your kids? How could you do this to your husband again!”

I drove home in tears, haunted by a question I’ve asked myself for years: Is addiction stronger than love?

Sure seems like it. I couldn’t quit drinking to save my son from his own alcoholism.  I couldn’t quit drinking for my husband, either. If he’d given me an ultimatum—“I love you, babe, but it’s me or alcohol”—I might have chosen alcohol.

But this weekend, after seeing Becca, I found myself thinking differently.  I decided that addiction isn’t really stronger than love because love has nothing to do with it.

Today I am more convinced than ever that addiction is a mental illness. What else but insanity can turn caring mothers into uncaring monsters, loyal spouses into liars and cheaters, promising sons and daughters into criminals and whores?

I’m reminded of one of the best zombie movies ever made, “28 Days Later.” It’s often confused with the Sandra Bullock movie about an addict going through rehab, “28 Days.” But in a way, both films depict the same horrific scenario—what happens when good people morph into something less than human.

Which is part of what makes zombies so scary. Unlike monsters or aliens, these people still look like your loved ones or neighbors, except they’re not anymore.

The same can be said of an addict. The Becca I saw in the motel on Friday was not the Becca I know and love. She was like the living dead, incapable of choosing love.

And where does that leave her husband? Tonight he’s probably still wondering, “Why doesn’t she love me enough to quit?” He’s putting their small children to bed alone. They’re asking, “Daddy, where’s Mommy?” And he has no answer. The mommy they love has disappeared.

In all of this, hope is so hard to find, but it’s there if you look. Addiction might seem stronger than love, but God is stronger than addiction. Because this is true, some addicts do come back from the dead. I did. I’m writing this post as a zombie in full remission.

Becca just might come back, too.

You might be suffering today because you love an addict whose behavior seems to prove they don’t love you. How do you handle that? 

P.S. I changed my friend’s name and a couple details to protect her anonymity. But if you pray for Becca–God can probably figure it out.:)