All The Way Down

Wendy Hodge


You may live your whole life without learning this truth, and I hope you do. I’ve learned it, and the truth I’ve learned is this: When you love someone who drowns themselves in a bottle or buries themselves in a mountain of pills, slowly killing the person they used to be, you die a bit yourself. Not suddenly, but day by sleepless night, over weeks and months and years … you die right along with the lost soul you love so much.

You watch them make decisions that can, at the very best, be called poor choices. At the very worst, they are drastic errors that lead to more destruction and pain. You stand by as they bargain and plead with you to “help” them, knowing what they really want is more and more and more of the same life-taking substances. And that’s the one thing you must not give them.

What they really NEED is saving, and that’s the one thing you cannot do.

You grow numb as they lie to you. You listen as they manipulate the truth, bending it to fit their own twisted version of reality. You listen because the only thing worse than their lies is their silence. Because once they grow silent, it is as if they have vanished. Your mind fills with the worst scenes an imagination can conjure.

I’ve been through those ssilences — days, weeks even, with no word or even a hint of where or how this person I love may be. Those silent nights are nightmarish, the moments ticking by slowly with daybreak bringing no relief.

And then comes the call breaking the silence. It’s a one-sided conversation, for the most part. On the other end of the line, you will hear lots of misplaced blame on family, friends — on the world in general. You will respond as neutrally as possible, your mind rejecting what you’re hearing for the empty nonsense it is. But you will listen, profoundly grateful to be hearing that voice at all.

There will be other phone calls — calls full of remorse for the choices made and the lies told, for the time wasted and the trouble caused. It is possible to listen to someone you love drowning in a sea of regret and not cave in completely. It is possible, but only barely.

And then there’s the phone call you dread every day, the call you will quite possibly dread until your last day. It is a call that will come from an emergency room or a highway patrol officer or some random stranger. And the sheer possibility of that phone call will haunt you, whether it ever comes or not.

You will stand and bear silent witness as they go down, ever down, all the way down … and you will make deals with the universe. “Please let this be the worst,” you will bargain with the gods. “Please let this be rock bottom. Please let it be only up from here.” Because everyone will tell you — all the books and the therapists and the rehab programs — that hitting rock bottom is the only way to start the journey back. But what if rock bottom is, for the ones I love, something they cannot return from? What if they don’t survive that rock bottom? What if rock bottom is their dying place?

If I could pour out all the bottles and flush all the pills on this entire green planet, I would do that. If it would save the ones I love, I would do it ten times over. But it wouldn’t — because there is and always will be the next fix of something, something to help that person escape whatever it is about life itself that torments them beyond bearing.

And so, every day comes and every day goes. And I will continue to love the ones who need it the most and can return it the least. Because that is what love is. It is patient. It is kind. It is selfless, and it is eternal.

And sometimes, it hurts so very much.


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