Many of us were shocked and deeply saddened to learn of the news of basketball champion Lamar Odom, who was found unconscious on a bed at the infamous Las Vegas brothel, the Love Ranch, during a weekend of partying. Reportedly, he ingested 10 tabs of herbal viagra and had cocaine in his system. Odom, who was given a bleak prognosis for recovery by doctors, remained comatose for three days. He has since opened his eyes, is no longer intubated, and has even spoken.
I was one of the overwhelming number of people around the world who prayed for Lamar Odom. But there was also social media’s finest who dismissed his near-death experience as the result of a “dummy” who “likes to spend his money on drugs and prostitutes.” And then there were the finger pointing Fannies and Freds who blamed the entire Kardashian clan for Odom nearly losing his life. Rapper-mogul Master P even publicly charged Kobe Bryant, who reportedly left a game in the third quarter to rush to Odom’s side, with not being true a friend to Odom because he did not do all that he could to get him back on the Lakers.
Let’s be clear. There is one and only one person responsible for Lamar Odom’s life hanging in the balance.
And that is Lamar Odom.
I have never battled substance addiction, so I will not sit on the proverbial high horse, look down my nose, and profess to know what that struggle is like. But as a young woman, I learned what it is like to love an addict. It is hard. Incredibly hard.
The addict is an unrelenting captor. He delights in revealing glimmers of the one who so easily garnered your adoration. But constantly keeps him out of your reach.
The addict is an impostor. He looks the same, walks the same, talks the same, but is far from the same person you love. He is a worthless counterfeit. Over time, his cloak of deception unravels. Eventually, keeping up the pretense of sobriety becomes a burden too heavy to bear, so he no longer does. Breaking hearts becomes so much easier than breaking the habit. The drug of choice wins each and every time.
The addict is a magician. He is the master of illusion and disguise. Once the amazing husband, father, brother, or son, he is now a one-man show of hocus-pocus and disappearing acts. He wantonly turns your happy home into a crumbling house of cards. The spells that he casts has you believing the unbelievable and denying the truth of who stands before your very eyes–the addict who he has become, and the addict who he will always be.
The addict is a soul to be pitied. She will do both the unspeakable and unthinkable. She will neglect babies that she birthed. She will put her essence on the auction block for a gram of this or a vial of that. Through eyes wide shut, she sees herself transform into a shadow of her former self. The woman who has lost her roar. The woman who has no name. No longer is she the mother, daughter, sister, auntie, or friend. She is the crackhead. The fiend. The hoe. The junkie. She is the lost one who lost her soul in a two million dollar home or on the cold cement of pissy stairs.
The addict is a beast.
He is the one we cry for.
She is the one we say countless prayers for.
But the reality is this–there is no saving an addict who does not want to be saved. You cannot love enough, hope enough, beg enough, or cry enough for them. You cannot commandeer the addict’s life; for it is still his own. He is the master of his own destiny. And you are the master of yours. There will inevitably come a time when your sanity and survival will sit in direct opposition to that of the addict’s. Despite your love, fears, tears, and prayers, you will be faced with the choice to stay or walk away. You will wonder if you did too much or not enough. You will self-persecute. You will play the fool. You will ache for the person you knew–before the addiction, before the pain. Time and time again.
And then one day, it will all just stop–either because the addict stopped engaging in the addiction or the addiction stopped him. But it will stop.
Addiction knows no race, gender, creed, religion, or economic status. It only knows those who have survived it and those who have perished. In nothing short of a miracle, it appears that Lamar Odom is poised to be one of its survivors. He has a testimony. Hopefully, it will be one of triumph over the demon called Addiction.