It takes a long time for me to lay down my weapons and feel a little more relaxed that the war could actually be over. I begin to trust again and focus more towards the future rather than just making it through the day. My relationship with my addict improves and we become friendly and affectionate again and life feels good. Letting down my guard, removing a few bricks from around my heart, allowing myself to smile again begins to feel good. I could even say, I might be feeling happy. We start to kiss again, cuddle, laugh and do all the things so many people take for granted. I love these moments so much that I begin to block out the possibility of things ever going back to how they were. I get so caught up in enjoying the ‘normality’ of life that I forget this is not my version of normality. Then suddenly, and without warning, without ‘reason’ or excuse my addict relapses.
It’s like when you see the embers of a fire burning, merely giving off a soft glow and suddenly a flame begins to flicker amongst the ashes and when more fuel is added to it, there is a roaring fire once again. That fire is inside me. I pick up my weapons again and I just want to lash out. It feels like I have this invisible extra arm inside me holding a dagger. Sometimes it emerges out through my mouth, with cutting words and distorted face I can slice up my addict with the most hateful of sounds. I see this hand, holding this dagger, chopping at my own skin. I imagine the jagged blade dragging the skin at my arms and shoulders as I self loathe that I allowed my defences to come down, left myself vulnerable and open to pain. I imagine cutting my arms and legs and ravaging my body, punishing myself for letting myself down, for still being in this relationship, for still being in this situation. In my imagination I drop this knife thinking of Allah and Knowing Allah would be displeased with me if I self harmed. Not wanting to mark the body He gave me or distress the other people in my life that would see the scars. And so I just cut myself up inside, where no one can see the wounds that lie within me. I pick up a different weapon. A shield.
So is a shield a weapon? It is for me as I picture smacking my addict around the head with it. Battering them left and right until they fall to the ground. My anger boils and bubbles at their lack of care and love for me wondering how they could let me down again, just as things were going so well. Or so I thought. But I am not, by nature, a violent person and it is only in my minds eye that I, for a moment or two, envision this bloody scene. And then the guilt sets in. Some say guilt is a feeling, some say it is a thought. I suppose I would say it is a whisper. A whisper from shaitan and if we allow him to, it turns into a thought. And if we allow it to further still, it turns into a feeling and then worse a passion and then an action. And so I shake my head and throw away the thoughts and look at my shield for another purpose and it is no longer a weapon to me.
It is not a pretty shield, like the ones with the golden shine of a Disney prince. It is a heavy, dirty specimen, made from a concoction of various materials. There are bricks, solid and thick where no light nor sight can penetrate. This keeps my addict out, stopping them from emanating my heart but the downside to this means I can no longer reach out. There is cracks, if one was to look hard enough to see. Sometimes good friends who love me peep through and see the pain and know how to widen the cracks to let me out or I may just let them in. But my addict never looks. Oh they see the crack alright but it is too painful for them to come close enough to try. My addict turns selfishly away from the cracks, consumed by their own self loathing and pity, only leading to my greater sense of abandonment. So as time goes on I fill the cracks so the opportunity they once had is now gone.
There is dirt on the outside of the shield. This is where it was thrown my way by way of words meant to make it feel as though it is my own fault. I used to listen to that, and those words made their way in. You can still see the stains on the inside of the shield but I wiped it all away the day I refused to believe I was to blame.
This is actually my normality. This is how I get through the day. Hiding behind the shield, keeping my binded heart from coming undone again. But it is so heavy carrying it around all the time. It makes me tired and living on the edge, awaiting the enemy ambush is too much for one soldier, that is why it is taken in shifts. But there is no respite for the carer of an addict. We wait in silent fear, waiting for the danger that feels so incredibly imminent at all times.
As my addict begins to get a little better, they perk up and come back to life. I peep over the shield to assess the safety of coming out. Eventually I drop it a little lower, until I can go about my day merely holding it down by my side, not letting go of it completely. But it still weighs the same.
Until the day comes when I think, let me just put it down for a while, like a child who places their favourite cuddly toy under a tree to watch them while they play, secure in the knowledge that they will collect it after.
But tell me this, Oh Allah, why is it that the moment I do this, is when my addict relapses again? And for a moment I feel like that distressed child who realises they went home, forgetting their beloved bear.