“Addicts And Those Who Love Them” behind every addict is someone traumatised by loving them.

“Addicts And Those Who Love Them” behind every addict is someone traumatised by loving them.

An exhibition of portraits and words by Antonia Rolls and photography by Michael McAlister.

They say that the greatest teachers in our lives are those that we find the hardest to be with. That is all very well when we are not interacting with them, but when in the middle of dealing with all the difficulties, challenges and madness, all we want is for it to stop.

There is a crazy addiction problem in my family. It gets worse as he gets older and more ill and less able to cope with life. I have had to learn that I can’t love this person into health. Everything I do and have done to help him has just taken the pressure off him between fixes; he can read me like a book, he knows how to make me run around looking after him. Even in the darkest times when he overdoses to teach me a lesson, I think, “Oh if only I could do something to help.”

I have learned with the help of Adfam, Alcoholics Anonymous and other family support groups that I cannot help. Perhaps I did not believe it. Now, I understand it. My dear addict has no intention of giving up to please me, of course not. Stepping back and detaching with love has been the hardest thing to do, but it is working. I am discovering boundaries, and a new sense of peace, and time for myself and all the while, my addict is doing his thing without me, I don’t know where or how because I have put my foot down, stated my boundaries, and seen him leave in a blaze of fury and accusations. But still I worry.

I am an artist. I respond to life through my painting and so, I have created an exhibition of paintings and words and my colleague and friend Michael McAlister is showing a series of photographs called “Small Signs” – small signs that tell the story of his own addiction and recovery. Called “Addicts And Those Who Love Them” I say that behind every addict is someone traumatised by loving them. This can be family, friends, spouses, siblings, children. It can be anyone who is dealing with addiction in a loved one’s life.

The exhibition shows painted portraits of both addicts, and people who love addicts. On each painting are words by the sitter about their experiences, their lives, their thoughts. I have no answers, I am telling their stories and showing all of us who struggle on in silence and feelings of shame and despair, that we are not alone. There are so many of us and the thing that binds the people in this exhibition is love. It is a tough love borne of many years of experience, so many difficult decisions, and so much courage. It is a painful love that lets go, detaches, and hopes for a miracle.

Addicts And Those Who Love Them is part of the Brighton Fringe. Showing from Tuesday 8 June to Sunday 13 June, midday to 8pm daily. Entrance free.

At Fishing Quarter Gallery, 201 Kings Road Arches, Brighton BN1 1NB


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