The response to Demi Lovato’s apparent addiction relapse has been dramatically polarised.On one side, people are eager to support those with addiction just as they would like to be open about any other mental health issue. Onthe other, there is the culture of blame.

For me, addiction is an issue that I struggle with, having suffered from someone’s refusal to admit their problem and refusal to get help. For a very long time, I was in the blame camp. I couldn’t see how you could look at the people you love, then look at whatever it is from which you can’t unhook yourself (drugs, alcohol, gambling), and choose the latter. In my eyes, that was an autonomous choice: a rejection of your loved ones in favour of that which divides you. Seeing addicts being supported, and then time and time again falling back off the wagon, just made me angry, made me feel like they didn’t deserve that support and love they received, because they just wouldn’t allow it to help them.

Now, after years of distance, I see things differently. Though I still feel that the things people do in their deepest pits of addiction cannot be forgotten, I realise that they must be seen for what they are: actions of the addict, not of the person you love. Now I see that addiction is a disorder like so many others. It is in the brain, something that, unfortunately, can’t just be begged and loved away. Hard as it may be, if you love someone with an addiction, you are the one with the choice. Do you put your time and effort into supporting them on the painfully long road that may, or may not, get them back to your friend, your family? Or, do you give up trying, because they’re hurting you too much to carry on?

This is not something that should be looked upon lightly, or judged. If you are the crutch of an addict, you need help too; you can’t do it alone either. And if you can’t do it full stop, that’s okay too. Yes, it is vitally important to get them help to acknowledge their problem, but it is also vitally important for you to have help in supporting them, if you choose to do so. It is hugely mentally detrimental to think that you can cure someone’s addiction alone; no matter how much you love them, or how much they love you. The road is not easy, and if you don’t support your own mental health too along the way, you may lose more than a loved one.

Fighting an addiction is a war, not a battle, but fighting to get a loved one back from it is even harder, and should not be done alone.

As a society, we must actively increase awareness that addiction is an illness, one that takes time and energy to cure. But perhaps we should be looking at preventions, as opposed to cures. Perhaps we should be looking to the societal reasons people turn to drugs, gambling, etc., in the first place. Why it is that these addictions become so cyclical,so impossible to break from, even for those with the recovery resources of someone like Demi Lovato.