Thursday night's "House" episode packed a kidney punch for anyone who is the friend, lover or relative of an addict. Our favourite television doctor, brilliantly portrayed by Hugh Laurie, a Brit who can do an American accent without sounding like he has a wasp in his mouth, is rapidly approaching the bottom of his downward spiral of (prescription) drug addiction. The sharp jabs we've forgiven because he was trying to save lives, the cynicism that amused, the crustiness that we suspected was an overlay for real humanity - all crashed over the line into irredeemable nastiness in the last episode.
Dr. Gregory House was an asshole, and I wanted nothing more than to pull him through the television and beat him up to within an inch of his life to make him see what he was doing to the people around him, especially those who cared about him. I'd have been equally happy if Lisa Cuddy, to whom House utters the unforgivable, "Good thing you failed to become a mom because you suck at it," had done it for me.
Someone on that writing team knows what they're talking about.
Nowhere is that clearer than in the depiction of how House's addiction affects everyone around him - from the pharmacist who dispenses his prescription to his best friend, James Wilson. House's unpredictable bursts of anger; his life revolving around obtaining the object of his addiction at the expense of everything else; the waning of his gifts; his inability to apologise when he realises he's gone too far will be eerily familiar to many. So will the portrayal of others walking on eggshells; involuntarily flinching away at his approach; their impotent rage; their loyalty, even when the person they became friends with or looked up to has disappeared down the black hole of addiction.
People who have never been close to an addict offer sweeping, facile advice: "Well, just stop spending time with him/her." "TELL THEM what they've become." "Why are you still friends with them?" Of course they need to hear the truth, but what good will destroying an already fragile ego do? And are you telling the truth out of love or to vent your anger and eliminate your own guilt? If they're not ready to hear it, will it do more damage than good?
However, staying with an addict shouldn't bring automatic applause. There are times when walking away and letting them fall is the best thing to do. The reasons for staying with your child, lover or friend aren't always noble. Sometimes you're afraid to leave because you don't know what else to do; sometimes you need to save someone; sometimes you feel guilty. Often, it fills a need to avoid your own pain. There are reasons some people are addicted to taking care of addicts.
That's not to say that one shouldn't stay for love or friendship: if you can keep your sense of self and firm boundaries, enter their darkness without being sucked in, and if you can still find the person you care for, then don't move an inch. Be searingly honest with yourself: motives are rarely pure, and this is no exception. Knowing that, if you honestly want to stay and can do so without losing yourself and becoming a martyr, you deserve that applause.
But remember: *if* they ever come out of the addiction - and it is only ever an *if* - you'll be building a new relationship. Your friend will either choose another addiction or will grapple with the underlying pain and be transformed. The shift in interpersonal dynamics will register a 10 on the Richter scale. No matter how patient, how caring, how understanding you've been, it will all matter: every lie; every broken promise; every time they were too self-absorbed to be there for you; every time they went for the jugular and never apologised because they couldn't remember what they'd said. Whether you admit it or not, you're hurt and angry. That can become a permanent barrier in the relationship if it isn't resolved with honesty and love.
But before that day comes, it's likely that even the strongest camel's back will break.
It is here that the scriptwriters' brilliance came through twofold: first, in the title, "Finding Judas". Aside from the obvious allusion to betrayal, it throws up real questions about Judas' motives: did he feel that Jesus was getting addicted to the power given him? That the attention they were drawing would bring about the extinction of their race? That he didn't go to the high priest out of greed, but because he felt he was acting for the greater good? Did he feel he was being faithless to be trustworthy?
" You've started to believe
The things they say of you
You really do believe
This talk of God is true.
And all the good you've done
Will soon get swept away.
You've begun to matter more
Than the things you say...
Listen, Jesus, do you care for your race?
Don't you see we must keep in our place?
We are occupied; have you forgotten how put down we are?
I am frightened by the crowd.
For we are getting much too loud...
And they'll crush us if we go too far.
If we go too far...
Listen, Jesus, to the warning I give.
Please remember that I want us to live." -Jesus Christ Superstar
This interpretation of Judas' motives makes it particularly appropriate that the person who goes to the detective investigating House isn't Chase, whom he punched; or Cuddy, whom he ripped into. It's his best friend, Wilson - the nice guy, the empathetic, caring one who didn't turn when his assets were frozen and his practice shut down by his refusal to incriminate House, but who had finally had enough when other people were really getting hurt.
We see him step into Detective Tritter's office, take a deep breath and say, "I'm gonna need thirty pieces of silver."
And one day, so will most of us.