“Behind every addict is someone traumatized by loving them”. If you’ve never experienced addiction, these words tend to hang in the air. Poised. Heavy. Looking for somewhere to land. They took my breath away.
Such is the power of talking with this week’s guest, Antonia Rolls. Antonia Rolls is an artist and uses painting and words to explore difficult subjects such as end of life, and addictions.
There is addiction in her family and over the last ten years she has seen how destructive, chaotic and hopeless life with and around addiction can be. She’s just completed the first stage of a project of paintings and words called ‘Addicts And Those Who Love Them’.
Behind every addict is someone traumatized by loving them. It is not so simple to just walk away when your addict is your child, your parent, your sibling, your spouse. Love complicates it all, and we are traumatized, and yet we do still love. We have to learn that this love has to start with ourselves, which gives us the courage to create boundaries in order to survive, to detach and keep our sanity. – Antonia Rolls
Join me for an insightful conversation with this remarkable woman.
In this Episode:
- How to love an addict whilst loving yourself
- Learn about the power of listening to those in trauma
- Transcending emotional scars to help others
- How to act from your heart and truly see people in moments of communal judgement
Follow Cath at Drawn to a Story
- antoniarolls.co.uk – follow Antonia’s work
- Subscribe to Antonia’s newsletter
- Be part of the exhibition – Antonia is looking for more stories to include in her May 2022 exhibition. If you have an active addiction, are in recovery, or in a relationship with an addict, and would like to be in the exhibition, please contact Antonia at: email@example.com
Music by Grant McLachlan
Resources for help:
In the UK
Adfam – help for families dealing with drug and alcohol addiction
Al Anon – Family group support alcohol addiction, drug addiction and addictive behaviours
Carers UK – Support for carers
Samaritans – FREE Help – Tel: 116 123, E: firstname.lastname@example.org
The British Psychology Society – Find a Psychologist
Mind – Addiction and Dependency Support
In the USA
National Institute of Mental Health – a range of helplines
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – Tel: 1-800-273-8255
American Psychologist Association – Psychologist Finder
USA Government – Help for Mental Health and Substance Abuse
Beyond Blue – Mental health support
Headspace – National Youth Mental Health Foundation with support services
The Black Dog Institute – Medical health resources, services and research
SANE Australia – Counselling support, Tel: 1800 187 263 (10am – 10pm)
Alcohol and Drug Foundation – Help and Support Services
OR contact medical services in your country.
Cath: This podcast contains conversations about trauma, addiction, death, and other challenging subjects, and maybe sensitive for some listeners. Listener discretion is advised. If you need resources to get help, please see the show notes.
You're listening to Drawn to a Deeper Story, I'm Cath Brew I'm an artist who illustrates and educates about marginalized experiences for positive change with a particular interest in identity, belonging, and expat life. This podcast is about lives. That challenge us and the difficult conversations around them. It's a place where we can listen openly, absorb people's truths and to learn how to show up differently for the benefit of everyone.
Antonia: My experience is that you cannot love somebody better. You cannot throw so much love at them that they'll see the light. That's not going to work.
Cath: Today's guest is Antonia Rolls. She's an artist and uses painting and words to explore difficult subjects, such as end of life and addictions. Now I was trying to work out when I first met Antonia, and I think it was about 2014 at an event that was called A Dead Good Day Out. We were there with Ichabod, my partner's death dummy that they made, for teaching care of the body within the funeral profession, as you do. And Antonia was there with her exhibition, A Graceful Death, a series of paintings about end of life. Now, when I met Antonio, I liked her immediately. She's one of those people who have really great depth. She's
quiet, almost unassuming, but when you leave, you know you want more, you want to continue the conversation.
I could seriously talk to this woman all day and she has a grace to her that makes talking about lives that challenge us, almost easy. And when I say challenge, I mean, challenge. Antonia has addiction in her family. She told me that over the last 10 years, she has seen how destructive, chaotic and hopeless life with and around addiction can be.
And she has just completed the first stage of a project of paintings and words called 'Addicts and Those Who Love Them' and says that behind every addict is someone traumatized by loving them. Let me just say that again. That behind every addict is someone traumatized by loving them. That's quite a statement. And so at this point, I'd like to bring Antonia in to actually explain what that means.
Welcome to Drawn to a Deeper Story Antonia.
Antonia: Hi Cath. Thank you so much. We are going for the humdinger aren't we?
Cath: We are. We're going to go for the humdinger, but this is what this is all about. It's about honest conversations. It's about speaking our truths because nothing ever changes. That's one of the things I love about you is your realness, your truth, and the subjects you deal with through your works. And so if we're going to go for the humdinger, I think. I'll probably just go straight in and actually just say, to you, tell us what's it like being the mother of an addict?
Antonia: Gosh. Well in a way, how long have you got, I'm going to link that with, 'that behind every addict to someone traumatized by loving them'.
And I think the operative word there is love and the fact that when one has a
relationship with somebody that is, I'm going to use the word unavoidable because they are either a spouse or a child or a parent. It's harder, so much harder to just say I'm walking away. He might do that with a friend, even though you may love them, but with somebody you, you cannot help, but have a relationship with, it is very, very hard. You know, I I've had to learn all of the different, different types of love that I can express and that I can feel, and that I must also give to myself.
Cath: Because I can imagine you could actually, that it's possible to love someone very much, but to not actually like them very much.
Antonia: Yes, absolutely. And then you see the thing is that in this, this topic, like addiction, my
experience is that you cannot love somebody better. That you cannot throw so much love at them that they'll see the light. That's not going to work, but we all hope that it will work in the beginning. You know, we, we, we hope that If I'm just here for you all the time.
If I just love you, if I just forgive you, if I just keep turning up that somehow you'll see the light, maybe that will happen. But I would say now after so many years, that's so unlikely. That's so unlikely. So we have to change the love that we feel we have to, we have to toughen up.
Cath: And I imagine that in doing that there's a very, very difficult line that you have to learn. How do you love someone and not lose yourself at the same time?
Antonia: Absolutely. Absolutely. Because you know, you, you know, codependency is, is I think quite a, quite a thing. There are people who say
it, it isn't a thing at all. But I, I do believe that if you don't call it codependency, you'd call it something else. That is some kind of madness in, in loving an addict without boundaries and without understanding that it's their story, and you simply have to be able to say thus far and no further. And I found as well I, I, I can be very, very distressed and angry with what happens, you know, after an episode, a terrible episode with my son and I can say, this is it I'm done, but I then have a complicated, time where I have to readjust and say, well, no, I do love him.
I don't like, I don't like you. I don't like the addiction. I don't like his behaviour, but he still in there. And even though I cannot rescue him, I cannot save him, I cannot do anything, I must be tough.
I must say, I will not take your calls. I will not see you. I will not be involved in this. I still love you.
Cath: And actually, if there ever is that day, of that the hope happens of where you, you say you, you wish for that, that miracle or the kind of happily ever after what, like, I hate that phrase, but that kind of idea, that you need to be well, so that when that day happens, you can receive your child in that way, I imagine. Is that something that, that there's a, you need to look after yourself as, as, and when it's happening, but also so that you can be there to have that relationship that you want if it happens.
Antonia: Yeah, absolutely. Because somebody very wise once said that if you cannot do anything for somebody, let's say an addict or anybody, let's say this is more general. If you cannot reach a person, if you cannot
do anymore, the one thing you can still do is be a good example. So to, to live, you know, nobody needs to lose their, sanity, their health, their identity for somebody else, because with addiction with, with chronic addiction, you know, you, hope that if you keep intervening that they'll come up to meet you, but they never do.You always go down to meet them. And then there's two of you in the crazy. So, you know, you have to be so careful not to do that. But I also say that, you know people don't, people do come out of addiction and it is so true that, that the person who is in their addiction, they do have to make the choices and that's hard. And sometimes they make the
choices, you know, three times a week. Sometimes they try and try and try and it goes on and on and on. You have to, this is a big thing, you know, I thought that if you made a choice to come out of addiction and you went into rehab, that's it. You're fine. But it isn't, because the addiction taking the substances, that that's just a small part of it. Normally, usually I think that people take substances because they are self-medicating that they need, they need that something to take away, the trauma, the pain, whatever it is, they're avoiding, you take away those substances, which actually work at least in the beginning they work. They do take away all feelings.
Once those have been removed and you've gone through a kind of detox. You have all the pain.
Cath: A lot of work to do then.
Antonia: You have to, you have to be supported, deeply supported to feel all
those things and to make your way back in the world. And it really is true. It's one day at a time.
Cath: Yeah. And I was going to say it's hard enough to confront those things for someone who's healthy, who, not someone who's living with the disease of addiction. Someone like me, I, I haven't had addiction, so there's no fear of me going back to that. I imagine the fear hanging around is also a big part of the pressure that, someone would put on themselves and the pressure that they may feel from other people.
Antonia: Yeah. And here's, here's another sort of lesson that I've had to learn. Like you, I don't have any addictions. I don't have drug and alcohol addictions. I do like my tea.
Cath: Tea and Antonia for every, for everyone tea and Antonia are synonymous!
Antonia: Yes, we, we love each other me and tea but, one of the
things I have to understand is that it's not my story. And you really, really, that is so hard. That's so hard to come, come to as a mother or as someone who loves an addict, is that actually, they are choosing their story. And I much though, I would love to go in and save them. I can't. So if, how can we put it? I am better observing. Their... How they're living. I'm better just not getting involved, but if they ask for help and I feel that I can give it and it's appropriate, because sometimes it isn't, because sometimes I may get a call saying, could you come to Nottingham and pick me up because I'm in a crack den and horrible, you know, obviously, no. But if somebody might
phone and say, look I'm really down. I'm really, really down. Can you meet me for a cup of coffee and , can we just talk? Yeah, you can do that.
Cath: Do you fear that they'll ever be your last time that you want to try?
Antonia: Funnily enough? When you started that sentence I heard, do you ever feel there will be a last time and then you said to try it. No, I don't think there'll be a last time to try because it's a kind of dance. It's a dance between the person who's addicted, whose main reason for existing is whatever their fix is. That that's another important thing. We don't come into it we're useful to somebody who is in deep addiction. I am, I'm so useful to my, to my son when he's in, 'crazy' because I may be able to get him what he says he needs. So and he knows how to push all the buttons,
push all of those buttons. But sometimes I do have to think whether instead of a last time to try, there might be just a last time. And I do, I do prepare myself for that.
Cath: That must be incredibly difficult to live with. Cause I mean, I'm not a parent, so I can only imagine the places that you've been to emotionally, like the rollercoaster of that. How do you describe yourself compared to like five, 10 years ago or at the beginning of dealing with this? How have you changed and also do you fear that because you've learned the behaviour of someone who's an addict and what they will do to get the fix, as you just said... did you ever have periods where you fear that that would harden you up and make you suspicious of other people as well?
Antonia: Well, yeah, those, those are good questions. The first one is have I changed? Do I, do I
see myself as different in the last five years? And the second one is, I suppose you're asking something like I might, I cynical or mistrustful of other people. Well the strangest thing about this journey is that when it's bad, it is so bad. It's so bad because I'm frightened. I'm misjudge myself. I question myself. I go over and over and over in my head. Should I have been any different? Should I have done anything different? And imagine how it must be for my son to be in this, this crazy. And I think that where I am now, I'm much wiser. I'm much calmer. I'm much more detached. And I think that the love I feel is possibly more practical. I can't, I can't shake my son off.
I would never want to. He is magnificent. He's a wonderful person. He's absolutely wonderful. And I think that it's been, it's been so toxic and so disruptive. And so it's almost like gaslighting, you know, you kind of, you doubt your own sanity.
Cath: I'm really interested you brought that up because that was going to be one of my questions of the gaslighting that you do with yourself, but also the other people that might do through complete unawareness of not wanting to believe that it's really happening.
Or not asking or active ignorance even of that you're dealing with this and it's, and, and to be brutally honest in preparing for this interview and thinking about talking to you I have to say I was honestly ashamed that I haven't fully understood what you were dealing with and the help that you needed
and have felt that I've been absent. And that's really struck me when I've realized what you've actually been living with and continue to live with. And I, firstly, I want you to know that because it's, it's been, it's been a really big thing cause I don't think, I really fully was aware. And so there's, there's that, but then there's like, what about the gas lighting that you do and within yourself of judging yourself and, and like you say, that must be incredibly difficult to live with.
Antonia: You're absolutely right. I mean, to go back to, to feeling like you weren't there, you are there, you know, you are, you are darling and you, you are there. The thing with fighting a battle as it feels like often. My battle as, because I'm battling a response all the time. I can't, the only proactive thing I can do is to say no and put up boundaries, you know,
until there may be a time where I can, I can join in a recovery or healing, but, but the thing with battling this journey is this is quite interesting.
There's a lot of shame about it. There's a great deal of shame. And I think you've touched on this. One feels you wouldn't believe me if I told you there are generally all of us, me included, because, you know, how could it be otherwise? How do any of us know anything till we experienced it? I would I would find that people simply would not understand what I was saying, because they already had, a narrative about addiction. They already had something in their heads about addiction, which is completely right, because like I say, if you haven't been through it, then how can you know? People
mean so well, everyone, if somebody did hear especially in the beginning about what, what I was, what was happening. They would want to solve it. They would, they would want to give me advice. They would want to say, oh, but have you tried this? And none of that works because it's just crazy. It's so crazy.
Cath: Well, it's not, it doesn't follow any rational lines. Does it? Because it, because it's an addiction, it's its own beast. It doesn't follow what we think are normal patterns of behaviour. Like I imagine that talking with friends and people, sometimes who, who were those people, that actually, it could be like, you'd want to see someone, but you potentially could leave feeling even more confused or hurt because you're trying to connect with people who, who are trying, but you're not, you're not connecting because you're not understanding each other.
Antonia: Absolutely. Yes, absolutely. And this, this, this is
where actually, two things. First of all, it is important to find people who you can talk to and support. And I can't remember what the second one is. I've just said one of them, but I can't remember the other one's evaporated. I think the other one is that there are support groups for people who are in a relationship with addicts. And, oh yeah. I was going to tell you that story of the first time I went to a support group, which I was advised to go to. A local council one here where I live. And I walked in and there were maybe about 12 people in there. Mostly older people, some younger, we all had to say, why we were there in the group, going
around the group. And I remember when it came to my turn and this was probably about 10 years ago, I just burst into tears. And I said, I hate my son and I want him to die. I thought, oh my God, I'm going to be thrown out.
Why? I just said that terrible thing. Do you know, in the meeting, what they did is they all put their arms around me and they said, look, it's. That you want him dead. You just want this to stop and you don't hate him. You just hate what's happening. And they said we've all been there. It's okay.
Cath: And that must've been amazing just to, to have that lifted off you.
Antonia: Yes, because I felt like I was going mad because I was, you know, in the beginning before I talked to people about it, Because an addict will make you feel that your job is your responsibility. They are wonderful at transference and taking no responsibility. And this is part of the
gaslighting. So yeah, I would believe that it's true. It's because of me and nothing, I did work. It just got worse and worse. And when I met people who had experienced the same thing and found a way to cope with it, and then we're there to love when needed, because they were more detached and more in a better place themselves. And they could be of service to their loved ones. And I still just want to say how much I do love my son and how you know, our lives have gone up and down and up and down. And no matter what happens, even if we don't talk for months, we still come back and communicate again. Yeah.
Cath: And that's wonderful that isn't, that I just find that incredible, like the, the power of the human spirit to adapt and change and still love and, and transfer, transform what that love is
and still be that. It's Incredible. And I think you talking about. Makes me think of the day that my spouse and I came to your exhibition in Brighton, because I think you've transcended that position yourself that those people gave you because I was so impressed that day, just for the listeners. Antonia had an exhibition in Brighton and it was all about the basically addiction and, and those who love them. And I was so incredibly impressed. With how you approached people and how you held their stories, that, and both addicts and relatives and friends of. You've talked about the support that you sought and that's completely understandable given what you've been going through, but I noticed in that environment that you were there supporting others, it was almost like being an archetypal mother. And it was such a beautiful thing to watch. And
guys that came in that were on stuff and like rapidly talking and, and people who were coming out of addictions and I'm wanting hugs from you and just watching you was absolutely beautiful. And I want to ask you how much of that holding space is for you and how much of it is for them?
Antonia: Well, a big thank you because that was a lovely, lovely thing to say. And I will just tell all your listeners that was your birthday. It was so lovely. So holding space and listening to stories, this is something which I've learned through working with people at the end of life. And it takes years to kind of get an idea of it.
Which is the same old thing, whatever people are telling us, that's not our story. So let's say somebody's talking to me and it's something about
addiction. It's something about an experience. And if this experience is quite powerful and to most people who do talk about their own things that have hurt or upset or transcended them. It is powerful, but it's nothing to do with me. It's not my story so I don't have to fix it. I don't have to give too much of a response. I just have to listen. Calmly openly and with so much love and respect, because what they're saying is taking a great deal of courage. And so if I'm being offered this gift of somebody's truth, then my response is to hear everything they say and love them back.
There will be so many times when.
They're telling their story where people will interrupt them and say, have you tried this? Or I don't agree with that. Or I've had enough of this or no, you're wrong about that? It's so good for all of us to have somebody who wants to listen, who is not involved, who respects the story from beginning to end and will just love you throughout. Does that make sense?
Cath: Absolutely. And validates what you're telling them. They're not like, as you say, by trying to fix it or, or give suggestions, you're putting yourself into the story and actually it's about witnessing and just allowing a space to exist, I guess.
Antonia: Yeah. And sometimes, you know, when somebody is allowed to talk about themselves and say all the things which are difficult to say, naming things like wanting to die, naming
things like having been in prison for really difficult crimes through addiction. It's hard to name all those, those kinds of things to somebody because you know what one is making myself vulnerable, talking about them in the first place. So, yes, to be able to hear what somebody's saying, the truth of it without being involved in it, That person to just feel a bit better. That's all you can offer isn't it?
Cath: And to not judge so that you're, you're just receiving the information. because I think one of the things I think is wrong with the world generally is that, people like you... you indicated talk about vulnerability. People don't like to feel vulnerable because it feels like it takes you out of position of strength and out of control. But the more we're vulnerable, the more I've noticed that it allows other people to be
vulnerable. And we then start to realize that we're not all perfect and we've all got this. And we've got that. And all these kinds of wonderful things that we might project, but actually. Whatever it is, everybody's dealing with stuff and it varying degrees, but by just showing a kink in our armour, allow someone else to, and then we get compassion.
Antonia: Absolutely. And I would also add to that, that boundaries are really important, really, really important. I was just reminded when you were talking there Cath, that the things that I do with addiction, I, I have done with end of life. And I was reminded of somebody that I was being a companion for as they were dealing with cancer and they were, they were dealing with the end.
And this person said to me, you don't actually have to give me any answers and you don't have to be more
knowledgeable than me. I don't want to feel when I'm talking to you that you're looking for solutions, even if you don't say them. And I thought that was very valuable. And what I came away with with that was that.
When we're listening, listening to somebody, we have to be really careful not to know more than they do, you know? So, and so if somebody's talking to me about their addiction journey. Somebody is talking to me about perhaps difficulty of dealing with a family member. I might want to say, yes, I've, I've heard of that and I've read this about it, or, or I've spoken to someone else, and this is what they said about it, or I've had that experience and, and yes, here's, here's what happening is what's happening. I'll just, I'll just lay it out for you. That, that brings everything back to me. And makes the conversation about me.
Cath: Absolutely. I take away their power, the bit of power that they have and the vulnerability and the bravery.
Antonia: And so what I ended up with this person who
was telling me, please don't know more than me, was... It was pretty hard lesson, but I did. I learned with that person to actually stop responding as though I needed. And just listen. And that was, that was quite a hard lesson to learn because it's lovely being right. It's absolutely.
Cath: Yeah, it is. And I also think it relates to that sense of if we can box everything in, to fit within our understanding, then everything's all right in the world. Like that person does that, so they must be that that person looks like that, so they must be that. And we do that and we box in, so. We want to fix and we want to fill in those gaps. So it fits our own desired definition, which is actually at the limit of our own experiences, not someone else's. And all we do is build little boxes all the time, rather than actually properly seeing people. And I think that
lesson is, is wonderful. That. It's not about you. It's about that person.
Antonia: And you're you said to see people and that's in itself is an absolute gift that we can give other people to see them, to really see them. Some of the people who I talk with feel that they never have been seen the experience of being seen by a stranger, me. It's very powerful for them as well.
Cath: And especially as a stranger that you can, you can give a soft landing, so to speak rather than when they know, like with people who really matter to them that are family members or people that they, they want someone's approval. There's something lovely about creating a space that's safe that doesn't, isn't loaded with that emotion that someone else might, and it might give them the, the inclination to try again or to share something.
Antonia: The nice thing about a stranger who's loving you quietly with boundaries is that you can tell them anything and they'll have to believ you, because they don't know.
Cath: I have to say that that day at the exhibition hearing people's stories, I didn't get a sense of that. There was an energy in that room that was incredibly powerful. And I don't know if I ever said this to you. I left that day feeling changed. I felt like something had been different. And as I said, I've never had an addiction. And I was very aware of my own learning that that I felt like I was witnessing and interacting with people outside of my circles. But actually in being there, I realized that it's very nice to sit on your high and mighty stall and think this is other people, when actually you are a friend you're in my circles, I've got a number of friends with addictions in the families.
I've even seen it in my own family and saying that I feel that little bit of shame. I, I, I know I'm still judging myself and, and if I'm connected to someone who's addicted and I wanted to kind of ask you, why do you think we judge so much for things like this?
Antonia: Well, it's a very good question, Cath. You know, and I'm just going to mention that your presence in the exhibition helped the energy in the room too, you and Angie together. Your presence helped the energy in the room because you're two very good people. So why do people judge? Well, addicts don't behave. They, they do not behave very well. They are oblivious to reason and oblivious to the normal social interactions. They are manipulative and crazy. And
they that's what they show. They have absolutely no ability to stop destroying themselves and everyone around them with whatever substance, alcohol, drugs. And I suppose I have no real experience of addictive behaviours, but I would imagine that that as in gambling, you know, it's the same crazy destruction that's what's presented. And what we commonly take for granted that if we don't like something, we can tell somebody and somehow there'll be a dialogue and somehow there'll be progress. That doesn't happen and it's so shocking to, to be in that crazy because, you know, you feel like you're losing your mind. And so people do judge. And when you see people who are addicted, falling about the place, you know, alcoholics. You know, and you, you see how
dis-inhibited somebody who's drinking can be, that can be so violent. They can be so ridiculously without fear. And that's the product of the substance they're using. Yeah, that's true. Yeah. That's what people see. And so of course they're disgusted. Of course they say, I will have nothing more to do with these people are bad.
Cath: So it's judging the person, not the substance is what they're doing.
Antonia: They're judging the behaviour, because of course it's not something one knows about it until one meets an actual addict and possibly has a wonderful conversation with them and sees the human inside, you know, that whatever substance somebody's taking, whatever it is, it wears off. And there's always a point in which they're not high or under the influence and that sometimes, hearing their stories because people, people take substances to help them cope. You know, they, they,
they, they, self-medicate not it it's, I don't think anyway. I don't think let's say mostly because I just don't know, but mostly people don't choose to become an addict, you know, they don't, they don't go out and say, I can't wait.
Cath: It's not on the life goals of like becoming a fireman kind of thing. It's not, it's not part of our moral aspirations. Is it? So it's and then the behaviour of it is outside what we deem as a social and cultural acceptable behaviour. So we, we judge what we see, not judge what's actually going on. If that makes sense is how I feel.
Antonia: And I also wanted to be very understanding and say that actually that's possibly a good way to do it because if somebody is behaving very badly, it's a good idea to remove yourself from that situation. It's so complex.
I think what I want to come back to is the idea of love and the fact that somebody once said to me, it's just so hard to love, you know, it's something we, we need to do, but it's even harder to love the unlovable
I'm still learning. I still don't know what the answer is. How does one have and maintain a relationship with someone who's in addiction who is resistant to change, help, reality, my version of reality, they have their own version of reality and how difficult it is to know that for myself, I don't have the option of saying, you are dead to me, unless you change. That's not an option. If that kind of thing worked, then there would be hardly anyone misbehaving in any way. But it's
really important. I think the kind that to maintain love, but to understand that it can take many different forms and it can be expressed in many different ways. and also, I keep saying this to people, is to love yourself first, you have to do that. Otherwise you will be empty and you can't be of service and you can't be effective if you don't put time into loving yourself, which doesn't mean you give yourself carte blanche to do everything you like. That makes you feel good. It's that is loving yourself is as you and I know it's a lifelong journey of looking at yourself with true eyes and learning to love yourself in order that you can be more.
Cath: And I think that loving yourself is also a really powerful way
of leading to not judging other people because you feel whole within yourself and you don't need to judge. Like, I mean, with addiction, we know that the brain actually changes when someone is addicted and there's a misconception that it's all, it's a choice or it's a moral problem and they can just get off it if you want all that kind of stuff. So if, if it's about self love for you, because you're like genetically related to someone, what's your advice to help the average person to have more compassion for an addict to actually see someone and not judge and not like, just step over them in the street or how do we actually start to break that gap that's there. How do we step forward?
Antonia: Well, I am not sure that, that we actually can do very much about an addict and their life. What I think we can
do is practice seeing and respecting. This is going to people may well disagree with me about this. I quite understand that. If I go to London and addicts, get on the train and they have a story and they say, I'm just trying to get money to go to a hostel.
Cath: Yeah. I've heard that one, many times.
Antonia: So people close their faces, close their bags, turn away and the corners of their mouth go down. What I think is look at that person, give them money if you've got it, because whatever you do, you will never at least today be in as bad a place as they are, and if you have ever seen somebody who is withdrawing and cannot get their fix,
you would think twice about saying you deserve to do that. It's all a matter of willpower. So I would say, see people, there is a stock reaction. Which is to turn away and to feel ugh...feel like that. That's understandable. I would also say before you turn away, I don't know how to say this. I didn't know how to show to somehow open your heart so that there is a respect and there is a boundary and you are not judging. You can turn away, but you do it because this feels like boundary for you without the kind of I'm doing this because you disgust me or I will never give you money because you will just do this.....
Cath: So with kindness and radical compassion with kindness.
Antonia: And I would also say if somebody is getting on the train or somebody, accosts you because they need money and you've got it, give it to them because you don't know.
Yes, they'll go, they'll get high. Yes, they will. But you don't know whether you've given them five extra minutes of life in which something may happen to help them
Cath: I know that what you've just said can be a very hot subject. I know I've had conversations with friends before where a similar thing where I remember once in Sydney, I was out for dinner with a friend, someone came up to to us and gave us pretty much that identical story. And I remember giving them a $10. I think it was at the time. It wasn't, wasn't a lot of money at that time. And my friend questioned it and was saying that it'll just be used on drink or alcohol or drugs or whatever. And I said, but I can afford to help that person in this moment. I said, we've just spent this amount of money on a meal. I said, That's it it's like, it's not my responsibility, but actually if there's any way that this money helps in the short term, then that's what I wanted to do. And I know that's probably
maybe not the right thing to do, but it's what I did. And it felt right at the time. But I don't know. It's a really difficult, I think it's a case by case it's a really difficult situation. And I think if you're not going to do it, the keys to look at why you're not doing it to look at yourself and be honest with yourself about why you're not.
Antonia: And I also think that in that moment where you decide not to that's okay too. It's almost like, what is your energy like? And that's why I would say. This sounds so woo. If you can kind of open up a bit of your heart while you're doing it, just to say, you know, just something like, I wish you, well, I wish you, well, not even get well, because that's too difficult, but I wish you, you know, I remember that along the same lines I was on a crowded train and this disheveled ragged young man got
on and he, he must've been in his twenties. And people were very agitated because he really did smell and he looked awful and he was doing this thing. I needed money for a hostel. And when he came up to me, I said, what's your name? And he said, Steven. And I said, Steven, I've got this in my purse and you can have it. And for one brief, second, we looked at each other and I thought, you could be my son and I hope somebody else does this for you. And that was, he took the money and he went and God knows what happened to him. But the interesting thing was that the people around me were so embarrassed. They were so embarrassed and I don't know what the embarrassment was about, maybe because I'd made a fool of myself. Though I hadn't, because I was in perfect control of
myself and I knew exactly what I was doing, what I thought I was doing. What I thought I was doing was acknowledging and saying, looking at his eyes and saying, what is your name? Who are you? Tell me forthe next 10 seconds.
Cath: Properly seeing him?
Antonia: Yes. And then going away. That's not always possible. People have come up to me in the past and I've kind of turned the other way because I didn't feel safe, but while turning away not doing it with a cruelty.
Cath: We haven't got long left. So I want to I want you to tell us a bit about your exhibition, what work's coming up. Cause I know you've just finished the first the first showing that we were lucky enough to come to. So can you tell us a bit more about what's installed for the future.
Antonia: Yes, I can. Well, I've got a year now to do more work for 'addicts and those who love them, behind every addict to somebody's traumatized by loving them'. That's the actual title, the whole thing. I am going to paint
more portraits because what it is is portraits of people who are in active addiction, who've come out of addiction and people who have a relationship who love an addict and they are their portraits sometimes the people who are in the portraits want to remain anonymous so I paint them from the back. I write something of their story on the actual painting and I just leave it. So I'm telling stories because I don't know about anyone else. I know my own experience, but I have no idea that anyone else's this whole exhibition, the addicts and those who love them, it's all about just telling the stories of people like us because you know, we're all people.
And it's presenting different aspects of this enormously wide and never ending addiction journey
and all the people who are involved in it, all the family members, many of them are absolutely devastated and destroyed by the addiction journey. And of course there are addicts that come through and families that come together again, it's not all hopeless and it helps me understand more every time. Something good happens through the exhibition, I think maybe that will go to my son. Maybe some of them, some of this experience will somehow magically rub off on my son and something good will happen for him.
Cath: And it's just, it's like one person at a time. Isn't it just slowly making a positive impact of one at a time?
Antonia: Yes, because there's like, what I'm thinking is that if I can light a little spark of hope or of, of of relief or of understanding, or of just that kind of moment where you just think, oh, phew. If I can do that one person at a time,
like you're saying through the exhibition, they go off and they start to behave differently. Or maybe they will. Some kind of little ripple of peace or understanding or relief or something to somebody else. And that will spread some kind of weird healing.
Cath: Well, it's already happening. If it wasn't for me coming along and you having done the exhibition for me to have a day out on my birthday, we wouldn't be sitting here having this conversation and going out to the world. I mean, it's. It's why I wanted you, because I know the power of what you do. I mean, I, you can't see me, but I've got goosebumps. As I'm saying this, the power of people connecting and sharing stories and the change that we can do in the world and actually the understanding and the increased awareness . It's just magical. And I don't use that word lightly either. It is absolutely magical. What can come off.
Antonia: Yes. And I think you're right. It is that it is connection. It's like, if I don't have an agenda, if you don't have, if we don't have an agenda and we just, you know, we just listen. As you say Cath, magic happens and it's not rocket science. You don't have to be highly educated. You don't have to have any qualifications at all. You just have to want the best. You just have to put yourself out there and just open up. You know, I was going to say that the the next exhibition is in May in Brighton, two weeks.
Cath: We'll have to come back.
Antonia: Like in this exhibition, there's writing in the exhibition. People have written down some, some poems, some experiences I'd like to have within this two weeks of the addicts and those who love them exhibition. I'd like to have some talks by people who would be fascinating.
So I think I would love to have some kind of workshops learning experiences.
Cath: That would be wonderful. Yeah. And I was thinking even epigenetics, like how, how your body reads a DNA sequence, how that can change through what you're experiencing your behaviour and environment and how fascinating that would be for people to understand bigger picture kind of stuff. That that would be amazing.
Antonia: Yes. Like trauma being passed down through generations, the way that somebody would cope with this, this trauma intergenerational trauma. To turn to substances that take away all the pain.
Cath: Oh, it's absolutely amazing. Antonia. I love your work and I'm, I'm, I'm partly sorry that this is what you're having to deal with, but I'm also incredibly humbled because actually you're creating most amazing work that wouldn't have happened without it as well. Does that make sense?
Antonia: And you're so lovely. Thank you.
before we finish, how can people find you if they want to come along to an exhibition, if they're in the UK or maybe see you online? Is there anything online?
Antonia: Yeah. Well, okay. So if you go to my, my website, which is antoniarolls.co.uk. On there, you can subscribe to my newsletter, which comes out every two weeks. And my newsletter is kind of updates from the studio and from life updates from life and the studio on there. If anyone wants to get hold of me in person you can do that through my website.
Cath: Okay, fantastic. And that's Antonia roles.co.uk. I'll put the details in the show notes.
Antonia: I've made like very easy. Everything I do is just Antonio Rolls. So you just look up Antonia Rolls anywhere. So I'm on Facebook, Instagram, I've got a YouTube channel. I'd love people to subscribe to the newsletter
because I have a blog, which I write every two weeks as well. So the newsletter and the blog goes together.
Cath: It's been so precious to be able to talk to you and actually I wanted to thank you for your honesty and your willingness to share what I know is can be very difficult, but also in some strange way can be kind of beautiful and one of the greatest teachers as well. And I think you represent that duality in the work that you do and the interactions that you have with everybody. So thank you very much for, for being on the show.