When the series finale of Nurse Jackie ended and the credits began to roll, I was kinda like, “Ummm…so, THAT’S it?!” My feelings were mixed and I felt dissatisfied. After a few minutes passed and I really started to think about it, I soon realized that it was actually quite perfect.
While the writers brought to us: colorful characters (Zoe was by far my favorite), tragically hilarious storylines and sarcastic one-liners – the show was about addiction. There was no real beginning and therefore, no real ending was called for. They wrote, for us, merely a glimpse into the life of one woman and her illness.
We are spoiled, as viewers. We like to have everything spelled out for us and then wrapped up into a box of closure topped with a bow. We want that big shoot out or that island wedding or some cataclysmic lesson. When everything doesn’t fit back into the packaging at the end, we are frustrated. “Fuck that! What happened?!” Well, folks, life happened. And I guess we just have to accept that the end wasn’t part of the story.
The tale here was simple: addiction fucking sucks. And addicts just aren’t who we once pictured them to be. They don’t come with flags and badges. And no one is immune. Addicts are smart, creative, funny, successful, kind, compassionate – they bear the most wonderful human qualities. They are loved and respected. They live their lives like everyone else – until, they can’t.
Jackie was very good at what she did – a skillful and polished addict. Her lying was survival. Her manipulation – masterful. And Eddie was as textbook co-dependant as one could be. Where there is a Jackie – there is almost always an Eddie. “You are my everything,” he said. They almost welcome the torment – they feed off of it. At least, for a while. Then there are also Zoes – who will worry and tend and clean up until they are strong enough to finally break away. They still carry their love, only it is more and more carefully protected as time goes on.
I cannot count the addicts I have known and even loved. I cannot measure the impact of each blow by their actions. But I am grateful that I have been able to avoid being a Jackie, so far. And for the most part, I have not stood in Eddie’s shoes. I have, however, been a Zoe. I have also been various co-stars and extras standing in the background attempting to duck from the impending shrapnel.
I have my issues, that is for sure. This bouquet of neurosis has sheltered me from personally developing the disease a number of times in my life – and for that I am thankful. Having had a father, step father, grandparents, uncles, cousins and friends who battle with addiction – I know just how easily it could come for me. My father died at 46. My stepfather has been sober for decades. Others I have known and loved have all lived (or are living) their own story – each with different outcomes.
Dependency is a tightrope and each acrobat comes with their own finite set of chances. Sometimes there is a net on which to fall but eventually that net will fray and become unreliable. Either way, the exact conclusion can never truly be predicted.
How does it end for Jackie? What happens after they run to her as she lies half-conscious on the floor? It doesn’t really matter. We have many options from which to choose if we wish to fill in our own blanks. Perhaps we can insert our own experiences. Or maybe we can just be okay with knowing that the story wasn’t about how it ends – but rather the tenacious grip dependency can wield.
We know what we need to know – that Jackie was enslaved by an illness – like so many we see, know and love. That this illness can creep on suddenly or take decades to evolve. That some people do gain their freedom – to a certain extent. And that many end their stories dreadfully. But most of all, we know that addiction fucking sucks.