Losing Someone To The Disease of Alcoholism
Losing Someone To The Disease of Alcoholism
Tonight, I received a harsh reminder. Last night my 12-Step community lost one of our fellow members to alcoholism. And it fucking sucks. You hear all of the time, “Cunning, baffling, powerful”, and think “that can’t happen to me”. But it can. It can happen to any one of us, at any time. It’s a bitter pill to swallow.
Our fellow member was one of those that struggled to stay sober. We’ll never know what happened to him. We’ll never know why his life had to end so tragically. Only those closest to him will know the final struggles he went through in his last hours, if he shared those struggles with them.
But what we do know is that this disease of alcoholism is truly “cunning, baffling, and powerful”.
How many times have I sat in a meeting, listening to people talk about coming back after a relapse, saying that it only gets worse? Dozens. But for some reason, I don’t think it ever truly sinks in for me when I hear it. Only when I lose someone I know, whether in passing at meetings, or know well, does that reminder really sink in.
Tonight, I sat in my meeting feeling so incredibly grateful that I was sitting there, surrounded by my friends, and sober. Feeling incredibly grateful that, for reasons un-known to me, I didn’t pick up all of those times in early sobriety.
My first year was a struggle. I was working the steps, but not with my whole heart. I still had that little voice in my head that said I wasn’t an alcoholic. It kept telling me I wasn’t one of “them”, and that I didn’t belong there.
Thinking of all the times I was angry at my Higher Power because I was sober. Of all the times I wanted to say fuck it and drink. All of the times I told myself that if I ever picked up again, it would be the end. I would drink till I was dead.
At the time I didn’t think much about those thoughts. I felt like, at the time, it was just a bump in the road. An early sobriety struggle that I was going through. And after it was over, I was grateful, and kept moving forward.
But tonight, those memories hit me like a ton of bricks. The memories of being so close to drinking again. The memories of being in that dark hole, and not wanting to live anymore. Not knowing if I could make it through the night. Those memories were like cymbals crashing against my head saying “But for the grace of God, there go I”.
I hate that I need reminders like tonight, but I believe they are necessary. I need reminders like tonight to remind me that life is fragile. That my sobriety is THE most important thing to me. It has to be. As someone said tonight in the meeting, everything you put before your sobriety, you will lose first.
Sobriety has to be my number one priority. Working the steps, continuing to take that fearless and searching inventory, even when I don’t want to. Prayer and meditation, even when I don’t want to. Going to meetings and carrying the message, even when I don’t want to.
I know what happens when I don’t do those things. When I don’t make sobriety my number one priority. My alcoholic brain starts telling me I’m okay. It starts telling me that I don’t need those meetings to stay sober, I’m doing fine on my own. It tells me that I don’t need to interact with my friends, or with the newcomers, because I need “alone time”. And pretty soon, I’m slipping backwards.
So my plea to you, if you are reading this and you’re struggling, keep going. Please don’t give up yet. There are too many of us dying out there already. If you don’t have a sponsor, find one. Someone you can trust, and someone who can take you through the work.
If you belong to AA, or another fellowship, go to meetings. I know the saying is corny, but meeting makers really do make it. Meetings are not only about listening to other people talk about how they stay sober, but they are also about the fellowship. Making connections with other humans. Building relationships so when you are having a bad day, and you want to say fuck it, you have other people who can carry you until you can walk again.
Pray like your life depends on it. Even if you don’t feel like anyone is listening. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve prayed, feeling like there was no Higher Power out there, no one listening. Too many times to count. But, I kept going. I kept praying, and eventually that feeling passed.
Meditate. It doesn’t have to be anything spectacular. Meditation doesn’t have to be sitting on a cushion on the floor. I’ve done meditation while walking through a cemetery. Do what works for you.
Continue self-examination. I know it sucks. I know it’s hard. Believe me, if it was easy, I don’t think we would have to do it. Just last week I had to do some serious self-examination, when all I wanted to do was throw myself a little pity party and say “woe is me”. But, by looking at my actions, my words, and seeing where I was wrong, I was able to grow. I can’t grow if I don’t know what I need to change.
Share your story. It doesn’t matter if you have 1 day, a year, or 10 years. Your story is unique, and you never know when you may be able to help someone else. Never let anyone tell you that you have nothing to say. Never let anyone tell you that you don’t have enough sober time under your belt to share with others. If you’re in recovery, and you have a story, then you CAN help. The most amazing part of sobriety for me has been the times when I was able to touch someone’s life by sharing a part of my story.
If you’re sober today, and you’re struggling, please know that I am thinking of you. Because I’ve been there. Please, do everything you can to keep going. Sobriety can be painful at times. You’ll have lows, and you’ll have highs. But know that the lows don’t last forever. Sobriety can be a beautiful thing, if you work for it.
If you know someone who is struggling today, reach out to them. You never know. One phone call or text telling them you’re thinking of them could change their life. And it also could change yours.
Let us all remember those who have gone before us, those we have lost to this awful disease, and always carry them in our hearts.
Originally published October 14, 2016 – medium.com