In the rooms of recovery it’s often said that “some of us have to die so the rest of us can live.” I have never really paid attention to this. It’s just a standard saying that I never put much thought into. I have lost people that I love from addiction, but never considered that they had to die so I could live. My ex husband died from an overdose. The biological father of my two oldest children. I am very familiar with loss. If I let myself sink into it, I can get really sad about it. Because he missed so much. I can easily get caught up in the what if’s. In the “if I knew then what I know now, I could have saved him” mindset. And maybe that’s true. But I didn’t know then. When I entered recovery I heard people in meetings say “get ready to go to a lot of funerals” or something to that effect. But really, I didn’t believe it because who dies from drinking? I identify as an alcoholic. Because, for some reason, that’s important in meetings. I am and will always be an addict. My drug addiction was so bad that it almost killed me by 23 years old and when I got clean, I was DONE with that life. Never did it occur to me that I could be an alcoholic. Until I could no longer deny that I was. But it also never occurred to me that people I loved would die from alcoholism. Because who does that?
The year I got sober, my cousin did exactly that. She was younger than I am now. I had been asked to speak at a women’s AA speaker meeting on the same day of her funeral. I chose not to attend her funeral and instead carry out my commitment to speak. I couldn’t help my cousin, but maybe I would share something that could help a woman in that meeting. Nobody realized just how much my cousin had been drinking. After she passed, her husband found bottles around the house that she had hidden. She must have been terrified. I know her body was giving her signs that it was shutting down. But she couldn’t not drink. She must have felt so alone. Her death was definitely a message to me to stay sober. I went to meetings and talked about it, and I am sure someone said “some of us have to die so we can live.” But it was lost on me what that meant. The real meaning behind it. It was all just words.
Earlier this year I lost another friend. This was a woman I had sponsored in AA. When I arrived in meetings, still drunk and spewing hate, this woman was there. Always with a smile and information about AA and all the things I needed to know. She was the first to give me her phone number and the first to be there for me when I needed someone to talk to. But I bounced in and out and didn’t stay in close contact with her. When I finally arrived in AA for real, sober and ready to do the thing, she wasn’t around. In my mind she had moved on with her sober life. Because also in my mind, everyone in those rooms had been sober forever. I spent those first few years of recovery changing everything about myself. Discovering who I was without alcohol and building a brand new life. A beautiful life. And one day about 4 years into my sobriety, she showed up. She had not been out living her best life like I had assumed. She had been out drinking. For years. She was blown away by how much I had changed. She started coming around regularly and we spent a lot of time talking. She asked me to be her sponsor. This is a woman who had been in and around AA for a LONG time. She had put together many sober years in a row, but just couldn’t manage to maintain it. She knew the literature way better than I did and if AA was a class, she would have passed with an A+. She knew it in her head way better than I ever will. But for some reason she couldn’t stay sober. I agreed to be her sponsor, which just means that I would take her through the 12 steps and be a sober support person for her. My only requirement was that she was always honest with me. And she was. I attribute meditation and yoga to my recovery just as much as I do AA. I suggested these tools to her and she was eager to jump in and try them. She too was ALL in and bought herself every prop possible for yoga as well as a meditation cushion and alllllll the books about the two. I spent a year with her sharing every tool I had. Every tool that worked for me. I encouraged her to find her own things as well. She joined a gym and got a personal trainer. She learned how to wrap crystals and make beautiful jewelry. She danced with me every chance she got and she even tried Kirtan, as weird as that was for her. We journaled and made vision boards. We went through the steps together. And she was joyFULL. A quiet joy as she was a quiet soul. But joyful just the same. It was so beautiful to witness. She made it to one year and then I’m not sure what happened. She lost it. She began drinking again. Off and on. Mostly on. I wanted her to be sober so bad. I wanted to see the joy on her face that I had seen when she was sober. But I didn’t know what else to do. I continued to work with her for a while. Encouraged her to be just start over. But she wasn’t getting sober. So I let her go. I promised to be her friend and sober support any time she needed me, but as a sponsor, I wasn’t the one. I had given her everything I had, taught her everything I knew and it wasn’t enough. I encouraged her to find another sponsor, because clearly, I wasn’t the one. We remained friends, although I rarely heard from her. She was drinking a lot and not contacting me. Then, in early August she called to check on me. The island had been hit by a hurricane and she just wanted to know that I was alright. It was 10 am and she was drunk. We talked for a while, she said she wasn’t doing well, and that she would see me soon. She was ready to get sober. One week later my phone rang and her name lit up on the screen. I told my husband I didn’t want to answer because I knew she would be drunk. I let out a grumble and I answered the phone. It was her husband. He was calling to tell me that she had suffered a massive heart attack and wasn’t expected to make it through the night. She died that evening. Her body could no longer handle the abuse. This one hit me hard. Not that I was all that surprised. We all expect these things. But I also expected to see her “get it.” Wanted her to ‘get it.” I had already seen it once, and it was beautiful. I went to a meeting the next morning and talked about it. The first person to respond said “some of have to die so we can live.” My initial thought was what an asshole thing to say. It felt like I had been punched in the stomach and for the first time, I understood what it meant. It means that I think of her when I dance, holding her in my heart and dancing with her. It means that while I am incredibly sad that she couldn’t get it, I have it and I am not willing to lose it. It means that I will keep writing these blogs for the person who needs to see them. It means that I don’t take one minute of this life for granted. It means that it could have just as easily been me. It means that I wake up each morning and choose recovery. I choose life. It means feeling all the feels and not numbing myself. It means being fully present in each moment, even the ones that suck. It’s life and it’s beautiful and terrible and everything in between. I choose it everyday.
She gave me this little figure for my birthday because it reminded her of me. She was always giving gifts and had the most beautiful, generous spirit. She is called Happiness. I think of her every time I look at it. I remember her joy. I picture her somewhere on the other side dancing with a little smile on her face and her arms stretched out. Feeling complete freedom. This is how I will always remember her. I am forever grateful that I got to experience those moments with her.