Man, this is a tough one.
If I was working a solid program, and was therefore unaffected by the death of my dad, I'd have 17 years of sobriety right now. Can you imagine? I can't. Because I've never surpassed 3 years of continuous sobriety.
I'm inspired to write on this topic because I have another funeral to attend this month. Only this time it isn't the expected, albeit sad, death of an addict who relapsed. This time it's for an innocent child. I have a friend who is also in recovery and she just lost her 17 year son. When I reached out to her, she had the wherewithal to tell me that no, there's nothing I can do right now but that it would mean a lot to her if I could attend her son's memorial and be there for her AFTER IT'S OVER because she knows that that's when she's really going to need her sober sisters to lean on.
First of all, WOW. I love this woman dearly, but I never realized that she's a GENIUS.
Let me back up a little bit. When my dad passed away in 2005, I had 3 years of sobriety. However, I had stopped working my program. The why's are inconsequential, as there's never a "good" reason to stop taking care of yourself. I had gotten into a relationship with someone who was "normal" (he could drink and use one day and not touch anything again for a month), I had developed resentments against some people in recovery and I felt like I had graduated from the program. So I thought I didn't need any of that anymore. What I was doing was slowly whittling away at a dead bolt that was keeping a lid on a raging beast that lives inside me. By the time my dad passed, I was a mere shell of the sober woman I once had been.
Losing my dad was HUGE. This man was my biggest fan. He loved me in a way that I felt I didn't deserve. I had to fight the voice of self doubt so much less when he was around because he was the one who argued with it. I am overwhelmed with gratitude for having him as a father. But it's taken me forever to get here. 12 years to be exact. You see, I didn't deal with his death when it happened because I couldn't. I ran from the pain that I was sure would engulf and destroy me.
We had 2 funerals for my dad. Both events were filled with friends and loved ones, and people who I associated with my dad and our family. I'm talking about people I've known all my life, all together in my parents' house to celebrate my father's life. It didn't occurs to me so much at the time, but later I realized how beautiful it was to have that many people, who are part of my cellular makeup, sharing our pain in our den. When my dad was alive, it wouldn't have occurred to us to do have a gathering like that. After all, his work required him to be with a lot of these people for most of the year. When it was over, I felt crushed. I had to watch these people walk out the door and go back to their lives, while I was left with my broken reality. It was almost like my dad died again.
When people left, they promised to stay in touch and I know they meant it. But the thing is, life goes on for everyone else. It's not like they can move into your house and have a constant memory lane slideshow while everyone reminisces about the good times. (Although I wouldn't mind that.) People have families of their own, bills to pay and work to do.
Everyone stayed in touch. Like I said, most of these people are considered family to me. But their calls and visits became more spread out. After a certain point, people need to move forward and they expect you to do the same. If I had any idea that the end of my dad's memorial service would trigger another cycle of loss, I would have prepared for it.
When I called my friend whose son passed away a genius, this is why. Somehow, in the immediate days after her son's death, she knew exactly when she was going to need myself and her other sober friends. The biggest part is that SHE DIDN'T TAKE A DRINK. For anonymity's sake, I can't mention my friend's name but I can say this: she is my hero for showing me that you can handle something this awful with such grace. I hereby dedicate my life to everyone who has gone through loss and stayed sober. You guys are spiritual gangsters.
So much love,
You can hear Dayna's Radio Rehab Show on iTunes & Stitcher Radio: