Last week my brain experienced a head-on crash.
From one direction came grief on the date of my older brother’s birth. He died way too young and far too soon. From the other direction came the heart-breaking news a dear friend with long-term sobriety had relapsed.
Like an EMT first on the scene, I assessed the situation of mental mayhem and thought-strewn debris. Initial instinct was I focus my attention out instead of in.
After a deep breath and bit of prayer, I sought guidance from a woman whose recovery I admire. She suggested I launch into the initial protocol for someone in relapse. I took those actions only to receive no response.
The implied denial and resistance evoked all kinds of emotion within me. I know there are absolutely no guarantees for this kind of thing. The monster of addiction lurks around every corner just waiting to grab hold in moments of vulnerability. This means no matter what weapon I yield the demons surrounding someone else are not mine to overcome.
I’ve known this truth for years yet I simply cannot deny the human element. I do care and I am sad and yes, really scared. Even though I believe we have a Higher Power watching over us I’m just as fallible as the next person. The God I pray to will allow me room for question and doubt, welcoming me to experience feelings of heartbreak as I bear witness to another loved one falling prey to the monster I abhor.
What amazes me most is when the dust settles I feel grateful for this experience. Is that selfish? Is this perceived benefit stemming from someone else’s pain and shame and guilt and remorse somehow wrong? I don’t think so.
Just like my brother’s death, my friend’s relapse is a not-so-gentle reminder of what can happen if I start to think the very basics of what has kept me in a healthy place don’t make sense anymore.
These instances of fear-laced gratitude catapult me back to core principles such as honesty, faith, integrity, acceptance, humility, and service. I consider how, when stemmed from desperation, I finally became willing to take suggestions and subsequent action. I thank God I surrounded myself with people who offered me direction and guidance when I had none at all.
No one has the answer for someone in addiction hell. All anyone offer is an answer or what worked for them and now provides practical experience for others.
I hope my friend in struggle gives me an opportunity to share what helps me when I feel off-balance and why I push myself to remember sacrifices made when I chose alcohol and the scale over vacations and celebrations. I’d remind us both of the sorrow and pain I could not share with friends and family because I feared their judgment more than I feared the long-term consequences of my health.
I’d verbally recall what I missed when physically present but mentally lost. Countless moments my mind would drift from what was right in front of me to panic and fear-based anxiety. I’d shut down to avoid what I thought required of me. Those silent sometimes paralyzing feelings took precedence over people, places, and once-in-a-lifetime experiences.
If those recollections don’t ignite a perspective shift, I’d divulge the truth of how I didn’t fail others nearly as much as I failed myself. Even today as I promote the ideas to focus forward, pay forward, and move forward, I am equally prone to question my choices and consider when I’ve failed myself.
I’d finish by reminding my friend the very same thing I tell myself every day. The only thing I’m assured of is what’s right in front of me. The decisions I make in the moment have tremendous impact on how I’ll feel hours from now. Choices and the consequences are mine, good or bad.
Maybe one day I’ll have the chance to say some of this. Until then I’ll let the dust of destruction and chaos settle to allow me grace and befriend my fear-laced gratitude.
A Moment to Breathe..
Have you had the bone-chilling experience to witness people’s negative consequences only to realize you were somehow spared from the very same? Is there a lesson to learn in that universe-provided mirror? After a deep breath and strong exhale, jot down what comes to mind. As your gratitude emerges please consider leaving a comment below or share this post and your experience via your favorite social media site.