Dec 17, 2011
I was chatting with an older woman who works in my building today for the first time and she said “I hope this comes out the right way but I overheard you say that you needed someone else to set up the bar for the party because you are a recovering alcoholic and I just wanted you to know how happy I was to hear you taking care of yourself like that. You see, my daughter had the same problem but she was never able to get well. I lost her last February. I know how very hard it is and I think it is so great what you are doing.” I smiled and said, “I am so sorry to hear about your daughter. It’s a very difficult journey to be on. So hard on everyone involved.” She replied “Yes…but it was hardest on her.”
We talked for a little while about how now she is raising her granddaughter as her own and how maybe we are all just doing our best, even when we are at our worst (a concept which has come up in conversation lately with a few different people and that I find incredibly hard to wrap my head around at times). At one point her eyes welled up and she said “Hearing you stand up for yourself and your life in that moment made me love my daughter in a way I have not been able to since she died. Thank you for giving that back to me.” She started crying big tears, which made me start crying big tears…then we hugged the hug that only people who have been through the same war hug, an embrace I have felt before with my own hurt, scared mother around this stuff.
In that moment I imagined myself to be her daughter, years later, happy and well, hugging away the pain of watching someone you love struggle through the horrors of addiction. I felt like saying “It’s OK, mom. It’s over now.” as I have done with my mother on several occasions since finally getting well in 2007…but those words mean something so different for her than they do for my mom. For this sweet woman and her daughter, it really is over. All of it. No more memories, no more birthdays or holidays spent together. She is just gone, taken from this world by a glass of something.
I am so thankful that my mother does not have to cry on the shoulder of some other survivor to feel close to her dead child and I am grateful to have real love in my life where there used to be an empty space I filled with cocaine and vodka. I know how lucky that makes me and not a day goes by that I don’t wonder why I get to be one of the lucky ones. These days are cosmic gifts, extra moments bestowed upon me and my family by some unexpected twist of fate. I am 4 years into the bonus round and I try to make every minute count. I get to be here to kiss my boyfriend, play with my dog, watch my nieces grow up, help the community I care so deeply about, and enjoy all these beautiful years I almost didn’t get to have with you all.
Be well, friends. Live the life you are meant to live. Hug your mothers. Find something lovable about yourself and LOVE IT fearlessly. Then, share that love with the world…because the world needs you. If you are struggling with addiction, please tell someone. There are lots of different ways to get lots of different kinds of help and there has never been a better time to get your shit together than RIGHT NOW.
I wish you the happiest of all holidays, everybody.