*I started writing this blog a few months ago after a friend of mine had passed. One of many, unfortunately. At the time, I couldn’t finish it. I couldn’t bring myself to put it out in the world as things were still too raw. It went into a folder in my computer and I came across it today and decided to finish it.
I received yet another one of those phone calls yesterday. You know the one I am talking about, the one that tells you another friend has OD’d and died. So, understand that this is not going to be one of my typical blogs. My usual blogs come chalk full of helpful tips, stories, strategies, etc.
They are usually void of emotion because I want to help the family members not feel so scared, lost, confused, and to help families know what to do. I want to bring hope and inspiration. And yet, when I receive one of those calls, I feel so helpless.
My first response is almost always the same. NOOOOO not them…My second response/question, what could I have done?
Then I go through my stages of grief. Part of me even today is in denial. (As this was written a few months ago, I can say that even a few months later, I will often still continue to find myself in denial). They will soon find out it was a mistake. It wasn’t really him; it was someone else. Maybe we all got it wrong and yes, he OD’d, but he is in the hospital and he’s going to be just fine. He can’t be gone, not really. I get calls all the time of people OD'ing and making it through ok.
And then there comes the anger, anger towards him being stupid and not coming back into recovery soon enough (he’s not stupid, it’s just my angry brain that wants to slap him upside the head and yell at him to get his shit together). Angry that he has left three kids behind, angry that he could do this to his family and friends. Angry at the system, angry at…well hell…angry at the damn grass for growing.
And for me, these stages, they happen all day long in a vicious cycle. One minute I am in acceptance, the next I’m in anger. The next denial, depression and so on.
Deep down I know he made his choices, but it’s so much easier to blame anyone but him because I can’t be angry at him…right. He’s gone. I’d rather be angry at the system that failed him and blame the system. I’d rather blame this stupid Covid shit for causing so many mental health issues in people that are already sick. I want to blame the dealers, I want to blame God, I want to blame myself, I want to blame anything that I think I can control or fix or slap.
I don’t really eat sweets anymore, but one of my thoughts last night was that a gallon of ice cream would totally make me feel better. Mostly because I felt like if I could just eat ice cream and forget about the whole thing while in a sugar crash that made me just want to sleep, I could deal with the pain.
I went kayaking instead and allowed myself both my pain and my healing. I chose this option because I’ve learned that the people we lose deserve for us to feel it. To feel every bit of our grief. I will run from just about every other emotion, but grief is something I have learned to dive into.
Grief is a funny thing. For the most part in our lives, when we get practice at doing something over and over again, we get better. That’s supposed to be how it works. Do something enough times, and you get better.
But I don’t ever feel like I am getting better at grieving. You never get used to grieving, you don’t get better at it. For me, it’s never about that one person. It’s about all of them.
I’ve gotten way too many of these phone calls. Most people in recovery have gotten way too many of these phone calls.
Normally, this is the part in my blogs I provide the strategies or the tips or something helpful for the family members. This blog, I am not entirely sure what point I am trying to make. I think the only thing I want to say and remind people is that grief is nothing but love.
There is nothing I can say that will make the pain go away. There is nothing I can do to hide from the grief, no strategy that will make someone turn the corner. The only thing I say today is the worst thing I can do is fight the grief.
I cry when I need to cry, I feel every ounce of emotion that grief has to offer because I know that grief is simply an outpouring of love. I embrace every loving memory I have of the person. I talk to others about who they were to me, and how much they meant to me.
They deserve nothing less than me feeling every emotion I have. I am grateful that feelings won’t kill me. I am grateful that today, I have feelings I can express, I can embrace, I can both love and hate. Numbing the emotions out drove me more crazy and more suicidal than having them.
Sometimes we grieve those who are not dead yet. Our loved ones who seem lost, like they won’t ever come back. I have learned time and time again that when it comes to our loved ones with substance abuse issues, as long as the heart keeps beating, there is hope.
When the heart stops beating, that is the time, and only then, do we begin the grieving process.