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On The Loss Of Friends And Strangers To Addiction
The first time I found out someone I loved had died from their disease, I immediately broke out into a sweat and the only way I could calm down was to remind myself that I was sober, that I had quit drinking and the drugs and she hadn’t and for a moment I felt better, smug even. I had survived.
I might as well be honest about it. I have survived so far. She wasn’t the last, either. There have been so many. I loved her, and I loved him, and when I found out a few years ago that another friend had died, this time in rehab, I thought about filling a glass with bourbon. I didn’t but I threw up anyway.
Even now, I feel like I should be able to call or text and talk to them, their voices bright like road flares. It’s unfair. I met him for the first time at a party and he wasn’t drinking and he seemed so cool. The last time I spoke with her before rehab, we yammered about how much we missed her, and it’s just impossible that they’re both gone.
They wanted to live. I know this. Even if there were moments when it was all too much. I want to live and there are moments when it is all too much.
When I hear that a person I know, or don’t know, with a history of substance abuse, has had a heart attack, or their liver has failed, or they just never opened their eyes again, I think, “I have survived” and then something inside me falls, a part of me, it just falls without a crash, and it’s still falling, that part of me, a part I want back that is lost forever, falling.
This is hard to admit, and yes, of course, I feel guilty. I have survived and I don’t deserve it. I am glad it wasn’t me because it could have been me, and it still could be; the only way I’ve been able to stay sober for this long is by forcing myself to be thankful for what I have, even if it isn’t much. I have to, every single day, tell myself that I am lucky to feel lonely and anchorless. I can’t dwell on possible futures or terrible pasts, I can’t allow myself to celebrate or mourn, I have not had a drink in years and tomorrow it all starts over again. I wake up and pray to a God I don’t want to believe in: “Oh Lord, I am…