One of the best things about finally finding recovery was experiencing emotions again after years of numbing them with drugs and alcohol. Instead of constantly turning to a chemical solution, I got to really feel things and experience life. I could be in the moment again, experiencing excitement, joy, and accomplishment, to name a few. Of course, I didn’t just feel the “good” emotions. I also experienced things like anger, sadness, and anxiety, without an easy fix to turn them off. Two of the most difficult feelings for me to deal with were grief and loss.
Strangely enough, I never lost any friends during my addiction. No one that I used and drank with has died from their addiction—at least not yet, and I sincerely hope that those who are still out using find recovery. On the other hand, with the friends I’ve met in recovery, it’s been a very different story. As of last weekend, I’ve lost five friends to addiction—all of them people I’ve met through recovery, either in treatment or in meeting rooms, and all of them young men, in their early twenties. I keenly feel the loss when I log into Facebook and see a series of “rest in peace” posts on their Walls. I can only imagine the pain their parents and families are going through.
The lesson I take away from this is that loss is a part of life. It’s true for every human being on the planet, and it’s especially true for those close to addiction and recovery. I guarantee you that at some point in the future I’ll lose someone again, and I won’t have the instant relief of drugs and alcohol to fall back on. What I will have is a choice. I can choose to experience the loss and grieve in a healthy way, or use it as an excuse to go back to using. It can be either motivation or discouragement.
It might sound cynical to say this, but part of me gets an extra boost of motivation whenever I see those “rest in peace” posts. Those friends of mine lost their battles with addiction, and lost their lives as a result. I refuse to let the same thing happen to me. If I slip up in recovery, if I relapse and decide to go back out there “just one more time,” I could be the one to die. It could easily be me, with memorial posts on my Facebook Wall and someone writing a blog about me, with the heartbroken parents and unfulfilled life. Losing someone reminds me how precious life is—and why I need to be strong in my recovery. It is no exaggeration when I say it’s a matter of life and death.
I apologize to the reader for writing about an unhappy topic. I would rather be bringing joy into people’s lives and brightening their days. But that’s life—sometimes you get to feel happy and sometimes you get to feel other emotions. Sometimes good things happen and sometimes you lose people you care about. But one thing that’s always true is you get to choose what you do, no matter what happens.