May 17th 2006

copyright© don oddy

~ farewells are never easy ~

Even in my fellowship with all the available support, some news is never going to be easy. I am human and cannot ignore endings which come as a shock, and I heard of the death of a good friend yesterday. For good reason and for all concerned no names apply in this matter. Although my friend was not part of the fellowship of AA, she was indeed a fellow with my disease and I for one would not wish her near and dear to feel I am exposing them to hurt or undue attention.

I go to various meetings and groups of people who have a desire to stop drinking. We are all there for this purpose and over time our link and association grows beyond the disparate and desperate attempts we have take to make our lives work soberly a day at a time. We become fellows in the true sense of being focussed on a common goal and theme, as I say to keep our lives health and be sober. We get to know each other we get to be friends as close as we can in the pursuit of a simple and gentle life with ordinary joys and sadness, and to be honest an ordinary life, dealing with ordinary stuff.

At this particular group therapy, where I go once a week, I had been absent for two and my friend had also. Me for my reasons of domestic chores and personal ailments which needed attention and she because she had been in difficulty.

I met my friend a couple of years ago and we were sober around the same length of time. A really cheerful lady, mature in every way, with an outlook on the world which hid much pain and suffering in recent years. We became buddies in the sense that we had similar outlooks and ways of seeing the world and we had common ground and were able to see the funny side of hardships and serious side of fun. We both were able to make sense our decline into addiction and where it came from. Both of us were consumed over the years by tragedy and sadness, with much grief in our lives we were able to self medicate to oblivion with alcohol and take the pain off our grief.

Both of us, and we knew it had grief a plenty, and our method of taking time out had got the better of us both. We realised too late that if we do seek oblivion from pain, eventually we will become dependent on that thing which relieves pain. And so simply, life dealt hard blows and consumed us till we were consumed by our palliative self medicating care. And we ended up in treatment of one sort or another, to get over the addiction, but never the cause. And following along we ended up in group therapy together, where we continued our friendship and our support. We kept in touch outside our group days by phone and the occasional meeting and phone call. We did things to be supportive and we genuinely cared about each other. This was a friendship based on understanding and outlook, what better can we have? And we were different generations, we saw the world with older eyes and younger eyes. And our perceptions were pretty much in accord, we enjoyed the time we spent in conversation and speaking of matters general and specific to the world and keeping well.

And yesterday, I heard she had died. I had called her last week, to say I wouldnít be in group and had things to sort. And it was then she told me that things had gone awry, and a lapse had occurred. Well more than a lapse as she told me, and we talked for a while. And her voice was confident, and she was not alone and she had her doctor on call and friends and neighbours close by. She had talked to her counsellor and things were being done to help and support her. And I felt like shit. And I am not that near, and she had things covered, except that one we cannot control, when we start to drink we cannot stop or control. I am sorry to refer to her in the third person, it hurts to do this, I would rather her name is here, it cannot be so.

What more could I have said last week when I called her. And what more could I have offered when all that I could do was covered. And yet the news of her death hurts me horribly, I cannot put words together to express my deep sadness. And I feel angry at this, and its nature to blame, to feel responsible for this and see others as responsible and her too. We all have our part in this tragic event. And I feel, I wish and would hope for better news. I was writing yesterday about hope and its boundaries. And this sums up my feelings about hopes that we have. I hoped she was ok and with doctors and friends and me just a call if Iím needed. And yet I donít feel right because she is gone and we are still here.

Being told as a group, no prior warning, its never going to be easy when news is this bad. In telling us so, it felt like we are levelled and maybe thatís best because none of us could have changed how things turned out. This bloody awful disease, which takes out our reason, dulls all our feeling till depression sets in, it keeps us locked up in isolated moments where nothing and no one is able to get in. And we suffer in our silence as the world and its meaning are lost to our senses. We are stuck again in that pit, where we languish till ready, to get to a place where we can get ourselves out. And getting us out is a long arduous process, as we find no meaning and keep ourselves locked tight. We say anything to keep anyone from getting too close, and we mither ourselves and drink till the pain is subsiding and it that pain never does.

And sometimes we donít realise just how damaged we are becoming, as we slide and get maudlin and nothing is working. And we never realise just how we have become vulnerable to one more lapse. As we clean up our act in her case sober for the best part of two years, we donít have capacity to drink anymore. We make ourselves dangerous and we know it as we fall, and we donít have a mechanism to stop our decline. We get to danger and hide it away, we say we are alright when we are not nearly ok.

And she knew as I do what can happen if we are unlucky. We give out and we lose it and we are gone before anyone realises just how bad things are. If doctors and neighbours and key worker are knowing what chance do they have when we keep on hiding? I know how she felt in those days of utter frustration, how difficult it is to get back on the tracks. And she said she was being helped. And I felt all was covered, and know with great certainty that others were close. And I feel like shit. It hurts me inside.

We talked about her and what happened at our group meeting, we are shocked and saddened and feel disbelief. But I do believe what has happened and realised my part, no bigger or smaller than anyoneís this time, and especially my good friends part. We know all too well the consequences of what can happen, and yet we go on as if we donít care. But we do and we know and we lose our good reason as tragedies ensnare us all over again. Her sadness at loss and impending changes, made life unbearable till that moment where harm come her way. And sometimes we cannot stop it. And sometimes we are beyond immediate help, and we misjudge our resilience and get caught out.

And sometimes the pain is beyond our endurance and we make our choices. And when we are on our path of destruction we will make it to the end. I will never know where the line was crossed, for my friend would never tell me either way. Her choices and she knew them and risks involved. And we do misjudge our resilience to all that we do. Even when every expert and fellow of my chosen community know what can happen, our nature is prone to give ourselves up, to a choice that can kill us and we do really know.

I have lost a friend, and I am shocked and saddened. And everything in me wished for the best. And I know all too well whatever anyone says, we get self destructive we put ourselves in our harms way. I wish and wish it were different. And angry is not my feeling, its loss and missing you already thatís hurting me the most. Your pain is over and I have every good memory to cherish, lots love to my friend I will miss you very much.

I talked to you last night when I got home you listening silently, and I can see you and hear you and know what you say, donít fret or mither, donít be so sad, I was ready to go and its ended, get up and get out and do all you can, make good your days and remember me and make it all work! She would want the best for me, she knew my pain well, and knows how I deal with it, with family and fellowship and professional support, most often more than enough, and yet not nearly we who know, know.

If we could have that chat when I am feeling so sad, when the thirst is upon me and life feels remote, I will recall what you would have said, get to a meeting and let it all go. My promise to you as long as I can, to keep on this straight path as long as I can. Farewell my friend, never to be forgotten.

Copyright © Don Oddy