A couple weeks ago I met the mother of two boys whom the Kaiser has befriended. We’re different people, certainly, but mothers often have enough in common that the dissimilar stuff doesn’t much matter. Camaraderie.
Last week at the pool she told me that she was an addict. Her drug of choice is pain pills, and I don’t know much about that, but that’s really irrelevant. An addict is an addict is an addict. She talked to me about her short (45 days) sober time in a Christ-centered recovery program.
She scared me. I remember where I was at 45 days. I remember the crushing reality of… reality. I remember the fragility and the sadness, like I’d lost my best friend (granted, t’was a best friend that was killing me, but my closest companion nonetheless). I remember how alone I felt, except when I was in the presence of other addicts. I remember how painful it was to come out of the haze and take a good, hard, ugly look at myself and who I was.
It’s fucking horrible.
And she talked to me and she cried and apologized for crying, and for the first time I found myself on the more-sober end of the conversation. Someone is looking to me for experience, strength, and hope? Agh.
I hurt for her and I fear for her because it’s so hard. Early sobriety is awful and the chances of making it are slim. She wasn’t solid. I knew that, but I also knew that there wasn’t one damn thing I could do to keep her sober. I told her to call me, told her to make sure she made her meetings, told her to look at her children when she thought of using, told her to remember how shitty she feels when she uses, told her to “play the tape,” told her not to romanticize the drug, told her it would get better.
And it does get better. There’s just no amount of “telling” that can convince someone of that unless they’ve held it in their hands, felt the good, known the utter relief that comes when it finally does… get better.
On July 4, a group of us gathered at the pool to cook out and play with the kids. She drank. I watched her pour the vodka and I said nothing. Maybe I should have. At that point, though, the decision is made. You wanna relapse? You plan your relapse.
There’s no moral to the story. I’m sad — a deep-down-in-the-pit-of-my-stomach sad — for her and for her children. I hope that it was just a slip, but I’m also aware that no one can get or keep someone sober. It doesn’t work that way. This is what I think. We are all looking for something. Something bigger. Something transcendent. Something that gives us meaning and fills some hole and makes us better. We’re all looking. Addicts are like anyone else, just on a fucked-up spiritual path. And we can reach out, we can connect, we can love. At the end of the day, though, we all have our mountains. Whether you climb or you languish at the bottom… wholly up to you.