Wednesday, September 11, 2019

I'm thinking this week about loss and love and the solid truth of "one day at time."  I learned about the tragic suicide of an 18 year old young man, the son of a couple who were close friends earlier in recovery. I cannot begin to image the level of grief his parents and twin sister must be experiencing. I learned at a weekend meeting that a sober young women who'd been in a house fire, died from her injuries. In the same meeting, an out-of-town visitor shared sorrow for her 22 year old sponsee who'd just died of an overdose. 

Over the weekend, also, I attended the 26th anniversary meeting of a woman I 12-stepped when she was just 20 years old – a bona fide miracle of recovery. In my home group, someone took a 34 year chip and another claimed her 14 year coin, and a young woman who's been in and out for 11 years, spoke up, saying it was the first time she'd ever shared in a meeting, but wants to do something different this time.
"Dialectical thinking" is defined as the ability to view issues from multiple perspectives and to arrive at the most reasonable reconciliation of seemingly contradictory information, as in "life is precious and beautiful," and "life is incredibly sad." On a good day, I can hold both fragile truths. On a not-so-good day, I wonder at the seemingly unfair dispensation of emotional devastation.

Like many of us, I struggled with the concept of a Higher Power and good vs evil when I first got sober – what does that mean, exactly? Not Santa Claus – that much I figured out, and then someone said, “If I could understand it, I wouldn’t need it,” which lessened my compulsion to know. Around the same time, I read a good book with a cheesy title: When Bad Things Happen to Good People, by Harold Kushner. His premise is that there are certain forces of nature – plants sprout, bloom and then die; creatures are born and creatures die. It is part of the natural order of things, though as a human, I get attached and thus, grieve. Does knowing that we are part of the natural world make loss any easier? Not necessarily. My level of sorrow is proportional to the level of my love for a particular person, place or thing, and my judgment as to what constitutes the “natural order of things.” 18 and 22 year old’s dying does not seem to be in the natural order of things.

"Acceptance is the answer," according to the old p. 449 (now 417), not because I believe there are no mistakes, but because what is, is, and there are simply things I cannot change. What I can do is take care of myself and my varied emotions so that I can be there for others – grieving parents, sponsors and friends who mourn. The “we” of the program tells us we are here for each other, through good times and bad, through happy and sad. Today, I strive to be supportive, a part of the solution, not part of the problem.

How do you take care of yourself so that you can be there for others in their time of need? If you are the person in need at the moment, how comfortable are you with asking for help?


  1. This is a powerful post and touches me on so many levels. Thank you. I agree that acceptance is the answer to rebalance emotionally through the traumas of a full human experience. But, sometimes I must weep without restraint when I'm hit hard with the truth of all the random pain and unfairness in the world. And I do allow myself to do that. Then I remember beauty and joy exist at the same time. I take refuge in poetry. A friend recommends building a spiritual poetry collection to reference in times of need and it has helped me to appreciate the depths of feelings I am privileged to enjoy as a result of recovery. I am not afraid of feelings, and I get less attached to the depressive allure of melancholia, something I used to drink over, imagining myself as a kind of tragic figure carrying the burden on the world. I no longer need to do that. I heard early on in recovery that pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional and I think that refers to keeping in emotional balance with a broad perspective.

    As far as being there for someone else, I need to first take care of myself in a consistent way -- meetings, journaling, meditation, prayer.

    The greatest gift to another is listening, being kind, and simply asking the question, "how can I help?" then being willing to do what may be asked if I'm able.

    When I am the one in pain, I need first to identify what I want: a hug? an ear? solitude? quiet? food? music? When I honestly know, I am able to ask a persons I trust.