The other day, I ran into an old friend who has now been sober for quite a while. He’s enthusiastic about his recovery and tries to help others get into twelve-step programs. He said that he was talking to a mutual acquaintance of ours who had developed a problem with alcohol. My old friend said that our acquaintance blamed his alcohol abuse on his wife’s passing. My old friend told him, “Hey, you can’t drink her back.”
That statement struck me and has lingered in my mind. My friend was right: Drinking alcohol won’t bring anyone back. Neither will shooting heroin or snorting cocaine or smoking crack. I do realize and believe that the loss of someone, especially if suddenly, can cause trauma and I accept that trauma isn’t something that just magically goes away. I also understand that sometimes, people cope with their pain and grief through abusing substances or behaviors. Really, abusing substances and behaviors provides numbing relief from overwhelming hurt. If we ignore that fact, then we miss the payoff mechanism involved in addiction development: Part of the payoff in drinking alcohol is that it eliminates the capability to feel anything. When emotions are so strong that they cause physical pain, substances can be quite effective in removing the hurt.
Loss is hard; there’s no simple way to cope with it. I often say that the pain involved in losing a loved one doesn’t ever really go away, we just get better at managing over time. But, the hurt’s always there, weighing on us making us see that a part of us is now gone.
Still, no amount of substances will bring our loved ones back. Really, what will happen with substance and process abuse is that we will lose ourselves and then we won’t be able to use our own way back.
I can’t express the sentiment any better than may friend did, though I do understand how much loss hurts: Hey, we can’t drink or use or loved ones back. We can, however, remember them and carry them in our souls and honor them in all we do. I really believe that a person doesn’t really die until the last person utters his or name. Therefore, I for one, will utter my lost loved one’s names in my thoughts and prayers. I won’t let them really die.