Dealing with Death in Sobriety: Part I

Piscine Mourning*** I will be out of pocket this week. In my place, one of my favorite AAs has stepped in with her own two part story of perseverance and healing. The honesty of this piece rings true. I hope you pass this piece on to anyone in sobriety that is currently suffering from loss.***

I learned an early lesson in death at the age of 8 when my baby sister died 17 hours after her birth. I am positive I did not learn the lesson of grief after her death. I did learn that eating, writing, and later on drinking were suitable outlets for my emotions. From that point, on any death, funeral, or hospital was not a place I showed up at. I, physically and emotionally, avoided these events until I got sober, when I experienced 11 deaths over a 2-year span.

I learned how to show up. This was entirely due to the people in the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous who experienced death and shared how they got through it without drinking. Lilo was the last personal death I dealt with. He was my sobriety pet. No one told me that it wasn’t wise to keep him in the bathroom (he matched my bathroom décor! ) or that you couldn’t “pet” a fish. He died shortly after that “pet.” I angrily threw him and the tank in the trash vowing that fish were food, not pets.

My grandmother had been dying for a while. Like over a year. We would gather for the last meal, fly people in from out of town, fill up hospitals rooms…and she continued to live. The doctors would say it’s time to say your good-byes…and she continued to live. By September of 2014, it was almost comical in a way. Truth be told, I wanted her to die already so I could get to the grief part. The good news was I had cried, accepted, and made peace with her passing on. Or so I thought.

On 11/4/2014, my grandmother woke up from a restless, hospice, semi-conscious state, as I stood over her bed. She recognized me and said “Nini, you came. You never have time to see me, you are always busy working.” and then closed her eyes. On 11/5/2014 she slipped into unconsciousness. I was standing over her gasping body when I felt my soul break and rage rise. I screamed, “You have to wake up and say something else, you cannot leave me with those last words!” After my screams stopped, after I cried all I could; I whispered I was sorry and ran out of the house.

On 11/6/2014, I received the call at 2:30am that she was dead. I didn’t think about drinking, I made a cup of coffee and went to show up with the rest of my family.

My family has its share of alcoholics and addicts which means that on the day of her death, they are drinking and smoking weed at 10am. As I hear that distinct pop of a beer can, I move away trying not to get a contact high. I get pissed. Who gets high and drunk at 10am? Alcoholics and addicts do. Had I not been sober, I would be drinking with them, pouring out a little for the spiritual head of our family we had just lost.

But I am sober. I know as much as I want to be around my family right now I must remove myself and go take care of my sobriety. I am responsible for my recovery no matter what. I go to a meeting and share. Afterwards I pick up 2 new sponsees who say they want what I have. I asked why, they said because I am sober and at a meeting despite the emotional pain I am in. They save my life in a way that working with another alcoholic does. This holds the same truth today as it did when I first begin the practice of Step 12. It is impossible to be working with another alcoholic and thinking about yourself in the same moment. For anyone in pain right now, go out and work with another alcoholic for an hour. The miracle of feeling better through this work will come true.

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