I wrote this two years ago after losing my cousin, John, to alcoholism. Yesterday I wrote about his daughter, Megan, and I wanted to include this here as well. I’ve been told it’s a worthwhile piece for those with loved ones struggling, or those who struggle themselves, with alcoholism.
This week I lost someone I loved to alcoholism. People never really write that, do they?
How many obituaries do we see that are written, “He lost his courageous battle with cancer…”? Yet when someone dies from alcohol or drug addiction, we are left to read between the lines. There’s still shame involved with this disease.
As if he chose it.
As if the disease of addiction is something a person can stop having if only they were motivated to do so.
True, many people are able to overcome addictions, but if you have an honest conversation with someone who has done so, they will almost always say they that they still struggle with it every single day.
I’m here to tell you that addiction is not always surmountable. Not for everyone. And I don’t believe it is because these people are weak or unwilling to try.
For some, the demons are just too strong. I watched John struggle for years, and my whole family – my beautiful, tight knit, incredibly loving family – watched this person that we adored, bit by bit, disappear.
I will never claim to really know what addiction feels like to the person who is stricken with it, but I sure have known, and felt, and seen what it is like for those around him. There is so much pain, and guilt, and anger, and fear, and now, extreme sadness.
Sadness for what might have been.
Sadness for what this disease took from him, from us.
My heart breaks the most for his parents. My aunt and uncle loved their son unconditionally. Everything they did was out of love – from being “fixers” to letting him fall in the hopes he would be able to pick himself up.
That was the most brutal part – coming to grips with the fact that no one else could help him. He had to do it himself…and ultimately, he just couldn’t.
John was sick, just as surely as if he had had terminal cancer. This was not his fault. This was not the fault of his family or friends for not doing enough, not caring enough. I’m writing this here, and saying it over and over again, because while it is hard to accept, it is the truth.
Yesterday, I heard the song, “Lord Protect My Child” written by Bob Dylan, and I just sobbed…
“He’s young and he’s wild
My only prayer is, if I can’t be there,
Lord, protect my child…
He is young and on fire,
Full of hope and desire…”
I thought about John as a boy, and all of the beautiful promise his life held. I thought about my own children, and how I will always want to protect them, and how scary it is to really understand that at some point its up to God (or the Universe, karma…whatever you believe) – it will be out of my hands.
Just like John once was, my girls are full of hope and desire. I am going to choose to remember John with that beautiful promise, and to trust that he is at peace now.
We love you, JL.