As your were fighting for your life I was drinking mine away. I am still ashamed I did not see you enough or visit you more. I left you alone when I should have been there the most. You were the person I could have told, should have told about my struggles but the timing was not right. How selfish would it have been to sit and talk about myself and my problems when you were fighting for your life? You were the person who would not judge, you would have told no one. You would have reached out and supported me, this I know as a fact. I was in a selfish place, embarrassed of what I was doing to myself and my family, drinking and smoking while you were going through chemo, surgeries, and radiation, fighting everyday to stay, stay with us, with your family.
My guilt and shame overwhelms me even to this day. I need to put this out into the world to free you and free me. Addiction makes us so selfish, afraid and ashamed. We can’t see or feel past our own guilt and greedy desire for the next drink. We are so numb there is no room for other feelings and compassion for others.
You were dying, fighting and pushing forward regardless of how awful you felt, while I could not handle the reality of losing you. You were the true friend, who told others the truth about themselves, who was supportive no matter what, who did not judge others, that person who helped everyone. You knew the value of service to others, you were also flitting from thing to thing to help others, serve the community.
You were strong when I was not, I watched from the sideline never really telling you how much you meant to me, never having the space or guts to have an honest conversation about how much I hated what was happening to you. Why you? Never going too far into conversations that would be honest and painful because I was not able to.
I showered you with flowers, surprise visits that were of course planned around my drinking for that day. I visited you in the hospital and watched your kids for you, brought food and fruit baskets. I did nice things but never got too deep or sat with you for too long as I was too immature for what was happening. Too selfish and worried about myself and my needs about losing you, my dear friend.
The day we had the conversation, where you told me how angry and sad you were that your boys would grow up without a mother, I finally stopped being a coward for just a tiny moment of time, holding your hand, listening and crying with you as I knew how very much your boys meant to you and how different their life would be without you. No applause please, that this was me actually was making progress, I went home that night and drank a bottle or more of wine, pushing every feeling I had so far down it would never see the light of day again.
I am not a total monster, I did think often about why you? Why did God want you but I already knew the answer. You were angel here on earth for so many, and your husband needed to rise up and bring up your boys. But it still did not make sense and it was so damn hard. So I drank, I drank more, I withdrew from friends, my family and sometimes life in general. Never able to just sit with these very difficult feelings, drowning them was so much easier.
The confusion and sadness of your loss also stirred questions about my own mortality. My place and space on this earth. I began to think I needed to do better, I still think that and try to do better but it is hard as I am not you. You had a drive, a mission of sorts to be better and do more, trying to make my tiny impression, trying to wear your huge shoes and fill in the void your imprint had made. I know that your drive in life was somewhat fueled by the distance and loss of your father due to drinking. Yet another reason I know I could have told you what I was going through and that I had a drinking problem. You would have understood and been supportive because that is what you did always. But at the same time, I did not want to tell you , thinking you would be mad or it would bring up feelings for you about your Dad. Honestly, there is always an excuse, I was full of them. The fact of the matter is I should have told you, even in your own despair you would have prayed for me and you would have known the deep value of our friendship.
Read the above paragraph again, it is not about her, my dying friend, it is about me. My drinking made everything about me, always. I am not sure I can ever forgive myself for the lack of depth and emotional maturity as my friend was dying. What I can do is take what I have learned from her about her strength, honesty, and belief in others and God to help me be and do better. Whether you believe in God or angels, is not relevant here. What is real are the traits and love that others show us while they are here, and how we carry that with us always and how those actions and love shows up in so many wonderful small ways if we accept them. All you have to do is watch for the signs and receive them as they come. Take those small moments, signs and reflect, remember and just feel however you feel. Don’t shy away, don’t disappear behind a drink, just let those feelings in and teach us how to grow.
I lost my friend and it still hurts, even now after all the years gone by. So many things I should have said and done differently, but I need to realize I did not have emotional maturity back then to be fully present for her. I am learning to open up more to close friends, just a few, maybe not about my drinking but about how I feel and what hurts me deeply in life these days. I am recognizing and learning to be more present for my children as well, which I am proud of and I know she would be too.
If I leave you with anything from this post it is that life is short, we make mistakes and drinking keeps us stuck. Don’t be stuck, push through, be uncomfortable and say the things that make your squirm, you may never know how much those words mean to someone else and how it can break down barriers for both of you.
As for our drinking, be vulnerable – say something, tell someone so they realize what is really going on below the surface, don’t wait – just do it. Once you say it out loud, you can breathe again. Then you give the power of the drink less space and you can open space to be there for someone else who may really need you to be present and do nothing but be a good friend and listener. You can make the space to sit with feelings versus drinking at them, this I promise you.
~K from the Hill Country