She moved in and was only here seventeen days. I barely knew Samantha* (not her real name). But on some level, I knew she was not ok. I have been a landlord for years now and I have never bought a tenant anything like a welcome gift or even really thought about it. I am always friendly but I don’t want to seem pushy or intrusive so I help where I am needed then I try to just stay out of their way.
Something about this woman was different…
I knew from the moment I met her that she was sad. I didn’t know the degree or level of despair until it was too late. I brought her a small plant because I sensed that she needed cheering up. I checked up on her because feared she was not ok.
Samantha had a drinking problem. I didn’t see it immediately because I wasn’t looking for it. I mean, I have a drinking problem, but just because I do, I don’t look at everyone else askance and check out their drinking. It is really none of my business.
By the time I realized how severe her drinking problem was, it was too late. She was gone.
Her family came yesterday to claim her things. Absolutely lovely people. Kind, good hearted souls fighting to stave off the absolute decimation of advanced alcoholism. My heart hurt for them.
They loved this woman. Their love and caring was palatable. I could feel it. I could feel it radiate through all the sadness and pain. The hope that endured for years that somehow she would see the cause of her suffering and stop pouring booze all over it. That day never came for any of them. And it tears at my heart.
For me it was an up close and personal look at where I could be, who I could become if I don’t keep doing all the things I need to do to stay sober. I get a daily reprieve, based on the maintenance of my spiritual condition…that is all. It only takes one day for me to slip up, and it could all be over. My life precariously hangs in balance every day. My life line? Other drunks, God and a program of action that works under all conditions, if I do the work.
I see that now. This whole experience for me has caused me to become recommitted. Not like I was thinking about drinking before this happened, but seeing the carnage of alcoholism up close and in stark light, has caused me to do more to ensure that I do not share a similar fate.
When I met her ex-husband for the first time, after talking to him on the phone and corresponding through email, I hugged him tightly. No one should lose someone the way they did. No one should have to come sort through all they did. No one should have to say goodbye like that.
I felt like I knew him even though I don’t. I felt like I knew him because I have met him over the years, standing on the periphery as other women, such as his ex-wife, spin through the revolving door of sobriety. I have seen the pain, the hurt and the heartbreak way too many times.
Loving an alcoholic or addict is gut wrenching. It is sad and will bring you to your knees. We who love, enable, distance, attempt and beg the alcoholic to get better. To stop their self annihilation. But they can’t. Some of us just aren’t able to ever let go and give up the struggle, so the struggle is all we are left with.
I have regrets. I wish I had done more. I wish I had paid closer attention. Perhaps we would have had a less tragic result. But I know, as Evan (not his real name) reminded me, we do it all for way too long and then there is nothing left to do except let go. And I knew he was right. I have seen it so many times. We twist our lives and selves and hearts into contortions that even a Cirque de Soleil performer couldn’t achieve. And we do it repeatedly for years, all in an effort to save the alcoholic from themselves. Never realizing, often, until it is way too late, they have to want to save themselves. And as much as we want them to, no amount of our wanting will make them want it or take the steps to do it.
It was a sad day for them. And I wanted, somewhat desperately, to do something to make it better. There was nothing. I hate seeing beings in pain and I wish to alleviate it or cease it when I encounter it. But I am learning that life is just painful. And we grieve and we move forward but never on. The person we have lost is always with us filling our days and nights with should haves, and what could have beens. Eventually, when grief is done kicking our ass, we can arrive at a place when the good times, the wonderful, beautiful moments are what we are left with. And we live the rest of our days with a wistful sadness that doesn’t threaten to pull us under anymore. Instead, we use the loss and grief as a stepping stone to better for ourselves. We move on, carrying the love we have for the person, deep within us and spend our lives loving those who remain.
I barely knew her, yet her life and passing have had a profound effect upon me. I feel her loss and her pain acutely mostly because I know the disease from which she suffered all too well. I am not sure why all of this had to happen but I am grateful to have gotten to meet her family. They are amazing people with huge hearts who deserved better than what they got. I pray for them that they may find peace and comfort. I pray that their grief doesn’t harden into bitterness or resentment. That instead their grief can be, for awhile anyway, like a caged dove, that for a time, beats its wings against the cage, causing all kinds of disturbance and pain. But that one day, the door will open and that trapped being will spread its wings and fly away. While they remain here, feet firmly planted on Tierra Firma, watching as the caged dove struggles no more. And even with their grief and wishes for a different ending, they are content to watch her soar, flying higher and higher away from all that bound her during her time here on earth.
May we all be well and free of suffering…