Day 7 in the Guided Journal is here.
The funeral for J. is tomorrow, and I have been tossing around in my head the idea of going. I didn’t know her well, as I have said, but there is something compelling about wanting to be there, to acknowledge the power that alcohol has over people’s lives. I know this; the only difference between she and I is that I “got” the program and she didn’t. There is no doubt in my mind that had I not gotten sober when I did, I would have killed myself eventually as well. Hell, I TRIED more than once when I was drinking, and at some point in my life the pain would have overwhelmed me and I would have been successful. Even if I hadn’t actually done it myself, I would have succeeded in some way-getting into an accident, getting killed by one of the men I took home, drinking myself into cirrhosis…yeah, I was well on my way.
I hear so many times people say things like how selfish an act suicide is, and I do agree, I really do. However, I also think it is really difficult for one who isn’t an alcoholic to understand the disease. It isn’t a matter of will power or self-control, it isn’t a matter of simply stopping. There is no way for an “normal” or non-drinker to understand how compelling a hold alcohol is for those of us who are alcoholics, no way for them to understand the feeling that comes from hating to drink, hating the things you do when drinking or to get alcohol, the utter depths of deepest despair that comes from knowing that you can neither live if you continue to drink but will surely die without it. There is just no way. One of the saddest things in J.’s case is that she was steered in the right direction by the courts, she was attending AA meeting regularly, and she chose not to avail herself of the help given to her. And it sounds like I am blaming, but that isn’t it; I understand. It is so hard to admit that we are powerless. So hard to lump ourselves in with this group of “alcoholics,” because in our minds the word conjures up images of streets and alleys, homelessness and no teeth and in and out of jail. There IS that component, of course-but there are, I think, far more high-functioning alcoholics than the street people we see.
Anyway. As I write this, I don’t think I will go. I know it’s out there, and I don’t think I need to actually be present to remember where she was when she dies, where I used to be, and where I certainly don’t want to go back to. I carry that with me all of the time, and while this brings it all up to the surface again, I realize that I don’t really need to go. I think what I need to do is sit back and feel grateful and humble, to offer up prayers for her family and her friends, and also for those I love who are still out there. And then I need to keep moving forward with my own life, doing what I need to do to stay sober. Don’t drink, go to meetings, carry the message.
I found out last night that my application was approved to be allowed to take an AA meeting into the Juvenile Detention Center; that is what I can do to help. It will be two hours a month, the second and fourth Sundays for an hour, and yes, it is a small thing. And no, most teens do not see themselves as having a problem, just like most adults don’t. My hope is not to go in and save even one of them, but to plant a seed that years down the road, they might remember, and know there is safety and peace to be found. These are the things I can do, for myself and all of the J.’s and the Steve’s and the women like my mom and the children in my class-I can go, and stand tall and say, “I have been there, and it doesn’t have to be this way.” That’s it. And it isn’t enough, but at the same time it has to be.