Monday, February 18, 2019

I hate addiction.

I have been avoiding writing this blog post, because I knew it was going to be incredibly difficult, and because it felt like my words would undoubtedly come up short. I mean, how can a person possibly write enough words to honor someone who was magnificent, but left this earth entirely too soon?

It's impossible!

So I guess I'll just do what I do best, and lay it all out there: addiction sucks, and I am d*mn sick of it taking away people I love.

I got in trouble when I spoke blatantly after my father's death two and a half years ago. I openly wrote about how he was, for lack of a better term, a drunk who'd vacated his responsibilities as a father and grandfather, and ostracized himself until his sad end. I was bitter about how my father's life came to a close, and I told people as much. I told them to sober up and fix their relationships before it was too late, and not everyone appreciated being told that.

But I have had too much loss in my life, and too much hurt in my life, and too much grief in my life at the hands of addiction, and I am ready to climb the walls because of it. Truly. I feel like I could bite my laptop in half, with how angry and sad I am. I lost my father to addiction, long before he actually died. I lost my first marriage to addiction. I lost a relationship with my sibling in part because of addiction. I was a foster mother to children who'd been abused and neglected by addicts.

Most recently, I lost one of my very best and oldest friends. Much like my father, the loss began years ago...and only became official because of actual death this last week. And much to my surprise, I am gutted by this loss. Angered and bewildered and shook to the core by this loss, and it's not because I was so naive to think that she was on the straight and narrow--I've known for years that she was headed down a path that I would absolutely not be following--but because I know, with every cell in my body...that this was not the way she was supposed to go out.

Nope. She was too epic for this kind of a goodbye. She was the kind of person who saw raggedy, strung out, homeless bums on the street, and scolded me for being judgmental. She always told me, "They could clean up. They could get their act together, and be amazing. You don't know. People can change." She saw potential and humanity in every, single person she encountered, and she was willing to fight for their right to be better. She was a humanitarian, in every sense of the word. Helping people, lifting them up, giving them food/clothes/rides/money/a place to sleep. She forgave. She prayed. She rescued. She gave second, and third chances. She believed in every single person she met, and knew their worth was great.

But the cruel irony is, my friend never, ever saw the same potential in herself. She spent her whole life thinking of herself as the dented can of peas on the shelf at the grocery store. The one everyone passes over for the shiny, new cans. The one nobody wanted. That was how she saw herself, despite being willing to put everything on the line to rehabilitate everyone around her.

It started by being born with a birth defect. One so painful and troubling that she suffered and dealt with it's side effects her entire life. Literally 42 years of pain and discomfort, in addition so the social torture that came from being different. She used pain killers religiously, as a means to function like a normal wife/mother/woman, which eventually (after decades of use) grew into a stronger, more frightening dependency.

The last few times I saw her, I could see the difference in her demeanor and her behavior. Her physical appearance started to change. She looked harder, grayer, gaunt. She avoided certain questions and topics. We went from talking about everything to talking about surface level bull****. She wasn't herself. She wasn't the friend I treasured.

It was so troubling that I pulled away. Like I said, she was headed down a path I could not follow. I'd been down it with my ex-husband, my father, my sibling, friends...I couldn't deal with it. So I bailed. We went from being deeply connected, and utterly loving each other in the deepest way two women could be connected (think Idgy and Ruth in Fried Green Tomatoes,) without actually being in romantic love... to texting or messaging every few months or so. My affection was still there.... but I had to maintain space.

I will literally regret that for the rest of my days.

She slipped deeper and deeper in her addiction, eventually turning to illegal drugs, and becoming a full blown junkie. I wish I could scream this to the whole world: That is not the beautiful, loving, epic human being she once was!

She went from loving, attentive soccer mom, to an empty shell of the epic human she'd once been. This was not the girl who befriended me when we were 17, and nobody in my new school liked me. This was not the girl who'd sat on my parents deck until sunrise one night, sharing her entire birth defect/multiple surgeries/social torture story, then listening as I shared how my father had pickled himself while my mom battled cancer, and how I'd never fit in anywhere I'd ever been, including my family. We were both misfits, and we didn't belong anywhere, except with each other.

But she was no longer that person, and I couldn't deal.

From what I am told, she spent her last days stealing from family members, lying to everyone who loved her, going in and out of jail, and burning every bridge she'd ever had...before succumbing to an illness made deadly by a weakened heart from drug abuse and hard living. Her family is inexplicably sad, but also angry and hurt. They're not surprised by the way her life ended, but at the same time, completely flummoxed.

I am utterly heartbroken.

This is not the way she should've gone out. She was bigger than life, hilarious, and passionate to a fault. She was bold, loud, silly, strong, and stubborn. She was the one friend we could all count on to hold our hair back while we puked, and to make sure we didn't get ourselves into a dangerous situation while incoherent. She was the mother, the protector, the guide, the bodyguard. She believed in us when we didn't believe in ourselves. She read all my manuscripts, some dating back to when I was 18 years old, and was the first friend I told when I got my first publishing contract. She was my biggest fan. And now she's gone.

Do not think for a second that you are immune to addiction. Do not fool yourself into thinking that your social status, financial status, location, job, or church participation makes you immune to the stinging, suffocating grip of addiction. Do not assume that you've got it under control. Do not assume people don't know, or that people don't care, or that you're keeping your secret under wraps. If it can happen to my sweet friend, it can happen to anyone, and I implore you to stop right now. Get help, somehow, anyhow....because there are people who do care, who will miss you, and who will ache like I ache if you die.

I am sick of losing people to addiction. Sick, sick, SICK of it. So many lives wasted. It makes me physically ill, not even kidding.

I'm going to my friend's funeral this weekend. I am making a long, uncomfortable journey to a town I swore I'd never go back to, to be there to say goodbye to a friend I loved with my whole heart, and I am not okay with it. I shouldn't be making this journey. I shouldn't be picking out clothes to wear to her funeral. This is not how my winter was supposed to go. More importantly, this is not how her life was supposed to go.

Please reach out to your friends--the ones who have loved every last detail about you, even the ugly ones--and tell them how very much you love them. And if you're close enough to hug them, do it, and do it hard. Because you literally never know when it will be the last time you have that opportunity, and believe you me, you will regret it, if you don't.

I will never stop loving my friend. She will be in my thoughts for the rest of my life, and when I cross through the veil to the next life--at the ripe old age of 80-something, with blue hair and a gold velvet jogging suit on like we always said we would have--I expect her to be standing right there with my dad, waiting to embrace me. Fully whole, completely free. Holy crap, I am so looking forward to seeing her in perfect form.

But in the meantime, I will continue to openly and blatantly share my stories of addiction and loss. I will never sugar coat this awful, ugly disease, and I will never pretend that I don't notice if someone is suffering from addiction. Because I am sick to death of losing people I love.

Please pray for my dear friend's family and especially her daughter. They will need it, and they so deeply deserve it.