A group of friends from 12 Step Recovery and I went to another funeral this past Saturday. He was 44 years old, a husband, father of two teens, beloved son, brother, uncle and friend. What was different about this funeral out of all of the others I’ve gone to? Most funerals are of males from the ages of 16-26. Some are females but mostly male. So that’s not it.
Many are funerals of clients who had been in a number of inpatient substance abuse treatment facilities, but relapsed even though. Most are funerals of individuals who went straight back into the home environments from which they left to seek help. Once back home, alcoholic/addicts who are asked to go to outpatient and 12 Step Recovery, find it nearly impossible to remain steadfast to the continued treatment. The support and recovery available to them is rarely enough to withstand the emotional toll the home life took on them for years and years and continues to take once they return home.
Some funerals are of people who have been in 12 Step Recovery yet were unable to remain in an environment of caring individuals going through the same struggles. Why is this? Because if they’ve returned home, the familiar people are not in meetings. These people are learning how to do life differently, one day at a time. It is the home and the people in it who remain familiar. Sick and bad for us, yes, but familiar. Yet, this is not what was different about this funeral.
This one was of a man who I loved as a soul mate and dear friend. It is difficult to remain in recovery and not be impacted by those who we have loved and lost. Was he married? Yes, that is not it. He loved his wife. Did she or his family understand the relationships that are established in recovery? No. The families rarely understand that these connections are lifesaving, life giving…usually not hook ups although those happen. No, this man was sensitive, loving and caring with everyone. He hid that underneath a tough exterior learned early in his tortured life if he were to survive. Where we connected was his dream of writing a book of his own narrative. We spent many days and nights on the phone going over drafts of his work while I was working on my own book, my second. “Am I Going To Be Okay?” was my first book and he and his wife had read it. Our time together was more along the lines of talking about early recovery and how the program could benefit him more than he could ever realize.
He became a part of a whole group of us who met after meetings to eat and talk about whatever was on our minds. He had an amazing sponsor. There was a time when he and his wife realized their relationship was struggling because she didn’t understand how anyone but family could help. She became jealous and lashed out. She is not alone. Most parents and spouses react that way if their relationship is not solid, and they never are. They separated and seemed to be on good terms in taking care of themselves apart, hoping to learn how to live a life together someday. Recovery can be messy and scary at first since what we have to change is ‘everything’.
This man died in the evening of September 5, 2017. How, when and where are not our concern or business. What we know is that he and his wife got back together, went on vacation, returned home and within 10 days he died. The difference with this funeral was that my knees buckled when I saw him in the casket. I lost my breath and each of us in his group of recovery friends held each other. No one at the funeral could understand it, since he seemed so happy on vacation. The photos and video make it seem that way. So, what is the reason for all of these deaths? Why do we lose beloved spouses, siblings and children? Why are the soul mates given such little time?
Recovery takes time and it is never a good idea to return home to the parents or spouse if recovery isn’t first and foremost. Spouses will demand what is not there to give of the one in recovery. Parents will expect out of their children what can’t be given…yet.
The family must go into recovery as a whole. It is not just the work of the ‘problem’ one who uses and drinks to escape. It is everyone in the family who must see their part in things, stop blaming and stay away from each other until something changes. Nothing changes if nothing changes.
Farewell my sweet. I always thought I’d see you again.
Debra Whittam is the author of “I'm I Going to be Ok?" For any media inquiries or questions please contact: Contact@DebraWhittam.com