I am not at all sure why I am here, or even whether I can be here, but for the first time in four months I felt compelled to try so I am going to give it a go. Perhaps it is the lovely roundness of the milestone, but those things do not feel so shiny any more. I lost my dad, who I adored, this summer and it is has unmade me. It was a sudden, very unexpected death and although we have many reasons to be thankful, both for his extraordinary life and an end in which he (at least) did not suffer and would very likely have chosen over the indignity of infirmity that he so feared, the shock of loss and the bewildering nature of grief have left me disoriented and out of step with the world.
Shortly after I started writing this morning my brother called, and we spoke for a very long time, which is not our habit at all. I felt interrupted when the phone rang but it was a really good talk.This afternoon a close friend phoned for the first time in a couple of months (more perhaps another day on the unexpectedly devastating effect of bereavement and grief on friendships – a cruel insult added to a barbarous injury.) Again I felt interrupted, and I hesitated for a long moment before answering. I am finding talking to people terribly tiring, but I have also found the entire experience of grief desperately lonely. In fact, far from disrupting my day or wearing me out I found both conversations to be nourishing and comforting, and it made me reflect on how poor I am at seeking connection, although it is clearly something I need and crave.
There have been so many hard things that it feels a little absurd to focus on any of them: in the face of the utter desolation of my dad not being here any more everything else pales. And yet. A very hard thing, for me, has been having to show up empty handed. This has always been true and I think relates to my posts at the start of the year (although they feel like several lifetimes ago) about worthiness, but this time has thrown it into sharp relief. Not having ANYTHING to give, and having to show up anyway, has made me realise how hard I have always hustled to be worthy of friendship, kindness and community. I’m fumbling a bit for language, here, but I don’t think this will be a particularly foreign tale to anyone reading a sobriety blog. It has been really, really hard to take what I need from my community without being able to “pay” for it, even though I know that I would never expect that kind of payment from someone else in my current position. The result has been that I have not been able to reach out for support that I have really needed (and which would have been gladly given by many.) I think what I am actually talking about is grace: impossible to earn and thus terrifying to accept without also accepting inherent worthiness.
It is strange and somehow inevitable the way these things wind up being deeply connected. The decision to stop drinking was born of a wildfire blazing wholly out of my control, and threatening to overwhelm me and my family. Ultimately, I do not believe that my addiction was either a bad path that I chose or a punishment for some transgression or flaw, nor is my sobriety a product of my own decision (this smacks of determinism and is not exactly what I mean, but I sure didn’t do it by myself) or virtue. Equally, my dad didn’t die because he or we deserved it or didn’t cherish him and each other and life enough. As outrageously hard as it is to accept, the pain and suffering that is so much the stuff of life is unearned and unavoidable, and hustle will not see us through. All there is – all I have – is grace.
Certainly it is by grace that I had a year of sobriety before my dad died. I was able to show up for my mom and do unthinkably hard things in those first hours and days, and I have been able to face, however fearfully, the pain of this great grief. I am so grateful, and proud, to be here, and to have had the opportunity to talk a little with my dad about the road I am on.
I feel that I am ending this a little abruptly but I have to go to school to get the boys and it has been a helpful process.