A month ago – just 30 days – the first part of my life ended. The first 57 years cracked and dropped into oblivion. There is now my life before April 20, 2016 – the day I found my roommate dead on the floor of a drug overdose – and life after April 20, 2016.
The first 30 days of this new life have not been easy. Eight days after my roommate died, my boyfriend – a man I have known for nearly 50 years – checked in to hospice. I checked in too, staying with him round the clock for six days. He died on May 3.
But there have been blessings, too. I have not picked up a drink.
The thought crossed my mind but vanished when I used the tools I had been given 17-years ago when got clean and sober: “Think the drink through,” and focus on the day after. “It’s the first drink that gets you drunk.” “No one said your life would get better when you go sober. But your ability to deal with life will.”
Another blessing is that I know how to grieve. I learned the hard way – thinking a could trudge through my parents’ deaths, just 16 months apart. I ended up in a massive depression that left me unable to work for two months.
Today, I am using the tools I learned from my therapist and self-help books to recognize and deal with each stage of my recent losses: Denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.
Two deaths in 30 days – that’s a big deal to me. But it’s nothing compared to young addicts who coolly tell me they have lost 3, 6 or 8 friends – all young – to overdoses. Sometimes when I ask them how many and they stop, think about it and start ticking off names – counting on their fingers. Many use both hands.
I wonder, how in the hell can these young, barely clean addicts deal with that much death without relapsing? The closest I have come to picking up a drink was when I sunk into my depression after my parents’ deaths from cancer – deaths that I knew were coming.
Think about it. What if five of your friends – all young people – suddenly died? Imagine the cause of their deaths was a terribly stigmatized disease – the kind you don’t talk about in public. No one from hospice is going to call and offer grief counseling because these kids died in public restrooms, cars and flop houses.
We need to get these kids help. Fast. They need to learn how to grieve, how to deal with the unbearable emotional pain without picking up a syringe. Grief counseling for young addicts who have lost friends to overdoses needs to be part of our efforts to end the opioid epidemic.
In addition to 12-Step meetings, there needs to be 5-Step meetings to help these young addicts learn and deal with the five stages of loss and grief.. The meetings should be free, anonymous, open to any addict who has experienced and overdose death and held in easily accessible meeting places.
Let’s do this.