Spoiler alert: this post may be a bit on the depressing side, apologies in advance.
There’s an expression in recovery meetings, “taking a meeting hostage,” where a person will talk longer than appropriate about personal issues. Today, at my Monday morning meeting, I did a variation, in the sense that I tailored the meeting topic to a situation in my personal life. Probably not the most selfless act of my day, but sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do. For the record, 11 attendees, and, from my perspective, the meeting was exactly what I needed.
Last night I met my sponsee at a meeting so that she could get her 6 month coin, very celebratory in nature, and I am so thrilled to have been able to share in her accomplishment. That’s the good news. The bad: while there I learned about the death of a friend and past Monday meeting attendee, whose name was George. I still can’t believe I had to use the past tense in that last sentence.
I met George about 10 months ago, we were fellow members of a drug and alcohol therapy group. George and I bonded from our very first day together, and anyone that has ever been through an outpatient rehab situation will understand what I’m about to say… George and I were the talkers of the group. What this means, for anyone unfamiliar with group therapy, is that often the majority of people prefer to sit and listen (or not), and do their absolute best to limit their participation. I can’t speak for George, but my philosophy is if I’m there, I might as well participate, plus I do have empathy for a group counselor that has to drag words out of every participant, so I am the one who will jump in and get things started. George seemed to be of the same mind, so many sessions had us gabbing back and forth about our personal circumstances in the moment. Through my time with him in group therapy, I found George to be open, honest, funny, and genuinely motivated to grab a hold of recovery. But, like myself and everyone else in that group, the obsession that goes along with addiction is very strong, and George fell prey to his addiction a few times throughout my time in the group, and so he eventually had to advance his therapy to a more intensive rehabilitation. I was able to let him know about my meeting, which had started right before we parted ways, and, once he got himself back on his feet recovery-wise, he started attending my Monday morning meetings.
And, just like in our group therapy, George was a tremendous benefit to the meeting. His personality is so engaging, and he is so sincere in his desire to stop drinking, that he drew people in every time he spoke. He thanked me profusely every single time he shared, for being an example to him and for having this meeting for him to attend. No matter what was going on in his life, he was able to talk about it honestly, and turn it around so that we could all learn something from it.
In the months that he attended my Monday meeting, George relapsed twice, and twice he came back and spoke candidly about the experience… the thoughts that led up to the decision, the shame and remorse he felt, and the negative consequences he suffered as a result. Always he was hopeful that this was the time he would get it together.
And then… nothing. He simply stopped attending my meetings.
I spoke with several mutual friends who went to other meetings with George, the same thing, they just stopped seeing him and hearing from him. Some of the male friends did reach out and try to call him, to no avail. The unspoken rule in AA is that guys call guys, women call women, so I did not have any numbers with which to reach out to George myself, but every single week in the past 2 1/2 months that he has been missing I have asked the mutual friends, and they all shake their heads sadly and say they have not seen him.
The limited information I received was this: his death was directly related to alcohol, and his wife is devastated. She actually called one of our mutual friends to let us know the news. She wanted to make sure his friends in AA knew of his death, because he spoke a lot about the group he had met and bonded with, and they meant the world to him. She also said he had a special friend during his time in group therapy, and was hopeful that the friend would know how highly he spoke of her. I’m guessing I’m the special friend, and if I’m not, it’s okay, because he was certainly my special friend, and my heart is broken.
This is my first experience of this nature: losing someone close to me to this disease, and, I’ve got to tell you, it sucks. It is going to sound trite, but it’s still the truth: George had so much to offer this world, and his loss is felt by more than he will ever understand. I want to say I am grateful to be sober, and I am, but it truthfully feels almost insensitive to say it in the wake of his death. The best takeaway I got from all the beautiful feedback from this morning is this: his death is a painful reminder that however low my bottom was, there is a much lower, and much more finite, bottom. As for why I was blessed with the gift of recovery and George was not, another question I struggled with last night, I was told that’s God‘s business, not mine, so I should stick to my own, and let God worry about the rest.
So I’m grateful that I am sober, and, just for today, I will stay sober, in George’s memory.
Being able to talk about my feelings this morning, and write about them this afternoon, and know that people care, is a miracle that give me tears in my eyes as I write this.