As my plane landed back in Florida on Sunday afternoon, I was greeted with the news of the death of Philip Seymour Hoffman. Like every other recovering addict I know, I felt sick. 2.5 million people die each year from a disease that I tend to forget about. Every so often I am slapped back to reality. This was one of those slaps. It was as if someone was grabbing me by the shoulders and shaking me, saying, It doesn’t matter that you have been sober for over 17 years, you are still a drunk and a drug addict. You are one slip away from your kids finding you on the bathroom floor. Even while I write this , days later, I can feel the heaviness on my chest and a lump in my throat.
Later that same day, a friend of mine posted something on Facebook which read: I’m not sure which is more sad, the death of PSH or the small bottles of wine that I keep for cooking that I can’t stop drinking. I wanted to respond to her that these events are equally devastating, that I understood how she felt, that I had been her. I know what it is like to have no control over the substance I am putting into my body. I have lied, cheated, and stole among many other things to get the next drink or drug. But I didn’t. I didn’t respond. I was tired from my trip. The next day the post was down.
I struggled with reaching out to her. It’s not that she doesn’t know that I am in recovery. Everybody knows I’m in recovery. It’s not that I didn’t want to help, I do. I’m not sure why I hesitated. I think it’s a part of me pretending that I am removed from the messy stuff now. It’s funny that this realization makes me closer to the messiness than ever. I sent a private message and I’m hoping to hear back. Either way, I have put the offer out to her. I hope to be able to tell her that she has a chance at another life if she can stay away from the small bottles one day (or minute) at a time. Because that’s what it feels like sometimes, like a whole other life in the same body. I want to let her know that although life has many challenges, everything is manageable when we give up the drink and the drug. I want to show her that there is a huge support system available 24/7 for the times when the urge is stronger than we are. She doesn’t need to do this alone.
As it says in the literature of Alcoholics Anonymous, this disease is cunning, baffling, and powerful. These words are as true to me now as they were the first time I heard them. As a person in recovery, I make choices each day that are either leading me towards a drink or away from one. I am grateful that I have made it through another day and that I have plans tomorrow that will continue to lead me away from taking that first drink or drug.