I have had a lot of great moments in my recovery and have had the luxury of meeting some absolutely fantastic people. There is a vulnerability that appears when one decides to share their story with someone who is going through the same trials and tribulations. Close bonds are created over short periods of time. And unfortunately, some of these friends ultimately wind up dead because of the substance misuse.
Within days of being at Sunshine Coast Health Centre, I found out that two close personal friends had passed on including one I had lived with for a period of time as a roommate. An old friend I hadn’t talked to in a while, Marlene, had passed away in Alberta while my friend Matt had overdosed in Victoria. I am running out of hands and toes to count those I have met who have not been able to overcome their demons and wound up deceased.
These deaths… some have been close friends and others have been acquaintances. They have all hit me hard though. It makes me appreciate the work I have put in to my recovery and it also allows me to understand just how dangerous substance misuse can be. It really is the idea that a person only needs to mess up one time for it to all be over.
Over time, I have come to deal with these deaths in a drastically different way than I once did. I still remember the first friend I had made in recovery who passed away in 2011. We had been through the ups and downs of early recovery even if we were not of the best of friends. But his death was such a shock and I took his death very hard. My only coping skill to deal with this grief was to dive headfirst back into a bottle. I look back on it now and realize the last thing my deceased friend would ever want from his death would be everyone whose lives he had touched to relapse. But it was where I was at.
Today, I have learnt numerous coping skills which allow to deal with the heartbreak in much more constructive and meaningful ways. I know it can sometimes be an overused word in the field but acceptance really is a huge key to dealing with these tragedies.
There are a number of emotions I have gone through in these situations. I have felt guilt that I couldn’t have done something to save this person, but I’ve also come to realize I am only responsible for my own actions. Grief is another core emotion I’ve felt but this is where support has been huge for me. Just talking to someone about the sadness involved in death has been very therapeutic for myself.
Eventually, acceptance arrives and I can remember good times I spent with the deceased. And perhaps more importantly, I can live a more meaningful and spirited life to help carry on a legacy for those who have touched my life and passed on.