Over the last few days, I have a some certain revelations and steps in my grief.
I’ve read about four books on grief since Adam died. All of them by women, a couple more story-like and based on personal experience, a couple that have been a combination of stories and tenets/steps. What I realized is that I was actually becoming confused by the consortium of stories. Was I doing this right? Was I following a good path to steer myself from “complicated grief” (yes, this is a thing…)? Am I spending too much time in one stage?
I know the only right way to grieve is my way, but these books can be confusing as you judge yourself against others with different experiences. I spoke to my therapist about this, and she told me that she was advised not to recommend grief books to grievers for about six months. The reasoning? Exactly what I was experiencing…confusion about wondering what is right and wrong. Six months or so out, she said, it’s easier for a griever to get a handle on where you are.
Thus, I decided not to read the next book on the Kindle, and at the airport, I picked up an LCD book … a Lowest Common Denominator book … which is my acronym for any mass market paperback (yes, I’m being judgmental here). I picked up “Inferno” by Dan Brown. Aside: I read the Da Vinci Code during the week up to my wedding. I was exiled to the bedroom often to rest because I was so sick I couldn’t speak.
Anyway, about 100 pages in, the writer describes Florence, Italy, in great detail, and specifically Boboli Gardens. I immediately thought “I would like to go there.” The next immediate thought is the resounding sadness that I had actually been thinking of going there with Adam. I had to rearrange those thoughts in my head. My next thought was “Well, I guess I’ll never go there, then.” I couldn’t even entertain the thought of going alone or with someone else. And … cue the tears on an airplane again.
Grief is surprising at every turn. You are hit hard with reminders of what is not to be, even though every other minute you already know your life has changed irrevocably. It’s like you know, but you still keep forgetting.
That’s two things. The third is more personal. I’m in Central City, Neb., watching football (of course) after the celebration of life today (I’ll talk about that in the next post). But last night, around the table, we talked about Adam, addiction and his illness. His dad told me that while Adam was in the Texas hospital last April, he was flat out told “If you drink one drop again, you might as well call hospice right now.”
I did not know this. This was one of my own personal bits of anguished guilt and regret, thinking that I didn’t push doctors hard enough to tell him he could never drink. But someone did, and he drank anyway.
This gave me some sense of peace. It’s hard to explain why. Maybe it’s because it seems to be greater confirmation of the fact that he had an illness that affected his ability to make rational decisions. It wasn’t about loving alcohol more than he loved me… or loving alcohol more than he loved life … but whatever was going on, he struggled with making a completely rational decision not to drink… and there is science behind it. It’s not just willpower.
From the recent Surgeon General’s report on addiction:
… substance use disorders are said to involve compromised self-control. It is not a complete loss of autonomy—addicted individuals are still accountable for their actions—but they are much less able to override the powerful drive to seek relief from withdrawal provided by alcohol or drugs. At every turn, people with addictions who try to quit find their resolve challenged. Even if they can resist drug or alcohol use for a while, at some point the constant craving triggered by the many cues in their life may erode their resolve, resulting in a return to substance use, or relapse…
I guess my thought is, I’m still trying to work my way around the guilt I feel. Even in the above paragraph, there are phrases that trigger my guilt … Adam had triggers … they were our house, our city, our friends, our routines. We probably would have needed to uproot our entire lives to help conquer this, and we were talking about it. As I’ve said, we just ran out of time.
My therapist asked why I was continuing my sobriety. I first said “it would dishonor him.” She asked me “how would it dishonor him?”
My answer finally was…”Having a drink means I no longer have to be/need to be/want to be sober. I no longer have to adjust my life willingly for the person I love. Drinking means admitting Adam is gone. That I have no one to support anymore.”
Drinking means going on with my life. Going on without Adam.
I guess I’m not there yet.