At five years sober, I am still encountering new terrain and challenges. The most recent is the death of my grandfather. This is the hardest loss I have had to go through in my life, and during my grandfather’s one week stay in hospice I was terrified. All I could think about was, I don’t want to feel this. I am scared to feel so much pain. How do I do this???
Compounding the situation was my distance from him and the rest of my family. After I got married last year, I moved to St. Louis. Within two weeks last fall, I got married, moved, and started a new job. Scary? Yes! But I did it. Just like when I spent six months in the pokey when I was 13 months sober. Terrifying? YES! But I did it. Every time I go through something else in sobriety that seems utterly terrifying, I have to remind myself of all that I have been through in this journey. And then I do my best to muster up some courage and barrel through.
I was not able to make the trip home to say goodbye to my Pappy, which was excruciating for me. I felt disconnected from my family, and it all caused a lot of emotional anguish. I did get to say goodbye to Pappy via my dad’s cell phone. Dad said he opened his eyes while I talked to him, and I am hoping he heard me. That was on a Friday, and he was gone three days later.
In the meantime, I was Googling grieving in sobriety. I spoke out in my home group about my fear of losing someone so dear to me. I kept in touch with my current and former sponsor. I didn’t hide from this fear, I laid it out there for everyone to see. I prayed for strength and said the serenity prayer A LOT. When he passed, I kept talking to people: on the phone, via text and email, in person and in meetings. I cried and I yelled. I got pissed that first night that I couldn’t take the edge off with a drink or a cigarette. I acknowledged that anger, then I let it go. In sobriety you don’t get a buffer for the pain, you have no choice but to keep moving through it.
My husband and I made the long drive back to Ohio for the visitation and funeral. I was scared to go into my grandparents’ church, but thankfully I was met by my mom and two of my best friends before I walked into the door. I was scared that I would see his body in the casket and cry so hard that I wouldn’t be able to breathe. I was nauseous, but I did it. And I cried a lot. I brought him one of my sobriety coins to put in his casket, and was grateful that he saw me turn my life around. His own father was an abusive alcoholic, and because of that, Pappy did not drink. Not only that, but he was an amazing father and grandfather. I am so lucky to have had him in my life.
Of course I am still dealing with residual icky feelings and sadness, but I am continuing to put them out there. The old me would have used this as another excuse to drink more, to isolate and keep everything inside to fester. It also would have been another excuse to eat tons of junk and feel like shit about myself. I let myself grief-eat sweets over the weekend (I’m not fucking perfect!), but I stopped and agreed to treat myself with kindness this week. I went to the gym, ate better, and made an effort to get more rest. I am so grateful for a program which has given me so many skills: on living, on coping, etc. Life will never be easy, but we can get through anything one day at a time.