When told How It Works, we are warned that alcohol is “cunning, baffling and powerful.” Often old-timers have suggested that the word “patient” be added to this list of John Barleycorn’s attributes. The history of those who marked the path which all recovering alcoholics trudge, also made it clear that mental issues can persist even after the obsession to consume alcohol has lifted and the desire to drink relieved.
So it is that we learn in the program that sometimes even those who have heard of the suggestions and exhibited a great desire to follow them, have not always been successful in achieving that goal. As such, it has also been the unhappy experience to hear that a life has been lost and that it was taken by one’s own hand, not solely by the ravages of alcohol.
Not being a psychologist or psychiatrist or even knowing the difference between the two, I am by no means able to opine on the deepness of the medical and psychological conditions that might cause someone to take their own life. My own experience, both in the throes of my alcoholism and even after getting sober, was enough to validate how real the thoughts can be and how vital it was to not feel alone in those thoughts. For the loneliness I found to be the driver of these feelings for me, the intercession with another human being became in my case the prescription for a cure. Yet despite the interactions we can have with our fellows, a tragic end can still be the unwanted result, where what was in life really only a temporary problem leads to a permanent solution. Such has been my experience and only of this can I speak.
Whether you have 27 years of sobriety as did my dear friend and conga drum player or are struggling to no longer be a newcomer, as was the recent painful case of a dear member of my home group, the powerful nature of this disease and its patience persists.
It leaves those behind to wonder, often in anger: Why did this happen? Why was it that what appeared to be a temporary problem would succumb only to the horrible permanent solution?
I have no answers to these questions. I do not know why this becomes the will of a Higher Power in the life of a person near and dear to so many. The presence of so many mourners at our member’s memorial was a testament to the fellowship in which they were enveloped during life before they decided to end it. The simple answer at which to jump is that by all appearances this tragedy made no sense, it was a waste and otherwise unexplainable.
When reflecting in meditation over the most recent loss, I took great solace in the observation shared under similar circumstances decades before by one who then was over two decades sober, although my junior in age. He also knew my dear friend the Conga Drummer. His experience and strength told me that sometimes the spirit just needs to be free. While so sad for those left behind now that the drum beat was forever silenced, the spirit of our conga drumming was now set free. My friend’s advice and his belief, which then became my hope, was that my Conga Drummer’s spirit would now be at peace.
I have come to learn on too many occasions since that drum beat stopped, that if we persist in the program, we will hear of the passing of another member. That is Life on Life’s Terms.
But the presence of psychological problems an individual may have before succeeding in getting sober, as I have seen and heard, do not always simply resolve because one has achieved sobriety. That the help of professionals outside of the program could be vital for someone attempting to achieve sobriety or for someone newly sober might seem to be self-evident. However, the stark reality, so poignantly brought to light in the painful recent event of loss, is that it is perilous to ignore the fact that the help of such professionals may be called for or absolutely needed even after the plug has been put into the jug. I believe that the loss experienced, under the circumstances where the desperation of life seem to leave only one permanent alternative as the unavoidable conclusion, deserves comment.
While frank acknowledgement and discussion of the event’s occurrence may not alleviate the pain of the experience, it might serve as a lighthouse for someone caught up in the storm who needs help. That is truly my hope.
The sad, tragic, unthinkable reality of the event now passed can be a beacon for the next man or woman trudging the road. If this transparency can help save that next traveler in this lifetime who feels they have lost their way and are contemplating this permanent solution to a temporary problem, then the loss will not have been in vain, despite the hurt of the passing.