I Didn’t Care If I Lived Or Died

I heard a friend say these words today and I wanted to stand up and say “but I did!”

Instead, I sat and continued to listen.  Respectfully, gratefully, and riveted to what she was saying.

She had invited my husband and I to join her, and to listen to her ‘lead’ at one of her AA meetings.  That’s “Alcoholics Anonymous” for non-AA speaking persons.  For a non-drinking, non-alcoholic person, I have been to more AA meetings than some AA members.  I have attended as a transporter, as a case manager, or at the request of family or friends.  Today was the first time I went to listen to anyone I know speak as a lead.

Because this is so personal, it’s only with my friend’s permission that I write about this.  I listened to her lead.  I knew most of her story in a general sense.  Yet, I was still surprised by much of what she said.  I was still surprised, even understanding the disease of alcoholism, how this impacted her life on such levels.   The thoughts she had.  The prayers she got to, by way of default.  The deals she wanted to make regarding drinking.  Twice, I got emotional.  Once, when she said she had to surrender.  The second, when on reflection, she said she had not cared if she lived or died.

It was the first time I ever heard someone say they surrendered.  Normally you hear surrender and think someone gave up.  That’s it.  They’re done.  This time, when I heard her say it, there was no negative connotation to it. I understood it to be a good thing.  A great thing.  A courageous and terrifying thing.  A difficult thing.  Something that carried a huge amount of suffering with it but at the same time, it was like that moment, she laid it down in the middle of the road.  And it was the best thing she ever did.   I got it.  I get it.    And man that’s a lot of power.  Surrendering.  Giving up to something bigger than you.  Something more than you.    To something Bigger than you.

Not yet two years have gone by since I wrote I’m Plenty Angry Enough after I received a text telling me about an accident this friend was in.   Today, after the meeting we had breakfast together, and she showed me a picture from that night.  It was her, standing in front of her vehicle as it lay on it’s side, destroyed.  She was texting.  Standing at an odd angle, appearing to need one leg braced against the other to stay upright.  She appeared physically unwell, anorexic in appearance.  Her father had taken the picture.  I handed the picture back and had to push my hand in to my solar plexus.  I told her that it hurt my chest to look at that picture.  It was the first time I had seen that picture.  I don’t want to look at that picture again.

We discussed her lead.  Her story.  I asked if her parents or siblings had attended a lead of hers, yet.  She said no.  I told her that for the most part I felt I was ready for it.  I was ready for the story of the how, the what, the development.  But when she stood there and said “I didn’t care if I lived or died”, that was hard to hear.  During her lead when she said that and had to stop, briefly,  it was very obvious the emotion of what she had just said impacted her as well.  During the lead she had apologized for the emotion.  Afterwards one person commented that no apology was necessary.  Having that emotion was a gift, it’s what they get back by coming to AA.  She said she had presented her story before, and had said this before.  She was a little caught off guard by the impact of the emotion.  It’s possible that having friends, personal connections to her life sitting there hearing this, may have had an impact.  It definitely had an impact on me.  As much as she and I communicated over the years I would never have known that was something she had felt.  And though this was her lead, it was me hearing it.  And from where I was sitting, it didn’t feel good to know that a friend of mine lived that and I didn’t know.

We discussed that she didn’t feel suicidal.  But she didn’t care.  While she was drinking she did not care if she lived or died.  Alcohol.  Drugs.  Abuse.  Whatever it is….  That something that steals your desire, your passion, your ability to feel great things, or your ability to feel horrible things.  To live as an existence only.  To just be here and not be an active participant in your journey-embracing what there is or might be.   I can’t help but reflect on this.  As part of her experience, and being so grateful she is through it.  And all of the nodding heads in the room when she said it, and that there was such an understanding of that comment when she said it.  And that right now there are so many bodies walking around, right now, existing.  Only existing.

When she asked me if I wanted to attend this meeting, I immediately responded yes.  By my very nature I abhor meetings.  I think this is the first meeting I have ever looked forward to attending.  In my life.  I wanted to show her my support.  I wanted to hear her.  Applaud her.  She didn’t need me to do most of that.  What she needed was what she did.  She told her story.  She told how she didn’t care if she lived or died.  She surrendered.  And now she doesn’t need me to stand up and say I cared about her living.   Because she does.