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.

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41 thoughts on “I Didn’t Care If I Lived Or Died

  1. Been there. Done that, graciously, Colleen. My neighbor and friend recently celebrated 25 years sober. I’ve been to a few AA meetings at his invitation. There are, indeed, many moving experiences and stories shared among AA members. There is also a lot of sadness when one learns about those who have (in many cases) repeatedly fallen to their addiction(s); a different kind of surrendering. We often don’t realize how some in our immediate circle are challenged and struggling, just to stay afloat. This was/is a valuable post topic. Thank you.

    • You’re welcome Eric. I’ve been in long, very long, relationships with family and friend alike, where the surrender has also been to the addiction, and it is a constant battle on ‘our’ end as well. To be understanding, to know that their struggles are not ours to fix, though we desperately want to. I felt empowered and encouraged, myself, from some of the comments made by people sitting in that group.

  2. Many souls are suffering and thank you for being there when your friend asked you to. Thank you for sharing Colleen.

  3. That’s an interesting concept, the surrendering. Kind of like the strength it takes to apologize and admit you are wrong. I remember the other post you wrote about this friend and I remember your frustration. I’m glad ghings are turning around.

  4. Beautiful – thank you for sharing this story. Thank you to your friend who allowed you to do so. ❤
    Diana xo

  5. 1jaded1 says:

    Thank you. Those words pin it down. When I am using I don’t care one way or the other. I’m very happy for your friend.

  6. Jim McKeever says:

    Powerful, Colleen. Your presence there was a crucial part in your friend’s ongoing healing process, it seems. Courageous of you both.

    • Thank you Jim. I truly had to do nothing but be there. I can’t imagine all that she went through, and wanted to go through to get to this side. I know it’s an on going process, but she so badly wants it.

  7. April says:

    You just described what depression leads to–not caring if we live or die. Some turn to alcohol and drugs to dull the pain of depression. That was a valuable lesson your friend shared, and it must be rather nice to know that she cares about her life. A very heartwarming post. 🙂

  8. Not caring whether you live or die must be a dark, dark place. I cannot imagine it.
    It warms my heart your friend now does. Bless her. Bless you for supporting her. ❤ ❤ ❤

  9. “What she needed was what she did.” Such an important message, but, bless you for supporting her. ❤

  10. This is an awesome post. It takes a lot of strength to stand up like that and give your story and it takes even more strength to surrender. Most alcoholics don’t realize there is actually “life ater alcohol.” I am glad you were there to support her. 🙂

  11. Gibber says:

    Wow very powerful and it seems coming full circle. I’m glad that your friend is doing better. I spent most of my 20 not caring whether I lived or died. I know what that feels like.

  12. Riveting post…powerful. Expect nothing less from you. You constantly wow me.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Very powerful, and meaningful. I’m glad you were there. I am elated that she now cares.

  14. reocochran says:

    I think this was very moving on the part of your friend, her story was very powerful. Sometimes hitting bottom you may get lifted up. I am so happy she is able to share this with you. You were there while the accident and the behaviors were rampant. This was a hard place to be in. I understand pushing the picture of the car back, Colleen.
    I have had this with my son and my brother, along with an ex-husband. It is so hard to be supportive, sometimes it is almost meaningless until the person decides all by themselves to change and rise out of the bottle. My ex still is in denial, both my brother and son are on ‘good’ paths, sometimes not perfect but able to show moderation and control. Years of work and therapy. Sometimes, alcoholics are depressed, which means they may be ‘self-medicating’ by drinking. It still leaves the depressed person behind, unfortunately. They still go day by day, sometimes moment by moment. I hope you don’t mind my just telling my feelings about sobriety and depression but not trying to be a ‘downer’ on the party, either!

    • Of course I don’t mind Robin, it’s all about discussion here. 🙂 I share similar experiences with others. Some who have found other paths, some who are still self medicating/abusing and not able and/or willing to make changes. No matter the level of support, no one can make the changes, but the person themselves.

  15. niaaeryn says:

    You are a good friend. I am glad she is doing better. A very powerful story, it gives me hope for our family. One of my stepbrothers is…well we are hoping he comes of the space he is in, but it is not looking so good at this moment. This gives me hope. 🙂 Thanks for sharing her story.

  16. Mustang.Koji says:

    Not caring about living or dying… Wow… As for booze, I had my fair share. You know those little bottles filled with warm sake? There are 18 small bottles of sake in one big brown bottle. When a guy turns 18 in Japan, we went to an eatery to celebrate. Each one of us had to have 18 empty bottles in front of him by the time you finish. I did it twice…and walked home in those wooden clogs. But I just stopped cold turkey on June 12, 2001. Never looked back.

    • That’s a lot of sake Koji.

      I’m glad you quit. I have a feeling if you had not….we would not know you. And I’m ever so glad to know you. And you have so much to tell, imagine the stories we would NOT know.

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