Hope v. Reality

Just a few weeks before the news lit up with stories of Whitney Houston’s life and death, I had read in a letter from someone that an acquaintance of ours had died of a heroin overdose. While my mind instantly pulled out the “ that can’t be, someone just saw him a few days/weeks/months ago” denial speech. I knew logically that it wasn’t far fetched. No surprise here. He is not the first, and unfortunately unlikely to be the last. I can think of at least four funerals off the top of my head that I have been to which were celebrating lives that were taken way too soon, and in some way drug related.

While I have never heard of an incident of someone overdosing on methamphetamine, I do know people who have gotten shot because of someone using it. Sleep deprivation and chemical cocktails make for unhappy endings. I also know one woman who wound up having a stroke and losing a lot of her mental capacity and with it her personality. She was one of the “old school” crowd. Heroin, pills and cocaine are more likely to be the fast paced killer. That is another thing that makes methamphetamine so scary, because you don’t see that kind of ending coming.

I have a certain compassion for addicts, which I don’t think that is odd considering where I have been. When it is a situation that is close to home, however, I notice my compassion going out the window and being replaced with frustration and a little bit of judgment. My brother in law, who is still using, has a tendency to bring out the worst in me, possibly because he is my husband’s twin and I associate what he does with things that I have been through with my husband in the past. I was contemplating this recently. Wondering where my compassionate side had gone to when it came to him. Why did I take this so personally? I mean its not my life, it’s not my husband so why should I get so emotionally charged about his poor decision to continue on the path of destruction that he has chosen?

Part of it is that I know the foggy cloud that he lives in. I know he believes the lies he tells. I also know that if you acknowledge the problems, call things what they are, then there is a better chance at fixing them. With every excuse I hear him make, my frustration grows. It isn’t from a place of condescending arrogance that I pull out bits of judgment but from the place inside of me that sees myself in him. A place that would do the work for him if I could. A place that needs to learn to let go of that idea.

The other part is something that a news anchor said when reporting the death of Whitney Houston. He said we had always carried the hope that we would see her recover. We took for granted that is what would happen and how it would end. The notion that she was just going through a phase and it would pass being something we held on to. Her death was a reminder to me. One of my sayings is that there is hope for everyone. Everyone has the capacity to change. I am painfully reminded that not everyone does. The language used in the meeting rooms of AA and NA reminds its participants that using only leads three places: jails, institutions and death. The people who wind up in the first two are the lucky ones that are being provided another opportunity to start over.

As much as I have hated being incarcerated, and wouldn’t want to do it again, and don’t wish for anyone to have to go through it, I do believe sometimes it is necessary. It can be an opportunity for the fog to lift and change perspective. If provided with the right tools then it could really be used for good.

So I find a part of myself wishing my brother in law into jail in the back of my mind and my prayer life. Because I am reminded of what the alternatives are and I want to see him choose life. Sadly he doesn’t see things in this life or death scenario. As for me, my lesson in this is that again, I have to give up the illusion of control. I don’t really have any control in what anyone else chooses. I can only set a good example, offer help and advice when the time is right and stop allowing things outside of my control to have a negative impact on me. More on how that works out to come…….

-Lauren Johnson


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