This week, the rollercoaster of life came to visit me.
Five days ago, I found out that my dearest friend, the woman who has helped me the most in my sobriety and in my life, has lung cancer. My heart almost stopped when she told me.
This woman (I’ll call her LG) means the world to me. She has stuck with me through relapses, life’s circumstance, poor decisions on my part, and more, and has never, ever judged me for any of it. She has seen me at my best and my worst.
She never tells me what to do; she asks me questions and lets me figure things out for myself, and gives me a suggestion or two when it’s warranted.
LG is a beautiful human being. She loves unconditionally and only wants me to be happy. Her friendship and mentorship (is that a word?) are a gift, and I am very grateful to have her in my life.
The thought of her suffering through the pain, treatment, and fear of cancer makes my heart break.
WHAT TRUE FRIENDSHIP HAS TAUGHT ME
LG and I met one Saturday morning about nine years ago and struck up a friendship almost immediately. She quickly grew to become a mentor to me in all things life. Even though she has been under tremendous stress for much of this time, she has the faith and ability to handle it all with grace and humility.
Among the many lessons I have learned just by having her in my life are:
- Acceptance is key. No matter the issue, acceptance will help make your life worth living.
- No matter what life throws at me, I can handle it. Maybe even with a little grace of my own.
- If it walks like a duck, looks like a duck, and sounds like a duck, it’s probably a duck. Don’t fight it.
- Let go of the things you have no control over. Nothing is worth losing peace of mind and serenity over.
- It’s okay to believe in myself, trust myself, and be myself.
- Sobriety (and life) is a gift. Try not to take it for granted. Do things that will ensure you don’t lose it.
These are the kinds of things we learn over and over as life happens and we get caught up in the details. But LG is a role model for living with gratitude, never giving up, and being true to yourself. She is a constant reminder to me to do the same.
AN IMPORTANT LESSON
As I’ve mentioned before, I’m one of those people who tends to overthink things – a lot. I have a need to not just know the answers to things, but to understand how and why things are the way they are. I have a hunch you may be the same way.
While I think it’s good overall to be curious and to love to learn, this over-analysis has gotten in my way many times in my life, and in important situations.
Sometimes, there is no answer.
Sometimes, you just have to accept things as they are.
LG told me something years ago that I still think about all the time and have shared with many others, and it fits many of life’s circumstances. She said, “’Figure it out’ is not one of the steps.”
It only took me about .5 seconds to comprehend the meaning of that statement and to realize that she was absolutely right.
Too often, I try to dismantle things – events, circumstances, thoughts, emotions, anything – and break them down into little, tiny pieces that I can dissect, evaluate and mull over. I always thought this helped me understand things more fully.
And it does, at times. But it depends on the situation.
What she has helped me figure out, though, is that keeping things simple is one of the keys to a fulfilling, peaceful, purposeful life.
Let me give you an example.
As my mentor and partner-in-sobriety for the last nine years, LG has told me to call her when I feel like drinking. That sounds pretty easy, right?
Well, it’s not.
That damn phone feels like it weighs 50 pounds sometimes, especially when I’m in trouble and wanting to act out. Oh, I would call her, alright – after the deed was done and I was three sheets to the wind.
She would always say the same thing: “You’re supposed to call before you drink!” And I’d be all, “Yeah, I know, but then you would have talked me out of it!” Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.
When I sobered up, of course, I would feel shitty in every way possible – I would be ashamed of myself, feel guilty for lying to my wife (and others), and I would regret everything about it.
This is when I would get in even more trouble by over-analyzing myself. Here are the types of questions I would ask myself:
- What the hell happened?
- Why did I do that? Everything is going fine!
- Really, Laura, what the hell?!
- What has been going on in my head that made me feel the need to escape?
- You know you can stay sober; what the hell?
- Did some outside influence play a part in this?
- What the hell were you thinking??
You get the picture. Inevitably, almost simultaneously, the voice in my head would really turn on me. There was no trying to find a solution; I would go straight to belittling myself and making things worse (and making conditions ripe for another bender):
- You stupid ass!
- You’re such a moron – you don’t even deserve to be sober!
- CeAnne is probably going to throw her wedding ring at you (again) and leave you!
- Why do you keep doing this? You know how to stay sober!
- What is wrong with you?!
That’s a lot to bite off in a very short period of time (I’m talking minutes here, up to many hours). And none of it was productive, really. I mean, it’s good to see if I can find any patterns in my behavior or thinking that led to yet another relapse, but does it really pay to chastise myself time and again while I’m kicking myself AND poking myself in the eye with a sharp stick all at once?
What do you learn from that?!
This is what my friendship with LG has reinforced in me:
Yeah, it was a poor decision and it sucks. If you can identify a trigger, that’s great. But you can’t change the past. Now let’s move on. No need to wallow and feel sorry for yourself. Put one foot in front of the other and let’s keep going.
This has been a very valuable lesson, and it applies to so many different kinds of situations. I finally get it now, and I practice it as best I can. It helps me stay sober and stop picking on myself endlessly, two things that are closely related. It helps me pick myself up, dust myself off, and keep going.
That’s probably the most important thing I’ve learned from her. And her constant support, love, and positivity make me believe that I’m worth it.
BACK TO THE PRESENT
I was texting with LG this morning and inquired about recent doctor appointments and consultations. I learned that she will be having surgery tomorrow to have part of one lung removed.
She may not be her usual, exuberant self right now, but her grace, strength, and gratitude still shine through in her texts.
Her surgery will be at a hospital not too far from me, and I will visit her during the 5-7 days she’ll be out of commission – if she’s up for it. At the very least, I hope I’ll be able to call her while she’s there and maybe cheer her on a little.
LG has many, many good friends in the area, and I swear she is loved by everyone she meets. If you were to meet her, I know you’d love her, too.
I’m sure half the southwest metropolitan Minneapolis area will be sending her prayers, positivity, and good vibes during this time, and for that, I am grateful. It all helps in times of need.
If I may be so bold, I’m asking for prayers to be sent her way, too. If you aren’t into praying, that’s okay. Even sending positive thoughts out into the universe helps. Thanks in advance.
As for me, this can certainly be the type of situation that precipitates a depressive episode. So I’m using some of the tools in my toolbox in hopes of taking some of the steam out of the negativity that could so easily get lodged in my mind and take over for a while. Here’s what I’m doing:
- I’m talking about my thoughts and feelings about the whole thing.
- I don’t have the luxury of entertaining the “what ifs”, so I’m not.
- I’m staying positive and moving forward in other areas of my life.
- I’m not letting panic or overwhelm sink in, because I’m only looking at the facts of the situation, not becoming enveloped in the emotions and worries and fears. (I can work with facts.)
- I let LG and her wife know that I’m here for them and will continue to do so – though not to the point of being overbearing!
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
- Life is precious. Every day is precious. Every hour is precious.
- You never know when your life could change forever, be it good or bad.
- Good friends are the gravy of life.
- True friendship is unconditional.
- Acceptance is key.
- It’s never too late – for anything.
Keep it real, everyone, and take care of yourselves. 🙂