[Photo Credit Unknown]
Grief. It’s something we all deal with in some capacity throughout our lives. Most are familiar with the five stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. It seems easy enough, right? Get through the steps and things are for the most part back to normal. I can tell you firsthand there’s nothing farther from the truth.
Sure, the stages are the same, however, the behaviors exhibited by each person are different. Some turn to God in hopes of some sense of relief of the pain. Others live their grief for the rest of their lives with constant visits to grave sites, the ability to notice small things sent from above. Not everyone is violent and reckless, yet some are. What better way to grieve then to numb, right? Wrong, yet we do it anyway.
I lost my Dad nearly two years ago. It feels like yesterday, yet feels like a lifetime ago all at the same time. People already engage in reckless behavior while in pain; anything to make it go away, if only for a moment. 11 days before my Dad passed, I fell off a curb and broke my ankle. Two days after that I headed to Vegas to celebrate my dirty thirty, in a wheel chair of course. When I returned home, I spoke with him on the phone and we even made plans to go find a scooter to ease my mobility. We hung up the phone around half past ten in the morning. At 7pm, I received the call. He’d had a heart attack in his sleep.
Due to my broken ankle I was able to avoid going to his apartment and seeing his corpse in the chair where he died, though, call me crazy, that very same chair sits in the corner of my living room and brings me comfort every day.
This is the part of the story in which I became reckless. Thanks to my curb mishap I was prescribed pain medication in moderate doses over six months. During this time I acknowledged and accepted he was gone. I cried from time to time of course, but my steps of grief were not worked through in order. I still hang on to anger and depression, and sometimes it feels as if it won’t ever go away. If I’m being honest, the pain medication made me feel closer to him, as if he were still with me. It wasn’t until 9 months later I got clean. Opiate withdrawal in itself is torturous enough, but on top of it, all that pain I’d numbed up came crashing down. All I could think the entire time was “this isn’t what he wants for me.” He’d seen me suffer through withdrawal once before from complete recreational use. All those nights I’d spent numbed up, I wasn’t happy. When you take opiates, at first it’s wonderful. The brain is on dopamine overload, which creates a sense of euphoria. Unfortunately, after a time, the brain stops creating dopamine on it’s own, so when the pills stop, the brain crash comes, and sometimes the physical symptoms paired with crippling anxiety and depression will have you wishing you were dead.
My lesson and advice after all is said and done is this: face the grief. Work the steps. It truly is the only way to heal.