A 3rd Birthday In Heaven and On Earth
Today would be my brother’s 33rd birthday, and the day after that marks my 3rd anniversary in sobriety. You see, Will died right before his 30th birthday from a drug overdose. My family held a birthday party in his memory to celebrate his life on June 10, 2012, which I only remember as my last drunk. The event was on a Sunday afternoon and I was in a fully functioning black out by the time the hundreds of guests started arriving around 2pm. I woke up the next morning and found myself standing over my parent’s bed asking them to keep my dog because I needed to go to rehab. Today, I can only credit this to the grace of God because I know it wasn’t me who made that decision. It was like an outer body experience and God was doing for me what I couldn’t do for myself. So, off to rehab I went and I got sober.
This time of year has proven to be hard for me. My head space gets even funkier than usual during the seven week period between the anniversary of my brother’s death and me getting sober. I mean, I get it…those 49 days were the darkest most hopeless days of my life--my brother was gone and I wanted to be with him. I wanted to be anywhere but present, so I used alcohol to escape my reality. It was as if I went to sleep the day my brother died and didn’t wake up until the day after his 30th birthday, also known as my sobriety date.
For the most part, I am usually pretty good at finding gratitude and acceptance, which keeps me pretty calm and content, but here lately I have been anything but. Some days I just want my brother back. Some days it’s harder to find acceptance but I know it’s the key to my peace of mind and I am eventually going to have to let go of wanting things to be different and focus on what can be changed.
In a perfect world I would have gotten sober before Will died and he would have followed suit and we would both be living this amazing life in recovery together. We would share that and life would be great. But the truth is,I don’t’ know what life would look like for either of us if he wouldn’t have died. I’m not sure I would be sober because Will’s death gave me permission to finally admit that I had a problem and to not be ashamed of that. And I can honestly say that I have never been ashamed or embarrassed to admit that I am an alcoholic because I was never ashamed or embarrassed of my brother.
I have often said that I like to think of Will’s death like this…
God came down to Will that night on April 22nd and in this vision of mine, God is Will Smith's character from The Legend of Bagger Vance. He gives Will two options. He can go with him and he shows him all these amazing things that will happen—the domino effect of all the people who have gotten and continue to get sober as a result of his death. Or…he could stay and maybe he showed him what that life would look like. Will would have no doubt chosen to go with Baggar Vance that night. I often wonder what Will’s death saved him from and that brings me some peace when I need it. I also wonder about all the people who have been impacted by his death and I can always find gratitude in that.
But it still hurts. It still sucks. I still cry. I still miss my brother. I still say his name and think of him many times on the daily. I still pick up shoes that I know he would love and for an instant will think I should buy them for his next birthday. I still want to text him when Mean Girls is on. I still pause and smile when I see Honey Bunches of O’s on the cereal aisle. I still buy marshmallow peeps at Easter because Will loved them. I still get sad when I sit in a meeting and someone says “Hi, my name is Will. I’m an alcoholic,” because I would give anything if that was my brother sitting there.
Most days I accept that Will is gone and I use his memory to motivate me to help those who still suffer from addiction, but some days I just have to accept that missing him still makes it hard for me to breathe and outburst of tears are okay. Recovery has taught me “just for today.” Just for today I will stay sober and just for today I accept that my brother isn’t here. Tomorrow I will do the same.