Late into my first year of recovery my grandmother passed away. It was extremely hard to handle without having substances to numb the pain. I still miss her, and I think about her a lot. But, in some ways I’m extremely grateful for the experience, because I believe that walking through this experience with support and love was one of the biggest reasons why I remained sober through that point of my recovery. Because of the loss of my grandmother it became clear to me what I have gained in sobriety, and how lucky to be alive I truly am.
When I found out that my grandma had passed away, I was living in New Life East. She had been struggling with intense cancer for a while at that point. It spread quickly toward the end, and it was hard to not be able to be around for her final days. It is hard when you are in the recovery house to be able to find ways to go visit family 2 hours away. I did visit her in San Diego a couple of times with some New Life House graduates, and I am very grateful for my friends who took the time to drive me all the way down there to see her. Those graduates still remain some of my most trusted friends to this day. They had a busy schedule, so it truly was a commitment to be able to set aside a day just to help me out. Because of their help, I was able to spend time with my grandma, to let her know that she was in my thoughts, and that I loved her before she was gone. Before I got sober, that probably wouldn’t have been the case. I most likely wouldn’t have had friends kind enough to take me to see her in the hospital, or at her home. Even if I had made it down there, my brain was too addled by drug and alcohol abuse to be truly present to begin with. When I saw her in sobriety, it felt as though it was just me and her. There were no distractions, and I will be able to keep my last memories of my grandma with me forever.
It was intense to feel the loss of a loved one in early sobriety. I had heard of people losing family members in sobriety, but up until that point, I didn’t really understand just how painful it was. Luckily, there was a lot of people around me in the house that had had similar experiences. Brett (the house director), and all of the other managers were extremely caring, and understanding of what I was going through. Additionally, all of my friends spent time with me and made sure that I was ok. One person in particular who helped me out the most was a graduate who shared a similar experience. When my grandmother was sick, he spent time with me every day asking how she was doing, and how I was handling it. He had dealt with the death of a family member in his sobriety as well, and he made sure that I got the same treatment that he was given when he went through the struggle. He ended up moving to Los Angeles, further away from where I was living and I didn’t see him much. Then, a few days after my grandma had passed away, I got a call from him. We spoke for a while, and he told me that he had heard about my grandmother. I was shocked that he knew, so I asked him how he found out. He said “Well… I have been asking Brett about how you and your grandma were doing. He told me that she had passed away, so I wanted to call and make sure you were ok.” It was a huge shock to me, that he cared about me enough after moving away to still be concerned and involved with how I was doing. He is a truly good person.
When it was time to go to my grandmother’s memorial in San Diego, one of my best friends took me down there. I didn’t have to ask twice. As soon as I told him that I was looking for a ride to her memorial, he instantly agreed to take me. When we got to my mom’s house, I realized that my mom had my grandmas ashes on the mantle above the fireplace. I decided to go over and place the Alcoholics Anonymous sobriety chip I kept around my neck next to the ashes there. As I placed it down, I felt a rush of energy take me over, as though my grandma was in the room with me to receive the chip. It was an amazing spiritual experience that I will never forget. Later we went to the memorial. I was on my 9th step of the 12th steps of Alcoholics Anonymous at the time (the step in which you make amends to those who you have wronged.), so I planned on making amends to my grandma that day. After the memorial I sat under a big tree and made amends to my grandmother. She may have been gone in the physical form, but I know as a fact that she was there to hear me speak to her that day.
It wasn’t my experience before finding the recovery community at New Life House to have people asking about how I was doing, or caring the way people have for me since I got sober. I had one really good friend since childhood that had been asking about me since I went to New Life, but that was about it. I definitely didn’t have a house full of 30 people to check in with every day, and I certainly didn’t have a guy who had moved away ask about how I was doing when I was going through family struggles. I had never had a blatantly obvious spiritual experience or a connection to a higher power up until my sobriety, and I certainly had never made amends. All of those things were gained in sobriety. When my grandmother passed away, it became very clear to me what was given to me. I knew that by staying sober I will achieve true joy, and I can easily say that all my grandma ever wanted for me was to be happy.