addiction · compassion

Elegy.

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He cannot picture life without alcohol. Some day he will
be unable to imagine life either with alcohol or without it. Then he will know
loneliness such as few do. He will be at the jumping-off place. He will wish
for the end
.
Alcoholics
Anonymous
, p. 152
If your newsfeed is anything like mine, over the last two
days it has been flush with messages of condolence, sorrow, bafflement,
gratitude and even ire.
In response to the suicide of Robin Williams, I have seen an
interesting splice of my “friends” wrestle with his end.
One friend wrote that he, too, suffered from depression and
loneliness, but he “pulled himself out of it,” without the “resources” available
to someone like a celebrity. This friend was angry that someone could be so
selfish and blind to the opportunities present to him.
But as we can read in the above quoted paragraph, there are
times when we ourselves are blind, and
nothing can make us see. Or we believe that nothing can. Or we believe that
whatever “is” is not fast enough or strong enough or consistent enough. We
believe only in our aloneness and our constriction. And from that place, there is
no perspective, hope, or option. From that place, there is only annihilation to
end the suffering.
Money, fame, or accolades do nothing to quiet the internal
storm. In fact, they can often keep us farther from our truth because we now
believe that people are counting on us, maybe in this case, to be funny and on
and up and impervious. Don’t show weakness because that’s not what they want to
see. And the further we drift from our truth, the larger the distance between
how we feel and what we show to the world, the more gaping the hole and gnawing
the desire for relief from that fissure.
I cannot claim to be inside the head of anyone other than
myself. And from that vantage point, I can admit that I hear that voice at
times which tells me there is no solution except for annihilation. I am not
alone in hearing it, but I am lucky enough to know to reach out when it
whispers. Although that doesn’t necessarily quell that voice. I can’t really
know what it is that shifts when that desperation is upon me, but my experience
has told me that something does.
In those bleak moments however, that is impossible to remember.
Impossible.
I rely on the faith and fortitude of others in those
moments, but I have also built a conversation and culture among my friends that
allows for that vulnerability. I have built conversations that can include
language that is desolate, dark, and hopeless, and I have faith that these friends
can hear that and hold it for me.
Because I have come before to that place where what you saw
and what I felt were so antithetical, it landed me in lock-down psychiatric treatment.
I have come to that place where I screamed for someone to
see beyond my mask to what was really going on and to who I really was.

When they say, “It was a cry for help,” that’s what is meant: Please see
beyond the smoke and mirrors that have kept you from me, that I thought were
protecting me, and see through to the hemorrhaging, terrified, devastated human heart.
We can only be reached, and potentially helped, in the
sharing and access of that heart.
But that is the most vulnerable, humbling, and painful admission I
know.
It’s been written that it seems everyone loved Robin
Williams except himself. Some argue there is more to it, to depression, to addiction.
But it seems to me that the chasm between internal and
external became so great, that the only solution he saw was to fall in.
And that decision (although decision implies choice) — selfish as some may call it, unseeing as
some may believe it to be — is one of the loudest calls to compassion that I
know. 

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