As far as I know right now, the Death Certificate will read "Cardiac Arrest."
He had ten years sober.
Then he relapsed about six months ago.
As is often the case, it's even harder to come back once you have -- sorry, had -- some years behind you.
I found out this evening, at my regular Tuesday night meeting, that he died last night.
I sponsored him for the first three years of his sobriety.
I hosted his One Year AA "birthday party" in the back yard of the house I was renting at the time. His family drove in for it -- well, the Mom and the sisters did. The relationship with the Dad hadn't healed yet at that point (it did eventually). The Mom and the sisters were so sweet to me. They didn't really understand what a sponsor was, exactly, and gave me more credit than I deserved for his year of sobriety. I stopped trying to explain and just gave them all hugs, which seemed to stem the flow of "thank you's."
I know when he very first came to AA he slipped around a bit. When he asked me to sponsor him I said yes (of course) and told him to come over to my house the next day and we could start talking and go through the Big Book and figure out maybe what schedule of meetings he might go to (which is how I gently tend to ease into the whole "90 meetings in 90 Days" idea). I remember I was painting the kitchen when he showed up. At the time I thought I would just sort of paint and listen, but when he started talking I had to put down the brush and give him my full attention -- he had a lot he needed to share.
After he'd been sober for a little while and started sharing and speaking and telling his story he would often share that before he came up the walk to my house that day he had never before felt so desperate. He decided that day -- at the foot of my walk -- that he would be completely honest with me. Up until that point -- his time in school, his years in the military, the corporate adventures -- he didn't think he'd ever done that before. I remember on several occasions pointing out to him that that was why he was able to stop slipping around and begin the steps and stay sober. It wasn't anything I knew, or said, or did -- it was his decision to be honest that made all the difference. I couldn't seem to clearly explain this to his mother that day at the party though, which is why I resorted to big hugs. When words fail that's usually my secondary line of communication -- and often probably my more eloquent one, now that I think of it.
I used to call him "The Mayor of AA" -- he was very charming. Ready smile. Always seemed to have the right touch when it came to a gift or a card or a thoughtful comment. If AA were a Beauty Pageant he would have been voted Miss Congeniality. If he were here to read that comparison he would have found it very funny.
The details of his death haven't emerged yet. It might have been an OD, or it might have been cardiac stress brought on by his relapse. Crystal Methamphetamine is very hard on the heart. But as I say, from what I was told tonight, the Death Certificate will not say OD. Perhaps that will be a kindness of sorts for his family.
I don't need a piece or paper to tell me that whether he overdosed, or it was the cumulative cardiac deterioration from the six months relapsing and trying to get clean and sober again that stopped his heart, it was addiction that ultimately killed him.
What, who, how and the always hovering Why? I don't know. He was an alcoholic and a drug addict, that's the real "because" underneath everything else, isn't it?
AA is like a small town, I'll wind up hearing more about what happened no doubt, but right now it almost doesn't matter.
I don't know if it is ironic or appropriate, but I went to a 4 year sober anniversary party after the meeting tonight. I chatted and made nice, but often I found myself thinking about him.
In an effort to express how I feel sometimes, and also to try to be helpful -- to be of service, which is really the whole point of this blog -- I try to illustrate things that have helped me, or share my experience on something in sobriety, or make an observation about what can happen in dealing with alcoholism -- or what can happen when you don't deal with it. But I don't have any of that right now. I keep thinking about him, and how right now his mom probably knows her son is dead. And how awful those funerals always are, when a parent has to bury a child.
Sometimes it feels like I know a lot of dead people.