I’m reminded today that mourning can be incredibly lonely. Maybe it’s because no two people grieve in the same way. You can be in a room surrounded by others experiencing the same loss, but still feel alone.

We all know that life is a cycle with ups, downs, a beginning, middle, and end. Even when you have time to prepare for it, the loss of a vibrant life is still sharply felt. More so when the cycle ends early. But when the end is met by one’s own hands, I think the dagger in the hearts of those left behind twists a bit deeper.

Addiction is real, you guys. It’s scary, and it’s a growing problem. It does not discriminate, and it viciously takes lives.  I think it’s important to be clear: People struggling with addiction are not bad people. They are sick people.

As the daughter of an alcoholic, I’ve learned firsthand that you cannot save people. You can only love them. Over many moons and many years I’ve watched a growing number of family members, friends, peers, and acquaintances move into and throughout various stages of recovery. There are good days, weeks, and months. There are bad days, really bad days, many mistakes, false starts, and fresh ones. Second chances, third changes, thirtieth chances. Today is a harsh reminder that sometimes the people win; sometimes the sickness wins.

As I sit here mourning the loss of someone I once knew, I can’t help but think how little support our society lends to those seeking sobriety. Our culture glamorizes drinking. Even our spaces designed for wellness, health, fitness, and spiritual development proudly proclaim, “Detox to retox!” as gyms sell alcohol and yoga studios host Vino & Vinyasa nights.

I’m not here to judge or point fingers. I’m not asking you to quit partaking in your recreational things, or stop going to social events where there’s alcohol. Hell, I love a good cab sauv myself.  I’m just wondering… posing the question: As a society, are we inadvertently alienating those struggling with sobriety, or worst case even contributing to the problem?

We’ve seen the stats. We know that addiction is on the rise – especially in young people. We’ve acknowledged the increase in suicide (both intentional and accidental). So this a dialogue worth having.

What can we do?

I don’t have that answer.

I’m piecing together that for me supporting others working to achieve/maintain sobriety means treating addiction like a disease. I don’t blame people for being sick, I ask how I can help, shower them with love and well wishes, and tell them that I’m thinking about them while they go through this difficult time.

For me, it’s showing up with Thai food, hugs, a shoulder to cry on when they’ve been diagnosed. Listening and asking questions, with compassion, when they need to share. Checking in to ask how they’re feeling physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually. Cheering them onwards and celebrating the milestones! Understanding without judgment when there are setbacks. It might mean tagging along for a few check-ups in the form of meetings – not only to provide support, but to learn more so that I can be a better friend. I’m sure the list will expand and evolve over time, but it’s all I’ve got for now.

Life is sacred. We only get one, and we touch so many others by our mere existence. If changing the approach to my role can be even the tiniest piece in the puzzle leading to someone else’s success story, it’s worth it.

We lost a fun, kind, intelligent, thoughtful, bright light in the world this week. Sending all my love and support to those left behind, to those of you struggling with addiction, or working on/kicking ass in recovery, and to those loving and cheering for a win from the sidelines. The struggle is real, and at the end of the day we’re all doing the best we can.

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