Here it is. A decade has passed since I found Gary in the woods dead from a single gun shot. Time is a strange thing post trauma and I’ve covered a lot of ground since then. The day is now, mostly, an historical remembrance more than an emotional one. For my children though it is a nightmare of a day to get through and that breaks my heart more than anything.
Gary didn’t have a long history of depression. There were no “classic” signs he was going to do what he did. What he did have was a long history of battling addiction.
Ten years before his death he was prescribed percocet for severe tendonitis. As a maternal fetal medicine specialist taking time off to nurse his injury just wasn’t possible. What began as an innocent prescription was, unknowingly at the time, my first step into hell that included driving him 18 hours through the night to rehab where he stayed for three months and ended with me finding him in the woods.
Upon discharge Gary had access to the best group and private therapies. He was followed for five years by the Health Practitioners Intervention Program. What he didn’t have was the freedom to battle his disease in the light.
Shame, judgement, and stigma made that simply impossible. Imagine a boxer equipped with the most advanced protective gear and a heart to win but being put in a ring in absolute darkness. Yet the foe he battles only grows and thrives in the dark. His strength is fed by what the fighter can not share and others can not see.
And so he lost. Many of the people in his group therapy all those years ago lost. My children lost. God lost the opportunity to redeem his situation. And He would have. He always does.
The “addict” is someone’s father, son, physician, teacher, husband. They aren’t as portrayed on television. They are from all classes and many put on a suite and tie or scrubs or a judges robe every day. They love their families. They want to be in recovery. The addict might even be you.
On this day, the tenth anniversary of his death, my prayer is a post like this might bring a little light to the other boxers still in the ring swinging madly in the dark. I hope they hear my voice cheering them on and not the voices of discouragement and judgement. I hope a seed is planted for the person reading this who is fortunate enough to not know addiction the way I do and the seed will grow compassion. Though they may not know it, chances are they love a person with addiction. My prayer is the person fighting who is reading this would have the courage to bear light themselves and help change the notion addiction only plagues degenerates. They would have the courage to say “my name is…and I am an addict.”
They are busy fighting addiction, a formidable and relentless enemy. May we who are not wearing the gloves fight shame, stigma, and judgement for them. May we hold the light and shout words of love and encouragement while they fight for their lives. I am convinced their foe will shrivel in the light if we just have the courage to shine it steadily, brightly, and boldly for them.
May we help change the perception that they are junkies squatting in an abandoned house. They are boxers in the ring. They are fighting. And with our help maybe, just maybe they can win