mixed feelings: Finding peace when you've lost someone to addiction

By Brenda Tadych
Woman Newspapers

‘Tis the season of Thanksgiving with it’s overflowing cornucopias symbolizing abundance. I don’t like to measure the fullness of my horn of plenty by the material things. What fills mine are the people I love and care about. Even though it is quite filled, sadly there will be some missing this year.

Isn’t the best part of Thanksgiving getting together with family and friends? Remembering those we lost - usually with both laughter and tears - can have a healing power. Collectively, we share in mourning over their passing, but we will also laugh at their quirks and recount funny stories.

I tread lightly in writing this column for what should be a celebratory holiday issue, but I feel compelled to focus on the those who lost their battles with addiction. Four people I knew and cared about succumbed to substance abuse within a six-month time period. Their addictions touched everyone who ever knew these four, and if I’m right, that means hundreds of other people out there were affected. That math convinced me that this was worthy of sharing.

It’s different when remembering those we lost to addictions. Good times are overshadowed by the feelings of betrayal and suspicion - and impending doom. That they raised our hopes and busted our balloons over and over is hard to forget.

Yet, despite our fears, we kept rooting for them, praying for them to recover, certain they had it in themselves to quit. We tried everything to convince them of their own worth, but they were entrenched in their addictions and their drug of choice was in control.

For me, giving thanks this year will be bittersweet. Bitter for lives being cut short, but sweet, in a way, in the knowledge that their turmoil is over. Instead of looking at the dark circles under their eyes, I can remember how they used to be able to look me in the eye. I will let go of the more recent unpleasant memories and keep only the joyful ones in my cornucopia.

For those of us who lost someone to addiction, or any reason for that matter, we may actually have something extra to be thankful for: a reminder not to take anything or anyone for granted. We have been gifted with a renewed sense of appreciation for all that fills our horns of plenty.