Last week as my daughter and I were packing up to go to her moms house, I get a phone call from my mother. That’s when I heard the news about my older cousin passing away (He was 49 years old).
We all knew he had been struggling with his health for the past year. He was in and out of the hospital for organ complications. This news stopped me in my tracks. I remember spacing out and having flashbacks of memories of my cousin- he was our next door neighbor my whole life growing up.
When I finally snapped out of the flashback, I remember looking at my daughter; so sweet, so innocent, so filled with love.
She had finished packing up her back pack and cleaning up her play area before going back to her mother’s house. It was almost as she could sense my energy. I teared up and gave her a big hug and told her how much I love her.
My cousin and I really didn't communicate a whole lot after I got sober. I remember him being in and out of court ordered rehabs, and (in full disclosure) I used to buy a lot of drugs from him.
As a professional working in the field of addiction (and a person in recovery), I couldn’t help but feel like I should have done more to help him.
The survivor’s guilt set in right away. I drove back to my hometown a few days later to pay my respects and be there for my family.
Seeing my aunt destroyed gave me so much pain. This was the third and final son she’d had to bury because of the disease of addiction.
It was intresting seeing my whole family together again. I saw lots of cousins I hadn’t seen in forever and then something kind of awesome happened.
I ran into an old cousin and her husband who were big suppliers to me in my addiction. These two were bad off into the disease of addiciton. I never would have imagined that they would straighten their act up. But they were both sober, and looked great. I was blown away by this. I caught up with them and they told me about how they had found God and were living a better life.
I didn’t stay in my hometown for too long. I was there for my mother and supported her, and did my best to be a loving son. I could tell she was in pain- she has buried so many nephews and seeing her sister hurt was not easy. Throughout all of this, I had a very interesting conversation with my uncle.
My uncle is a very riligious man and very intelligent. I have lots of respect for this man. I opened up to him about feeling guilt and anger towards my cousin I remember saying “well at least he got out (leaving this world) and he left everyone else here to deal with the pain.”
My uncle was very understanding and he used biblical examples to speak to me. I am familiar with certain passages of that book but personally I’m a fan of eastern/buddhist philosophy. But I’m open minded, and so is my uncle, so we continued the conversation.
I realized that the whole time I just wanted somone in my family to tell me they are proud of me. And that's exactly what he said. He said that he was proud of me and that he’s glad I was able to turn my life around and help others do the same.
I realized then that I have a certain perspective about my family (this may totally be all in my head), but I guess it feels like when it comes to my family, we don’t really get a lot of recognition unless it’s negative. And I feel a bit disconnected from my family because of that.
I told my uncle that I felt a bit like a traitor to my family because I have bonded with other people (some in recovery) and feel more “family” like with them compared to my own flesh and blood. My uncle assured me that I was not being a traitor, and he used other biblical stories to help me understand that and he told me to keep doing what I’m doing and to follow my heart.