Love, Loss, and Leaning into an Addict’s Poem
Several weeks ago, I received my new laptop, which led me to go through files in my current system, deciding what I want to transfer and what needs to be deleted.
It is as daunting as going through a file cabinet. A task that needs to be done, but can be so overwhelming.
Whether the files are digital or paper, it’s difficult to go through these items. It can be very triggering. Finding documentation of injuries, illnesses, deaths, financial problems, old photos, cards and letters, and more, can bring about moments of grief. I believe that’s why it’s easier to clean out someone else’s “junk” than our own. The emotional attachment to items can make de-cluttering anything a daunting task.
As I went through the files, I came across a poem written by my half-brother, Jeff. I made a copy of it, and have read it to several people in the past few weeks of finding it again.
I barely knew Jeff. What I remember of him was his sweet and gentle disposition. I remember one day – maybe I was nine or ten years-old – I had been in the car when my dad picked him and his brothers up to bring to our home. Back in the late 1960s, when hitchhiking was “a thing,” we were stopped at traffic light. A guy was on the side of the road, thumb in the air. Jeff rolled down the window and asked, “Hey, you wanna ride?” The hitchhiker said, “Yes!” with great enthusiasm, running towards us, and Jeff said, “Then get a taxi!” He had a sense of humor, though I’m sure the guy needing a ride was furious to get punked by a 14-year-old.
Unfortunately, Jeff’s life took a tragic turn when he entered the world of drugs and addiction. I didn’t see him much, as he was in and out of jail and rehab. I remember about 35 years ago, when he had been released from one of his stints, and he came over to my house so my sister and I could help him write a resume. He was excited to get a new lease on life. He wanted to stay sober. He wanted a job. He’d always bring candy bars for my little ones. He shared how when he made coffee, he’d sprinkle cinnamon into the grounds before brewing. To this day, when I enjoy the occasional coffee or cappuccino with cinnamon, I think of him.
Whatever demons Jeff was fighting, he went back to his addiction instead of getting a job. And the loop of being sober, then not, continued. Decades later, when he finally did get sober, he died shortly after. The poem he wrote was profound, and one of his brothers posted it on his Facebook page. I don’t know when he penned it.
In my own healing journey, I can share this: I can see how that loop of addiction starts and continues. While sobriety helps, getting to the root of the problem hurts. I believe addiction starts with deep, profound emotional pain.
Last March, I fell on a marble foyer and fractured my femur. I can’t even describe the intense pain that I felt. It hurt so bad, I couldn’t even cry. I have no idea how much morphine the EMTs gave me in order to lift me on a gurney and into an ambulance. I didn’t yell or cry – I made guttural moans that came from so deep, I am sure on that busy, crowded corner in downtown San Antonio, my pain was heard. There was nothing that deadened that pain, and I truly thought I would die.
I can also share from experience, there isn’t a drug strong enough for the emotional pain we humans feel. It is so very deep. There have been times when I thought I would die from the pain, causing guttural sounds and sobs that wracked my body. And while I am not an expert, it is my belief that addiction comes from trying to ease that deep pain.
I know there are many theories about addiction, but I don’t believe it is necessarily a genetic disease, per se. What I believe is it is generational trauma – that whatever our ancestors dealt with, that generational pain is wrapped around our genomes and passed down the generations – and the study of epigenetics is starting to prove that.
If generational trauma can be carried forward, then clearing and healing that trauma can be carried forward, too.
Addiction can really be anything used to numb or not feel the pain. There are socially acceptable forms of addiction, such as workaholics, exercise, cleaning, staying constantly busy, etc. There are socially unacceptable forms, such as drugs, alcohol, smoking, gambling, sex, porn, gaming, etc. Whatever drug of choice, you can be sure that the person is doing everything in their power to ease that deep emotional pain – even if it is destroying their life, their families, their future.
So, I thought it was appropriate during #MayIsMentalHealthAwarenessMonth to share Jeff’s poem. I hope his poem brought him some peace. And if his words bring peace, awareness and compassion to others who are also dealing with addiction or deep emotional pain and trauma, then I know he will rest easier. That in his struggles and death, his life and his pain made a difference.
The time I have wasted is my biggest REGRET, Spent in this place I will never forget.
Sitting and thinking about the things I have done; the crying, the laughing; the hurt and the fun.
Now it’s just me and my hard-driven guilt; Behind a wall of emptiness I allowed to be built.
I’m trapped in my body just wanting to run; Back to my youth with its laughter and fun.
But the chase is over, with no place to hide; Everything is gone, including my pride.
With reality right in my face; I am scared and alone, stuck in this place.
Now the memories of the past flash through my head; It’s obvious by the tears I shed.
I ask myself, “Where did I go wrong;” I guess I was weak when I should have been strong.
Living for the drugs and the wings I have grown; My feelings were lost and afraid to be shown.
As I look at my past, it’s easy to see; The fear that I had to be me.
It’s time that I change and get on with my life; Fulfilling my dreams for a family and wife.
What my future will hold, I really don’t know; But the years I have wasted are starting to show.
I live for the day when I get a new start; For the dreams that I hold in my heart.
Rest easy, Jeff. Know that your words may help someone and may make this world a better place – one person at a time; one day at a time.
Feel free to share your comments below. Due to the sensitive nature, comments will be closely monitored.
© Lynne Cobb – 2023