I recently found out that my sister has relapsed. Our family has long suspected her of diverting from the sacred, sober path, but it’s no less of a shock. Even when you know someone is dying, their imminent death is no less painful or tragic to those who love the departed. Relapse is a death of sorts. It is the end of consciousness, the termination of connectedness to Spirit, the conclusion to a joyous, free life. While it is sometimes a surprising and passionate rebirth for the condemned, relapse is routinely disastrous and fatal. Learning of a loved one’s relapse is like hearing the word, “Cancer” at the doctor’s office: it is a death sentence.
My sister is a low-bottom drug addict. She has been in and out of jails and institutions, prostituted herself, suffered health problems, and has walked away from her fatherless children as a result of drugs and alcohol. For years, I watched, waited, and prayed for her to join me on the other side. Two partners in crime, we partied together, created disorder together and endured together. Once I got sober, our relationship ran the gamut from blackmail, to codependent secrecy, to strained communication, to complete and utter disapproval and distance. At times, I was her only friend. Other times, I was the firm barrier between her and her son. When she finally did get sober, it was like the heavens opened up. Hers was the most beautiful, inspiring transformation I have ever witnessed. For two years, I got my sister back. Perhaps I should be grateful. Some Cancer patients don’t get two months.
But I don’t feel grateful. I feel sad, angry, and I am wrestling with my faith in God’s plan for my sister and nephew. I also feel extremely powerless. I remember a conversation I had with a late friend in my early sobriety. Coincidently, we were discussing this very topic nearly nine years ago. He told me something I will never forget. He said, “some people have to die so that others can live.” As much as I have always feared that my sister will be one of the sacrificed, I have also found comfort in his message. It is the circle of life.
Despite the sadness and in spite of the sadness in my heart, I will venture forth on my road to recovery. I don’t know how possessed my sister is by alcohol at this moment and I can’t ascertain how far down the scale she will go. I can’t predict if she will reclaim her life or get lost in the trenches. But I can tell her story- my story, in the hopes that someone may be saved from the agonizing pain that is relapse. Most of all, I won’t lose hope in Alcoholics Anonymous. It’s not magic, but AA will always work for you if you work it.