Pain of Loss ‘Makes Me Fight Harder’
By Kiki Huff, Guest Contributor
March 25, 2017 was the day I received the news that my partner, Peter, passed away as a direct result of his addiction. I worried every day that this day would come, and I tried to prepare myself for it, but there is no way to know how really heartbreaking hearing those words would be.
One of the hardest things to do was to tell my five-year-old granddaughter that her Papa had died and knowing at some point I would have to explain the truth about how he passed. Even during his active addiction he always made sure she was safe, and despite how hard it was for him to stay away from her when he was using, he did. He wanted more than anything to stay sober for her, and -he fought with all the power he could muster, but couldn't tame that beast.
The first year I was numb. I had moments of knowing and feeling but for the most part I was moving through the days in a fog. I often felt guilty because there was a part of me that was relieved that I wasn’t on edge wondering if he was lying dead somewhere or if he was in jail for doing something really bad. I wasn’t getting calls in the middle of the night looking for money or to berate me for something that happened years ago or to beg for forgiveness. I wasn’t spending hours in the hospital waiting with him for a bed and praying that he would get one before he decided to leave. Maybe that first year was catching up from the exhaustion of the disease.
Gong into the second year, I started to feel everything; it became real. The pain was unbearable, and I slipped into depression. I didn’t feel like I had anyone to talk to who understood what I was feeling. The stigma of addiction continues into death and I felt people were still judging him. It also seemed as if people thought he deserved it. I found myself defending him and trying to convince everyone that despite his behavior while he was actively using, he was a great person.
I felt judgment even from members of the 12-step program I belonged to. I felt a lot of resentment towards them and eventually stopped going to meetings. Despite having over 7 years of sobriety, I was thinking more and more about picking up. I was angry at him, at the disease, and at everyone for not missing him the way I did or understanding my pain. I felt as if I would never move on and the pain would consume me forever.
I cried a lot at night by myself. I comforted my granddaughter on days that she was really missing him, and I pushed through. Eventually on his birthday and the anniversary of his death, I started celebrating him instead of mourning him. I began talking about who he was and not how he died. The anger began to subside, and I started to think of him and how proud of me he would be every time I would accomplish something. The pain and sadness will never go away, but now I choose to honor him and remember him for all his goodness.
I could have easily picked up; it would have been a good excuse, but I didn’t. Losing Peter has pushed me to fight harder for my sobriety. I know firsthand how devastating it is, and I don’t want to put my loved ones through that. The last time he celebrated my sober date with me was my five-year. I hold that near and dear to me, and I know that he is with me in spirit every year going forward.
Going through this loss has given me a better understanding of this disease and the devastation it causes. I work in the addiction field so it makes me fight harder for my clients and confirmed that I am right where I am supposed to be.
Kiki Huﬀ is the Outreach Coordinator at Living in Recovery in Pittsfield, MA.