A while back I woke up early one morning to write, opened my inbox and found a letter from Maggie. Maggie had just lost her beloved sister to addiction.
This is what I wrote I back to her:
It could have gone either way, you know.
My drinking and drugging and binging and lying and hiding and running were so severe, for so very long. Statistically, I should be dead, dead, dead this morning. Do you know that I force myself to watch that brutal show Intervention so I don’t forget how close I am to the edge each and every moment? How exactly the SAME I am as those lost precious sinking souls on that show?
Maggie, do you know that I really, really, very much miss drinking? That it’s so hard to live in my intense and jumpy and pounding heart and swimming head without anything to take that edge off? Do you know that I take lots of medication to keep me from flirting too closely to that edge? And even with the meds, that edge is where I have to live. Knowing it’s there, but keeping my back turned to it. No turning towards it. No peeking over. No dangling my toes off it. The edge, for me, means death. Not for just my body anymore but for a soul and a family and a blog and a voice and a revolution. God gave me a lot so I’d have a lot to throw away. So it’d all be too hard to throw away, maybe. I don’t know why the Universe did that for me. I don’t know why most of us can’t keep ourselves from jumping over that edge. Even with all we have to lose. The urge to jump is stronger than the urge to stay planted. I’ll stay planted. I know this. And still.
I so miss the other side. I feel so sad that I’ll never again curl up with a glass of wine and get overly giggly with a new friend. Or be able to stay out past ten and get wild and make stupid fuzzy memories with old friends. Or have two mixed drinks and get all lovey-dovey and loosie-goosie and have that different kind of sex with Craig that happens after two mixed drinks. I miss drugs. I miss halter tops and platform shoes and bars and flirting and dancing wildly. God, I miss beer. A couple Coronas with lime? Forget about it. I miss being able to turn off my brain. It’s so tiring to live without that option. It’s so very, very exhausting. Of course, all those things I miss – they are not real for me. They are like someone missing milk even though she is allergic to it. You can go ahead and have some ice cream since everyone else seems to be enjoying it- but don’t forget that the third bite’ll kill you. The truth is that I never had “a couple Coronas” in my life. Eight Coronas, maybe. Five pills. Twelve lines. Three nights in jail. One Hospitalization. It goes like that for me. IT GOES LIKE THAT FOR ME. REPEAT. REPEAT, GLENNON, REPEAT.
For you, Glennon, it’s not like the Skinny Girl Margarita commercials. Wine in the morning is not cute, the way Hoda and Kathie try to suggest it is. It’s not cute. And they should cut that shit out, by the way. It’s patronizing and offensive to those of us who have really been there, with our trembling hands and our bottles of wine at ten am. We’re on our knees in our kitchens, Hoda and Kathie – and we don’t use fancy glasses. Not at ten a.m. We don’t have makeup on either. And we’re not giggling. We hide and we tremble and we cry and we drink straight from the bottle.
Maggie – Do you know that once in a blue moon, bulimia pops into my life again like a terrifying jack in the box? About once a year, I’m home alone, and I get lonely and twitchy. And I start eating and eating and eating. And I feel too full. I am not fat, Maggie. It’s not about that. I’m actually sickly skinny right now because of my Lyme and parasites. But still – I am compelled to throw up. Compelled – like I’m a puppet and someone else is pulling the strings. Even now. And as I’m hanging over the toilet and seeing stars from my-self inflicted electrolyte imbalance I think- I am going to be so pissed if I die right now. It will be so sad. My kids will lose me. My family will think I never got better. They’ll think I was a fraud. And crap, the kitchen is such a mess. But I still do it. I still throw up. Isn’t that crazy? Craig doesn’t know this. My parents don’t know this. Well, till now. But I needed you to know, Maggie.
And still I would insist to you that I am getting well. Well is not black and white or forever and ever amen. It’s not. Well is a long, forever continuum. I’m not sure we ever exorcise our demons completely. And so when my bulimia pops up, I never feel mad at myself. NEVER. Shame takes us closer to that edge than any single binge will. NO. Life is hard and I’m doing the best I can. So I just take inventory and love myself something FIERCE and then start over. Every single moment I am someone brand new.
Maggie, sometimes I go to a party and the first thing a friend says is, “G! Don’t drink that. It’s full of vodka.” And I always think — DAMNIT. DAMNIT. Is it too much to ask to just once “accidentally” drink six glasses before I “notice?” Wouldn’t that be such a funny and awesome mistake? Just once?
I’m so scared of parties, Maggie. I want to be invited to them, but I’m scared. I don’t know what to say when someone offers me a drink. People want to know why not? I don’t want to make people uncomfortable. I don’t want them to think I don’t drink as some sort of moral statement. Sweet Jesus, no. But, no thank you, I’m a recovering alcoholic is SUCH a major party buzz kill. And then kind people don’t know if they should be drinking around me. And it all gets so uncomfortable. A big old mess. Just trust me. It’s not as easy as – no thank you. It’s not.
Lots of times we haven’t been invited to parties because people don’t know how to handle the drinking issue. And I understand, but it stings. I don’t really even want to go, but I really want to be invited. I’m usually great fun till about 8:00. Then I have to go home. Because people get loud and loose and Craig’s eyes start shining and he starts to have FUN. And I feel left out and very lonely. And tired.
Sobriety feels really lonely sometimes. To tell you the damn truth- it feels lonelier than addiction did to me. Granted, I felt nothing much during my addicted years.
I meant to write about something else today. But I woke up this morning and found three messages from Monkees who have recently lost their lobsters to addiction. And it kills me that I have nothing to say – nothing to help make sense of it. I can’t answer their question . . . why did YOU make it and my Lobster didn’t? I tried as hard as your Sister did.
Jesus, that kills me.
If I could choose one super power, it would be the ability to reach into my computer and pull the writers of those emails through my screen and into my living room. I would make two very strong cups of coffee and we would sit on my living room couch for hours and we would talk about your Lobster and cry and we would laugh, too. And you would understand that there is NOTHING, nothing we did righter than you or you did wrong-er than us. Life is just freaking crazy. Just totally freaking crazy. And you would understand that there was no magic wand that you were forbidden access to and that actually, I’m not all better. I’m just like your Lobster. Just exactly, exactly like your Lobster. But I’m here and she’s there. And that’s so unfair.
I’m so sorry, Maggie. I’m so sorry.
Robert Frost said “In three words I can sum up everything I know about life: It goes on.” I think he meant that it goes on for you, Maggie, here. And he also meant that it goes on for your Lobster, Somewhere Else. I really, truly, deeply know that to be true. I don’t know what Somewhere Else looks like but I believe in it, and if you don’t – then I’ll believe harder for the both of us. Maggie, this place is too hard for some of us. It just is. And maybe it’s not because some of us are weak. Maybe it’s because some of us are paying closer attention to all the messes down here. There are a lot of real messes. It’s not in our heads. It’s real. This place is hard.
It is bullshit that you lost your Lobster, Maggie. And this is a big risk I’m about to take right now because I never ever EVER step into another person’s pain and try to make it better. I can’t tolerate that, really. Even so I am going to tell you that while I grieve for you, there is a part of me that is relieved that your Lobster is free. I know how hard it is to live like she did. To be her. To carry around her heart and mind. It’s too heavy. Her life meant something, Maggie. It meant exactly what it was supposed to mean. And if and when you want to tell us all about her, you have an open invitation to Momastery. Talk about your Lobster here. Thousands and thousands of Lobsters will learn from her and love her. You write- I’ll post. Anything at all.
Please, please forgive her for being the lightning rod that she was. Celebrate her life and her freedom when you can. And YOU. Celebrate YOUR freedom now. You are free. Live your life. Lay hers down. It’s too heavy. You are still her Lobster, forever, and so you need to keep living. She wants that. I know it, because I’m her.
I love you, Maggie. I rarely cry while I’m writing anymore. But I’m crying quite hard this morning.
I wish I could do better for you. I wish I could take it all away. But we can’t do that. We need it all, I guess. We need the opportunity to turn this shit into something holy.
All, all my love. Please keep in touch, Maggie. I miss your Lobster for you.
Our exchange was the beginning of an internet friendship.
This is me meeting Maggie in real life. Our hug was the beginning of an in-the-flesh friendship.
Maggie is now using the hot fuel of her grief (aka Love) to serve hurting people in the name of her sister. Of course she is. Because Maggie is a Phoenix, and because so is her sister, and because everything beautiful and true and good begins with a broken heart.
Maggie has planned an event in Chattanooga, Tennessee to celebrate her sister’s life and to benefit a youth development organization called On Point. It’s called LOVE WINS Chattanooga. And it’s being held on May 6, the anniversary of when her sister passed away. She has asked me to come be the speaker. The only words that come to my mind when I anticipate this event are: holy, holy, holy.
If you can, come.
Come and see what rises from the ashes. Come and see that Love does, indeed win.
Glennon and Maggie