Alcohol and Sobriety

Someone is Always Dying

Every few months, somebody dies.

The first time it happened, I heard about it from a random Facebook check in. Posted on my recovery group page, I saw from a short message that Matt* had left the inpatient treatment facility after over a year of sobriety, locked himself in a hotel room, and drank himself to death. My jaw dropped, and tears sprang to my eyes with their prickly sharpness. Dead?

I knew Matt a little. He was handsome, in a washed-up actor sort of way, with light brown hair and eyes that crinkled when he smiled. He was probably in his early fifties, about my dad’s age. Always met me with a smile and a wave.

How could he be dead? He was so young, so happy on the outside. Such a nice guy.

It has happened at regular intervals since then. People fall off the wagon all the time, which always hurts in that crevasse deep beneath my heart, the seat of my darkest fears. Sometimes they’ll have real time under their belt, too. Nine years. Sixteen years. It’s never great to hear about someone going back out again.

But when they die…

A few days ago, someone died.

If I had to choose a single word to describe him, it would be “joyful.” He was always so grateful to be sober, and one of those people whom just being around made you feel grateful too. He was in his early sixties, I think. Sometimes a hard life and heavy drinking makes it hard to tell. Missing a few teeth from living on the streets for many years, yet always smiling. Such a nice guy.

After I found out, I was good for nothing. I sat at the computer not writing anything. Then I got up and wrestled the Christmas tree out the door, swept and vacuumed the pine needles, all the while struggling against the tightness in my chest. I cried. I’m crying now, in fact.

The whole week has been off since then. I keep returning to same thought.

Someone is always dying. This thing that I have kills people, all the time. Someone is always dying.

I think about the bottle I drank from, one in particular, the one that erased my memory. It wasn’t a bottle you find in the liquor aisle. The bottle with both the literal and metaphorical skull and crossbones on it. I wanted to die, but mostly, I wanted to drink, and I couldn’t anymore. That was the day I discovered what real, raw desperation felt like. My breath stunk for days after drinking the poison. Hospital. Suicide watch. Waking up at an unspecified time in the morning not remembering anything.

Someone is always dying.

How am I one of the lucky ones who survives?

Green Oak

– – –

*All names have been changed



  • Karen

    Natalie, there is beauty in the rawness and honesty of this piece. It’s very powerful.

    “Lucky” is surviving some of the dumb shit that those of us with addictions have done. What you’re doing now – living life clean and sober, awake and aware, with wisdom and compassion – that’s not luck, that’s hard work.

    Thank you for sharing your journey.

    Lots of love to you.
    Karen recently posted…The Magic of the MundaneMy Profile

  • Ilene

    You are here because there is a reason for you to be here. Because of grace. Because you are willing to do what you need to do and willing to ask for help and humble enough to understand that you need help. I am so sorry about all of the death you have experienced. But you are not still here by accident or luck. It’s something greater than that.
    Ilene recently posted…Saying Goodbye to the Skull CapMy Profile

  • Shannon Fielding

    I’m so sorry for your pain, Natalie. Just know that you give me hope. I am proud to say my husband has reached his 82nd day of sobriety.

  • Samantha Brinn Merel

    I’m breathless after reading this piece. It is so raw and real and so damn honest. How are you one of the lucky ones who survive? Because you are strong. So strong to write about your struggles and reveal them to the world. To keep smiling, each and every day, after all you have been through. Because of your sweet husband who loves you and supports you, and you him. But most of all, because you have chosen to live this life. This life that is equally sad, thrilling, happy and surprising. You are simply amazing, friend.
    Samantha Brinn Merel recently posted…College Friends. Forever Friends.My Profile

  • Considerer

    How are you lucky? Who knows. I don’t think luck picks people based on worth or ‘deserving’, because I know many, many WONDERFUL people who have had a really rough ride in life. Really rough.

    And many arseholes who seem to cruise through with gold-plated armour, impervious to the slings and arrows which might come their way.

    The question really now, is not WHY you live, but HOW you live. And you seem to be really striving to make a go of it, to be open and brave about this; to educate others and warn them from it.

    And above all, to make something GOOD happen with the rest of your life.

    Whatever dreams or ambitions or hopes or desires for the future you have – those should be why you live. Whatever is lovely, whatever is right, whatever is noble – those should be (and seem to be) your focus.

    Don’t get mired in the ‘why’s and ‘if only’s. You could spend forever going in circles and never come to a satisfactory solution.
    Considerer recently posted…7 Quick Takes #58 x FTSFMy Profile

  • Stephanie @ Mommy, for Real.

    I’m so sorry, Natalie. I can imagine the extra layer that is buried within the grief of this loss, and I expect it’s very surreal. I often marvel at how we manage to escape certain fates, but mostly I don’t say these things out loud, out of a fear/superstition/paranoia that I’m jinxing my future somehow. I try not to think about these things, but it can’t be helped. You are special. You are strong.
    Stephanie @ Mommy, for Real. recently posted…My Beautiful Girls: Raising Feminist DaughtersMy Profile

  • Michelle Matthews-DeLorge

    It’s called survivor guilt. Even though you haven’t been through a “traumatic event” conquering an addiction is traumatic. The people who do it with you and help you become your “tribe”. When you lose a part of your tribe it hurts. Thoughts of it could easily be me will haunt you. You have to instead remember their life, the joyfulness and the thankfulness you saw in them and hold strong to that.
    Michelle Matthews-DeLorge recently posted…35 Is The New 25My Profile

  • Lala Rukh

    This is heart breaking really….. I am glad you can think you know about all this serious stuff happening all around us. There are people who don’t even think for a second. Death is a reality…a harsh one and everyone has to go through it. It makes me panic too sometimes but eventually my mind understands that it’s a natural thing and has to happen no matter what we do. Have a nice day 🙂

  • Ericamos

    I think it’s more than luck. You are such a strong and brave person, and the world needs you. Your writing is so inspiring and honest. This piece, alone, is a work of art. I’m so sorry for all the loss you continually experience, and I am so glad that you are in my life, and living life to the fullest.
    Ericamos recently posted…Now Presenting, Mrs. BrownMy Profile

  • JenKehl - My Skewed View

    You write so beautifully, and I am so sorry. I wish I could say what you see is not “the norm” but I know it is. I have had two friends die in the last 12 months for the same reason.
    While I don’t struggle, I know theres was very real. My heart was filled with a very heavy sadness that they could not win the battle.
    HOWEVER the one thing I knew about the two of them, that is different from you is that they did not have someone with them all the time who loved and supported them.
    They did not write (or talk) openly about their struggles.
    And they did not have an extra support system like you do in this community.
    You are not the lucky one, you are the loved one.
    JenKehl – My Skewed View recently posted…If Isaiah Had a Million DollarsMy Profile

  • A Pleasant House

    Natalie, my heart is breaking for you. Losing anyone who has fought so valiantly is always so hard- especially when you are still living with the struggle. I, for one, am very empathetic of the day-to-day grind of turning away from one’s devil, and I’m overjoyed that you do it. You survive to inspire others, as you have done for me.
    A Pleasant House recently posted…MakerBot My FutureMy Profile

  • Kristin

    I have thought this several times, mostly in my younger years. So many lucky breaks where I could have been in a much worse situation – and someone else was. I’m sorry for your losses — we also had a loss this week. And while he wasn’t someone close, he was someone who played an important role in our family recently.

    Thanks for this beautiful post.
    Kristin recently posted…*Neon Fireflies* Takes the Edge OffMy Profile

  • Chris Plumb

    This will be the third time I’ve attempted to say something about this post. The first time, I didn’t know what to say, except “I’m sorry.” The second time, I started to say something really profound (in my mind), but it wasn’t very sincere (which is probably why cosmic-ly, my iPad flipped to something else and I lost the whole comment).

    So I’ll just say “I’m sorry,” and “keep on truckin’ girl.” You are something special.
    Chris Plumb recently posted…I’m Not Gay, I Just Like To Write (and Other Stuff): Redefining MasculinityMy Profile

  • Deb @ Urban Moo Cow

    Wow. I don’t really even know what to say except that I agree with whomever said that it’s not just a stroke of luck. You have worked very, very hard, and you caught it young. That makes a difference, too, because, as you know, the longer you drink, the more profound the physical changes to your brain. I have a lot more to say on this topic, but I will not. I will just send you big, big hugs.
    Deb @ Urban Moo Cow recently posted…Suburban Moo Cow? Not ExactlyMy Profile

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