When Tragedy Strikes in Recovery

Happy Sunday, everyone!

In my previous post, My Greatest Passion Uncovered, I talked all about finding the thing in life that brought me more energy and fire than any other - speaking. I spoke more and more after that. Life was really starting to build up, like a volcano ready to erupt. In a good way. In a great way. I couldn't know what was to come. Annnd, that doesn't mean life's struggles disappear. 2014 would be a year of great discovery, and of great challenges and tragedy...

First, the knee surgeries I had the year prior left me searching for answers, as one of those surgeries left me worse off than I was previous to it. I would end up trying everything a human could try, as most medical professionals continued to tell me nothing serious was wrong. I tried the likes of orthotics, massage therapy, stimulation therapy, changes in diet, acupuncture, cortisone shots, physical therapy, and much, much more. For anyone who's ever been in chronic pain searching for answers, you understand how disheartening it can be. So much like the search for answers to addiction. All the effort and thought in the world, yet no reprieve from the chronic suffering.

In the early summer of 2014, I finally found a therapist willing to say he didn't have the answers, that something was wrong that he couldn't help with. I was referred to one of the best doctors in the country, at Mayo Clinic. Within five minutes, that doctor would tell me something none had before - I did not have a functioning PCL, the largest ligament in the knee. Finally, an answer. The proposed fix meant a significant surgery, one that would keep me down for a couple months. I began planning and preparing.

That August, I had the surgery. It took me out physically, but that was the smaller impact. The larger impact was the mental suffering that would come. The combination of the medication I had to take and the isolation I experienced in being confined to a chair for many weeks had me in a terrible mental state. At the peak of that state, I would end up getting a call I never imagined I'd get...

My cousin, Scott, who I grew up idolizing, chasing after, and hanging out with, was in a bad motorcycle accident. He didn't survive. I took the call from my sponsor's place, at the kitchen table. I dropped to the floor, laid on my back, and lost it. Scott and I had a long history. Aside from growing up trying to be just like him, we spent a lot of time, as adults, hanging out, living together, working together, playing sports together, and doing anything else we could together. As I sobered up, our paths went separate ways. I never would forget all the times he took me in, especially in my worst days. There were times when I had nowhere else, that he opened his door. The greatest testament anyone could ever give, came from his eulogy. It went something like: "Scott would always give if he had something to give, and if he didn't, he would share what he had."

I helped plan his wake and funeral, and struggled mightily to accept the reality of it. It was so hard to think of a life cut so short, without notice, knowing the horrifying details of how it happened. The thoughts of those last moments playing out wouldn't leave.

I knew I was in bad shape. Nothing seemed to make it better. I ended up in therapy, again. While I couldn't see the light at the end of the tunnel then, at least I stood a chance. My cousin didn't. You see, when life is over, it's over. It's a hard thought to think - the end. But on this planet, that's what it is. No more chances to tell him how much I appreciated him. No more chances to see that smiling face. No more chances for his kids to experience dad, for his parents to experience son, for his siblings to experience brother. To this day, his death is one of the hardest things I've dealt with in life. I looked back for pictures to share here, and came across a tribute video I created for the closing of his funeral. It kept me busy that week, but more importantly, gave me something to look back to. Click here to watch.

It was only more fuel to add to the fire that is the way I live life today. Not saving for tomorrow what is in front of me today. Recovery helps build that perspective, so does tragedy and death. It's a practice, one that, as society, we struggle with. Building our lives up for that moment in the future. My cousin Scott was doing that. My father was doing that. We all do, to some extent. Today, I do my best to leave it all on the table now. With that comes one of the most fulfilling thoughts I have, one I have most days - if I go to bed tonight and don't wake up tomorrow, I know I've done all I can to live my life and contribute to the lives of others, up to this day. That's the end game, each day. Always. And forever.

Peace,

J

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