Why Mac Miller?

Why Michael Jackson?

Why my brother? My classmate in first grade, and 5th grade, and friend at 22? Why the countless people inside and outside the rooms of recovery?

Why the kid who is shot next to the kid in the classroom by the kid who got his hands on his stepdad’s AK-15?

Why NOT me?

I have asked “why” thousands of times over the years. I did the things that have killed others. I drove drunk. I drank so much that I got alcohol poisoning and could/should have died. I starved myself to the point of passing out and causing damage to my heart. I walked alone at night, drunk, in places where others have been killed.  Why are they gone and not me?

It is especially hard when I have lost people I have deeply loved and admired. Losing my brother to cancer. That was the hardest. He took me to my first meeting. He believed me about my mother…even defended me when others have disowned me. Why was HE the one who died? He had 3 small children who needed him. No one needed me. Why didn’t I die instead? He wasn’t, by any means, perfect. He could be a gruff asshole. His words could cut better than any knife. Even when he was right…his truth came with the bitter sting of a poison that often silenced his victims. And yet, in the last months before he died, we became the brother and sister I always wanted to be. He let me be close to him. He let me shave his face. He loved me enough to tell me that I should never, NEVER go back to the place I came from. He told me he was proud of me and of everything I had accomplished in my sobriety. He told me he loved me.

And then he was gone.

It’s been 18 years and it still hurts. Losing him and the possibilities of him… in my life… in those kids’ lives. And, for a very, very long time I asked, “Why wasn’t it me instead of him?” I would have easily traded my life for his. Why did it have to be him?

So, I had to go about the task of surviving survivor’s guilt.

Like everything else in recovery, it takes time

I would LOVE to say that there is a FASTER, EASIER, SOFTER way through the difficult times in life. I WANT to give you that. I DO! I want to give my sponsees that. This is the help I want to give every newcomer in recovery.

But that would be a lie.


If you ask for help…or even look slightly pathetic…you will get the help you need in any of the rooms of recovery.

Not only that, but there are plenty of “tools” that you can “pick up” and use to get you through. Here are the ones that I have used to survive my survivor’s guilt in recovery, so far:

  • Spend time with people (instead of isolating). For me, this meant letting people take me to recovery meetings and come over if they wanted to. For a long time, I wasn’t able to get the motivation to do anything other than work (if that). So people were kind enough to pick my ass up and take me to meetings and/or coffee. I wonder how many snotty tissues they dealt with?
  • Unlike what others may advise, I listened to as much sad music as possible. I drowned myself in that shit! No offense to her…but Sarah McLachlan has got that grieving shit down. I consider this “tool” my “aversion therapy”. After listening to enough sad music to make my depression feel depressed, I had no choice but to be sick of it..
  • I talked to my Higher Power. When my brother died (18 years ago), I was still playing with the idea of a God-figure. At the time, someone in recovery said I could yell at God and God could handle it. Any kind of communication counted. So, I got on my knees everyday and screamed, “FUCK YOU!” to God for about a year.

There are no rules to praying.

  • When I was able to, I started reading, working the Steps, and meeting with my sponsees again. This took a few weeks. Jumping back in to helping others helped me a lot. Getting out of myself has always helped me to feel better. I just needed to get out of the initial shock of the death first. Shock takes me a few weeks. That’s okay.
  • Finally, I went to counseling. After each death that I’ve encountered, I’ve gone to counseling. Each death brings up my core wound of abandonment. That shit is real for me and knocks me off my center. It will lead me back to a relapse every time. So, this addict needs to deal with that right away with the help of all the others who are brave and loving enough to make up my support system.

I know there are many other ways to survive survivor’s guilt. I would be most grateful if you would share how you have survived so you could help others who are reading this blog. While I know many people are not posting here. I am glad to see that they are reading!

Thank you.

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