some survive

As I listened to a beloved member of my fellowship share a heartbreaking story of his brother who committed suicide after decades of struggling to get sober, two things happened. First, the idiotic, self-involved stuff I was worried about  instantly melted away. Nothing like legitimate tragedy to put your “problems” in perspective.  And second, a thought that always hits me when I hear news like this came over me once again: “Joe.”



Joe wasn’t my best friend in recovery. Joe wasn’t somebody I hung out with. In fact, Joe was actually someone I was kind of jealous of. Handsome, smart and with an incredible job Joe and his partner were the kind of gay couple in recovery us single losers wanted to be. But Joe and I did have two big things in common: the same home group and we both got sober on January 2nd 2009. When we picked up one year anniversary chips, Joe and I finally exchanged numbers and looked like we were moving towards becoming friends. Sadly, I never got to use his number. Joe and his partner relapsed and struggled to stay in the program. A few months later, Ken came home and found Joe dead in his bathtub. After struggling to get back into recovery, Joe couldn’t take it and like so many of us do, committed suicide. His death hit me like a ton of bricks. Here was a guy with my same sobriety date who seemed to have everything, dead in the blink of an eye. A shockwave of sadness flowed through our group and folks rallied around his heartbroken spouse. At the time, my grief manifested in wondering “Why Joe and not me?” I wondered for a long time why some us get to stay and keep being sober while others relapse and get taken out by this disease. It all seemed so senseless. Wasn’t just wanting it enough?

Three years since Joe’s death and two days since listening to my friend’s talk of heartbreak, I know that just wanting it for someone isn’t enough.They have to want and they have to want to do the work. And while we will never know for certain why some of us get to stay sober and stay alive, I like to think there’s a bigger reason. I put myself in dozens of crazy and dangerous situations and with lethal combinations of chemicals. I’m not sure why that stuff didn’t kill me. I’m equally puzzled as to why I chose to hang onto my life-preserver instead of relapse this go round.  But what I do know is since I’m here I owe it to Joe and to my friend’s brother and millions of others to make the most of everyday, to work hard on being less of jerk and to help as many people as I can. I think of it as life-preserver insurance.

4 thoughts on “some survive

  1. Exactly…some survive. In fact, all of us that are alive today. Thank whoever for the moments we notice that. And thank you Sean for a very moving reminder.

  2. I heard a woman share last weekend with 37 years of sobriety, And she said this ,,, “You must protect this precious gift.” This is a three fold disease. Mental, emotional and spiritual. All three areas need our attention, Those with little time to those with long time sobriety, she tells a story about being 31 years sober, and almost taking a drink, save for her higher power. Why do some make it and others don’t? Do we need to work harder at extending the hand of aa even though we might not want to, because of our selves? Do we take the time to care for our brothers and sisters in aa? People slip through the cracks, and some go out and drink, and some never make it back, and some end up dead ! YOU may be the only copy of the Big Book that someone may ever read. And it falls to us to make sure no one in our home group slips through the cracks. Nothing insures our sobriety like directly working with another alcoholic. These three things come to mind tonight – Trust God, clean house, and work with others. Sad that you lost someone in sobriety, but it is not uncommon. See to it that you work harder to reach out to those on the fringes. We may not want to but it may make the difference in someone living and someone dying. You can’t keep it if you don’t give it away. Protect this precious gift because in time you will see the wisdom in this little phrase. It may save you when you least expect it.

  3. Wow, I needed this post this morning. I’m sitting in airport at 4 am and the coffee isn’t open yet and I was feeling sort of sorry for myself and that I am traveling today is sort of service work, spread the message… And I so needed this reminder that its a life and death mission we’re all on. I have nothing more important to do with my life. I’m supposed to be sitting here reading your post, getting inspired and grateful. Thank you, friend. I’m so glad you’re around and sober and amazing.

    • You’re so welcome and I’m glad it helped. I continue to be humbled by this disease— and thank God. The moment I think I can out run it, I’m in deep trouble. And you’re right there’s no better way to spend your time than carrying the message. We’re the lucky one for sure. love ya, s.

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