Brilliant, funny, dear, kind, sensitive, and grief-stricken to a fault.

Many alcoholics – and the people who love them – are just plain terminally grief-stricken. Not the healthy form of grieving we go through when we’ve lost someone we love. I am talking about an all-encompassing grief for self.

I only know about this because I have been there myself. Right now, someone who is in this grief is in my prayers.

Her grief is palpable. Her grief over her past. Her future. Her failures. Her successes that weren’t enough. Her having had some sobriety and losing it. Her losing her sobriety and not being able to get it back. Her relationships going south.

So I watch her family ride the grief roller coaster – soaring to unbounded heights of joy and anxious expectation when she is sober. Then all plummeting again six feet under, when she drinks. She finds, in her drink, momentary comfort and the next reason for self-loathing. They find greater ammunition to doubt her ability to ever succeed. Their fear feeds her fear; her fear feeds their fear. It is a cycle. A downward spiral.

Guilt also runs this spiral. Guilt and shame and blame. They are all based in fear – a lack of faith that God forgives and wants us to forgive ourselves – that keeps this tragedy circling. We, as humans, remember, and torture ourselves, taking others with us while God keeps forgiving and yearning for us to forgive each other, and most of all, forgive ourselves. God forgives, plain and simple. Asking for and allowing that forgiveness means surrendering control; it means surrendering our own self-important “pride in reverse” of obsessing about how horrible we are. When we spend our time beating up on ourselves, it is still self-will; it is still self-centeredness.

This is big stuff: allowing that forgiveness and having the faith to allow it means there is no need to dredge up the past. God forgave it. No need to get anxious about the future. God has it. No need to stay focused solely on ourselves: God wants us all to help each other. There is someone for everyone to help.

Others affected by this grief are in my prayers: A dear friend called yesterday to tell me that her father – a longtime drug and alcohol abuser – had succeeded in this, his most recent suicide attempt.

His God, in his mind, could not forgive his infidelities, failures, and relapses, his not measuring up.

His God, in his mind, was not big enough to love him no matter what; not big enough to embrace his humanity; not big enough to allow him to trust the therapists and medications and treatments that would have helped ease his depression (anger turned inward) and terminal grief. He did not believe that somehow, somewhere, there was someone who could have benefitted from his incredible sensitivity, compassion, and talent as an artist. I have no idea whether or not he ever asked for forgiveness, or trusted that he was forgiven. I just know that she is having a hard time explaining grandpa’s death to her children.

And so my friend is grieving the for-real death of her dad, who, despite glimmers and shimmers of being present, sober, and healthy through the years, had been, in many ways, dead already by ongoing returns to alcohol, drugs, and self-grief. She and I will visit soon; we’ll do some grieving and some celebrating of his life.

Springtime brings a bittersweet grief for many. As life is bursting from every inch of earth, many feel despair over their own lack of life, youth, rebirth. Springtime is a big time for suicides and relapses. It is also a time for turning old earth under; asking for new life. Giving up our own ego-driven self-remorse — self-grief — to allow all manner of forgiveness to give way to a new way of life. It is possible. I know. I have seen it happen thousands of times.

If you have an addiction challenge, Alcoholics Anonymous has been a source of help for millions upon millions of people, worldwide. Online meetings and information are available at www.aa.org

If you are affected by the addictions of others, Al-Anon, a support group for family and friends of alcoholics, is also a source of experience, strength, and hope for millions of people worldwide. Visit www.al-anon.alateen.org

You, and the people who love you, deserve at least a chance at a life free of self-grief. People who once thought that they, too, had nothing to offer, are very willing to help you and yours take the first step.

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