A Smack in the Face

Leigh

She had a gorgeous smile.  And while we’d talk about the demons that haunted her and her constant struggles with the beast of addiction, we would laugh until my sides hurt.  We shared the same love of music and would belt out songs with the windows down like it was therapy, always pretending we were actually decent singers.  And the selfies.  She loved taking selfies and I accused her of having an app that always made her look ten times better than me.

The Message

At 1:30 pm yesterday, a friend told me that Leigh had died from an overdose a few days prior and her funeral was at 2:00pm.  It was a “by the way” type of mention, done in such a fashion that my brain couldn’t quite wrap around the magnitude of what was just said. Too much, too fast, no time, and the flood of mixed feelings hammered on top of me.  I stammered along, then just started driving toward the church, 40 minutes away, figuring I’d sort everything out along the way.

Showing Up For Leigh, and for Addiction

I made several calls on the way there, making after school arrangements for my kids because life keeps going even in moments like this.  I talked to God, too, and let Him know I was pissed, that I didn’t understand, and asking if I did enough.  Somewhere in there I asked Leigh, too.  She was one of my first sponsees.  We worked intimately together on her sobriety and she shared her deepest parts with me.  But I know the gravity and size of this disease, and know it’s bigger that any human being, and I knew that when she slipped away and quit communicating with me.  That wasn’t her, it wasn’t personal.

I will forever remember the funeral and the reception following at her parents house in her honor.  I kept searching for signs of this woman I knew, representations of her over the next few hours.  But instead I was handed a classic case of an inability to even touch upon what stole this precious life too early.  It felt as though there was almost a cover-up taking place, and an awful lot of turning a blind eye.  An undertone of embarrassment maybe.

My opinion is most people don’t know how to start those conversations.  But I do.  And I did.  For her.  Not one single person there knew who I was, this underdressed women with the funky hair color, and their curiosity got me lots of introductions.  Every time I told them not just who I was, but how I knew Leigh, and I gently brought the elephant into at the conversation.  Oddly enough, there was a sense of relief in most faces.  They hung on my words not because I am wicked smart but because they just wanted to know simple facts.

I went there for Leigh.  I was just going to go and then rush back to my busy life.  Hindsight, it turned into maybe being a small voice for Leigh and all the countless times she sought understanding from those exact same people.  Addiction is a disease, and she had it.  She never quit fighting, and I know she never meant to die.  When we are sick, the person that we are and that everyone loves is in there, but my god, it gets so lost…  and we are judged by that.  So to end up having the opportunity to shed some light and start conversations that never would have been spoken was ultimately the real gift.  My tiny gift to the beautiful life of Leigh.  I love you forever.