If ever you feel like putting your brain in a blender, read Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five.
If you’re not familiar with his work…the most important thing to know is that Vonnegut’s brilliance was matched only by the levels of his depression. Like many authors and performers, Vonnegut lived with Bi-Polar disorder. Unlike most creative geniuses who live(d) with that disorder, Vonnegut only seemed to write at his lowest emotional points.
He wrote painfully beautiful books in which he wondered aloud why things are the way that they are in this world. Most of our troubles seemed so unnecessary in his estimation. He was a melancholy soul.
Slaughterhouse Five is a deliberately absurdist view on war and other tragedies… like the lives of those active in addiction… or worse, those who die from the disease.
I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately. If you’re not connected to the recovery community, you may not have noticed… we’ve lost even more beautiful souls over the past couple of weeks.
I’m tired of reading eulogies and the goodbyes of heartbroken loved ones.
“Fly high with the angels”… “Your struggles are over.”… “Rest in peace, my brother/sister.”
Sure. There’s no more fight for them. I sincerely hope that Vonnegut’s quote applies to them – that in passing to the other side that everything is indeed beautiful and that nothing hurts.
But I’d rather that they had another chance at recovery. I’d rather they were vertical and breathing, vomiting and withdrawing, then laying peacefully in a morgue. I’d rather Narcan was in their hands and that treatment was realistically available to all.
But it wasn’t and it’s not.
It hurts to lose people we love. It’s heartbreaking when the disease wins. It’s emptiness and powerlessness and whole lot of acknowledgement that “There but for the grace of God go I.”
We must never become desensitized to tragedy. No matter how you see my brothers and sisters, we are sons and daughters, fathers and mothers, friends and colleagues. We’re your neighbors. We are part of every community.
Every. Life. Matters. Having a disease doesn’t change that.
2016 is on pace to eclipse the overdose deaths of 2015 in Maine. This is happening even as politicians seize photo ops for the war against heroin.
Numbers and statistics lose their power over time. 189 Mainers dead in the first six months of 2016. Faces, names, relations, memories endure.
We have only begun to fight. With human lives hanging in the balance, how much are we willing to do? How much for someone’s son or daughter? How much for your next door neighbor?
The only answer I can offer is the same answer I seek from those who seek my support in overcoming addiction: Whatever. It. Takes.