Syd had a very fine post yesterday about the Gulf oil disaster and his feelings of defeat upon watching oil-slicked birds trying and being unable to fly.
When I read it this morning it made me think of the discussion at my home group last night. A friend is in grief for a family member who recently died of cancer, and she’s angry at God for letting such a disaster happen. How do we carry on turning over our wills and our lives to a God with whom we’re so angry?
Syd’s post doesn’t express anger at God for the Gulf oil spill—it expresses anger at the people who screwed up, who drilled so far below the ocean’s surface, who messed up the drilling, and who are now passing the buck while wildlife and human life suffer.
Still, it’s hard to “turn the problem over” when it’s so massive and horrible, and when we feel its enormousness and enormity so keenly. How can we just give it away to a force we can’t even see, that we can’t even prove is there?
Last night as I sat knitting in the meeting and listening to this topic being brought up, I thought of my cousin Amy.
Amy was 36 when she died in July 2009. She had three kids—the oldest, a girl, 17.
She also had a longstanding drug problem, which she supported by shoplifting, identity theft, and sometimes turning tricks. Her kids were taken away from her by county children’s services. My cousins who were close to her tried to help her, but to give them credit, it’s almost impossible to “help” someone in active addiction who doesn’t want to be helped.
She died after being strangled and beaten by her drug dealer and another guy. After killing her, the guys stripped her, wrapped her body in a piece of carpet, and dumped her in a wooded lot. Her body was found 11 days later—in July, high summer—decomposed, unrecognizable, identified by the only fingerprint she had left.
These are the men who killed Amy. The on the right broke her ribs and fractured her skull. The one on the left strangled her from behind. They’ve been convicted and sentenced to life without parole.
Both Amy’s parents were addicted to heroin and other drugs. Her father was a Vietnam vet, a Marine scout-dog handler who watched Vietcong bombs, booby traps, and bullets kill several of his dogs. He rotated back to the world with PTSD and a solid injection-drug habit. When he died he was 31, and his oldest child, Amy, was 8.
This was not just his “personal” problem. This was also a consequence of sending an 18-year-old off to work in a futile war, and then shipping him back home wounded in spirit and leaving him to negotiate his illnesses on his own.
It’s like the Gulf Oil Spill. Its causes are deep, and it spreads.
After losing both my parents to the consequences of addiction, hearing about Amy’s murder made me feel angry and helpless. I’d worked hard to detox and get sober, only, it seemed, to see yet another person in my family fall to the disease of addiction.
My addict-mind decided I was destined for the same outcome. After all—BOTH of my own parents. This preyed upon my mind. I wrote inventory, I talked with my sponsor, but I continued to be a slave to anger and self-centered fear. I compared myself with other “successful” people who earn more money than I do, who went to better schools than I did, who have won more recognition for their work than I have, whose houses are bigger than mine, who apparently are more secure and solid than I.
I used over this. One day while visiting my aunt, I saw an old photo of Amy with her children, and I took a Vicodin. Incredible. I stole two Vicodin, I took one, and I put the other one back.
Recovering addicts I know were like, “Was it only one, and if it was only one, HOW was it only one?” It was only one. It only needed to be one: when you say “Fuck You,” you don’t have to raise all your fingers. In the U.S., you raise one. That’s what I was doing: telling whatever “God” is out there, “Fuck you.”
If I want to survive, though, I have to choose to align myself with a power more productive than the feeling of “fuck you.”