A couple of weeks ago, out of the blue, a friend I hadn’t seen in years sent me a message. We reconnected on Facebook a few months ago; she had read some of my posts about my sister and reached out to me. The gist of the message was that she had found the strength to reach out to a young male heroin addict who just happened to be in the bed adjacent to her mother in the hospital. Given that there is virtually no privacy in this sort of environment, she overheard his conversation with the nurse. He had recently relapsed, and had checked himself in to the hospital in order to detox because he desperately wanted to get clean and had nowhere else to go. He was alone, and scared, and defeated. Even though she was stepping outside of her comfort zone, my friend wrote him a note and walked over to his side of the room to give it to him. After his initial confusion, he looked up at her with tears in his eyes and thanked her; she gave him a hug and walked back over to her mom. She told me she couldn’t explain it but in that moment she felt an overwhelming sense of Sarah’s presence in the room with her, even though they’d never met. All of a sudden she realized that this kid was “someone else’s Sarah,” and that she couldn’t NOT reach out to him. My sister’s story gave her the courage to offer someone a ray of hope in the form of a note that told him that he wasn’t alone, that he should take one minute at a time until he could take one day at a time, that he needed to “just keep swimming.”
Someone else’s Sarah.
Someone else’s Sarah could very well live to fight another day because a friend of mine managed to take my words and put them in to action. Someone who didn’t understand addiction before was able to listen to my sister’s story and realize that she didn’t necessarily need to understand someone’s battle in order to help them fight. Someone who might have been a little scared at the idea of approaching a stranger in a hospital was able to put her fears aside in order to deliver a message to an addict who was in the absolute grips of the disease, asking him to just hold on for another day.
In my sister’s name.
She told me she wasn’t sure if it helped him.
I know it did, more than she’ll probably ever know. One thing I’ve learned from talking to people in recovery is that sometimes just knowing you have one person in your corner, one person who still believes in you, one person who thinks you’re worth the fight, is enough to keep you going for another day. I imagine that having that one person be a total stranger is even that much more powerful.
Here’s why. I’ve gotten thousands of messages offering comfort and support since my sister died in April. Every single one of them has made my heart a little lighter, my voice a little stronger, and my grief a little easier to handle. The messages I’ve received from complete strangers carry a weight different from those received by my real life friends and family. Their words of support, their anecdotes, their heartfelt condolences, are just as important, but somehow their mass is more dense, due to the fact that, quite simply, these people really owe me nothing. In this day and age, people tend to be more concerned with how many “likes” their selfie got on Instagram, or sharing the latest fake news story on Facebook. To know that people I’ve never met are not only taking the time to read my posts but actually reach out to me to offer words of comfort?
That right there is enough to give me the strength I need to put my feet on the ground every day.
Good friends of mine have told me their own stories of dealing with addiction. Mere acquaintances have bared their souls to me. Former enemies have found a way to put hostilities aside to lend me some of their strength. Complete strangers have become friends, simply by taking the time to open their hearts to me in the form of a message.
One day I opened my front door to find a package that had been delivered to our house. It contained a beautiful gold bracelet with GPS coordinates engraved on the front, and amethysts for the degree symbols. On the inside, my sister’s initials were engraved, along with the date she died. The GPS coordinates ended up being for the cemetery where she’s buried, and amethyst was her birthstone – it’s also the stone of sobriety. There was no card in the box and no name anywhere on the package. I called my husband in tears, thinking he sent it. He didn’t. I posted a picture of the bracelet on Facebook, asking whoever sent it to me to let me know so I could thank them properly. I asked everyone I could possibly think of if they had sent it.
I still don’t know who did.
At this point I’m sure they don’t want me to know who they are, which makes the gift even more special to me. I wear it every day.
Not everyone is this supportive. People I once considered good friends have used words like “coward,” “selfish,” and worse when referring to my sister. Others have used phrases like “Darwinism at its finest” when talking about an addict losing their fight to an OD or suicide. There was one woman with whom I had been messaging for months. I even mailed her a book in an effort to help her understand her son’s struggle with heroin. One day, when I posted on Facebook about my visit to see a psychic (in the hopes of receiving a message from Sarah), she took the time out of her day to inform me that I wouldn’t ever be hearing from Sarah, because she had killed herself. She told me that since Sarah had committed suicide, my sister’s soul was in limbo somewhere. Or in hell.
Those are the kind of messages that hurt so badly that they take my breath away.
I responded. I told her I was sorry she felt that way, and that I would still pray for her son. And then I deleted her as a Facebook friend.
Sometimes I find myself arguing back and forth with closed-minded idiots on the internet who feel the need to spout off at the mouth about addiction in the most hurtful ways. What starts off as me trying to educate someone or even just open their minds a little bit sometimes turns into a pissing match. Every single time I tell myself I won’t let it get to that point. Sometimes it doesn’t. A lot of times it does. And then my husband tells me to put my phone down as I lay next to him in bed, furiously tapping away at 2:00 in the morning in an attempt to shut someone up.
My friends and family tell me to ignore them, that some people just won’t listen no matter what, that my arguments are falling on deaf ears. And to that person they probably are. But there are other people viewing those threads, and I’ve gotten messages upon messages from people telling me they saw my comments on an article, and they learned something from my argumentative efforts even though the person I was arguing with clearly didn’t.
That means something to me.
Some people have taken the spitefulness to another level entirely. One day I opened my inbox to find a message from someone using my sister’s name and picture. This person had created a fake profile, for the sole purpose of sending me a disgusting, hate-filled rant.
They said I never cared about my sister when she was alive, that I should stop touting myself as her “hero.”
My sister was 6 1/2 years younger than me. I was basically out of the house by the time she was old enough for us to have a real relationship, but over the past 5 years we had gotten closer than we’d ever been before. I wish I had understood her struggle sooner, but I can’t go back and change that now. I defended her fiercely and somewhat blindly whenever anyone had something to say about her or her character. I loved her, with every ounce of me, whether she knew it or not. I don’t think of myself as anyone’s hero, and certainly not my sister’s.
If I had been, maybe she’d still be here.
They said I failed her, that I’m the reason she’s dead, that I should have done more, that I could have done more.
And the truth is – maybe I did, maybe I am, maybe I should have, maybe I could have.
I wake up every single day and I have to battle with the “what if’s.” Every. Single. Day. I have to find a way to convince myself that there was nothing I could have done, that it’s not my fault, that she knows I loved her and that I cared. That she knows I would do anything in this world to bring her back. That she knows I’d have given my own life to save hers.
And it doesn’t always work.
I hear myself telling other people in my position not to blame themselves, when in my heart of hearts I know I’m not even following my own advice.
They asked me how I can sleep at night.
I have nightmares. All the time. I haven’t had a dream with her in it where she’s not dead. To this day I don’t know the specifics of exactly how she shot herself, but I’ve dreamt of every possible scenario. Other people have told me she’s come to them in their dreams, laughing and smiling and being Sarah. Sometimes I wake up out of a dead sleep, sobbing to the point of almost hyperventilating. It hasn’t even been 365 sleeps since I last saw her alive, yet I’ve found her dead in my dreams a thousand times since April 1st. I pretend to fall back to sleep just so my husband can, but in reality I’m scared to close my eyes again.
Every night I say a little prayer that she’ll come to me smiling. And I know she will, one day.
They asked how me how I live with myself.
Some days I have to remind myself to breathe.
Most days, though, I make myself put my feet on the ground and get on with my life, and hope that I’m honoring her heart as well as I possibly can. I might have failed her in life but I sure as hell am not going to fail her now.
Her story will continue, her voice will still be heard, her heart will still be shared, her courage will still be admired, her battle will be worn on someone else’s sleeve like a medal of valor and someone else will stand up where she fell. And I won’t stop. Ever. No matter how many doubt me. Or her.
My loss will become someone else’s strength.
So I guess I should thank you, whoever you are. I should thank you for refueling my fire to get out there and make her proud, for reminding me why I get up every day and try to educate myself and others on the facts about addiction. Please know that every time I find myself getting discouraged, or questioning why I continue to share her story in the face of people who just refuse to listen, I get another message reminding me of exactly why I have to keep going. After reading your disgusting rant, I went back and printed out all of the beautiful messages of support I’d received and glued them into a journal so I can look at them whenever I need to remember why it’s necessary that I keep sharing our story. I’ve been adding to it ever since.
Today that journal holds over 65,000 words of support.
65,238 words of thanks and encouragement and comfort and strength from friends, family, acquaintances, past enemies, and perfect strangers. All from sharing my sister’s beautiful soul with the world.
Last night I almost had a panic attack while attempting to write this post. I had to put the pen down and go to sleep.
This morning I was at my doctor’s office, and the nurse called me Munchie instead of Laetitia (my real name) because she’s known me for years. As I was leaving, a woman approached me and asked if I was Munchie Morgan. She told me she somehow saw my initial post about Sarah’s death back in April and has been following me on Facebook ever since. Her daughter has been addicted to heroin and meth for five years. Reading my posts had opened her eyes to her daughter’s struggle, and six months ago she went to her and told her she’d help her fight.
Her daughter has been clean for almost three months. She told me that I not only gave her the strength to help her fight, but her daughter now follows me on Facebook and I’ve helped give her the strength to stay clean.
We both ended up in tears.
And then I told her that she’d just given me the strength to go home and finish writing this blog post, which will hopefully help someone else’s Sarah.
Today, I’m grateful for this.
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