Grief and Recovery: Whether Alcohol or Food

buddysnowYesterday we took our buddy, Buddy to the vet for the last time and he was “put to sleep” as the popular and acceptable version of euthanized is stated.  Regardless of how you say it, Buddy is now dead.  He was old, blind, all sorts of skin and cancer problems.  He was one of our three current rescue dogs.  We had Buddy since he was about 3 months old.  His brother had died of hip dysplasia many years ago.  Buddy was the runt of the litter but the biggest dog I have ever had.  The comment from vet set yesterday, besides the recommendation that Buddy be put to sleep was “he is big.”

Although my wife and I never claim any dog as our own, folks often referred to Buddy as my dog – much for his physical appearance and demeanor.  Buddy was big, and I am tallish at 6’1″ and though my bulk is reduced of late, I am not a wiry build at all.  Buddy was quite standoffish till you got to know him, but then could be your absolute best friend in the world – a sort of gentle giant.  In that way, he could be quite “scary” at first, as has been said of me on more than one occasion.

I am getting more experience with this grief issue in recovery.  When our first dog Greta died nearly 15 years ago, I was completely dysfunctional over the event.  All I could do was stand in the front year and feed squirrels.  A few years before when I was told that Spike my cat from a previous relationship had died, I was similarly grief stricken.  I recognize that part of that reaction was the first time in recovery I had ever truly grieved the loss of someone close to me.

buddyThose couple of events led to me truly grieve for the first time the loss of my grandmother who had died in 1979.  I posted a while ago on that process.  These experiences in recovery have led me to focus less on the loss and more on celebrating the lives lived with family and friends – whether primate or canine.  When Sophia our Boxer died a few years ago from a rather brief but intensive battle with cancer, the grief was less and the celebration was more than with Spike or Greta.  Yesterday with Buddy, the celebration of life overshadowed the passing in death.  He had been a phenomenal friend for nearly a decade and I am truly grateful for that time together.

And that leads me to the point of this post that is not really about dogs but issues of addiction.  I have stopped thinking “and I did not drink over it” or “drinking would not have made it any better” – as now not drinking or using drugs is the norm for events such as the death of someone close.  Early in recovery I wondered if I really lived such a charmed life that all of this stuff that happened to everyone else and became their issues for relapse were somehow greater than what I faced.  I don’t know the answer to that question, but for the past 30 plus years, I have not found the issue, circumstance, or event that, one-day-at-a-time, I have chosen to drink over as a solution.

I was pleased that two nights ago when we made the decision to take Buddy on his last ride to the vet, and I could not sleep, the thought of bingeing on some food crossed my mind as the sedative that would knock me out.  But then I quickly realized that food was not going to make that situation any better.  I opted instead for just getting 4 hours sleep that night.  Sitting back with Buddy while he snored away was a better choice.

In sum for me, the Twelve Step Programs of recovery, whether through Alcoholics Anonymous or Overeaters Anonymous continue to be the solution to my addiction and life problems.  I am grateful as I think back to August 4, 1984 when I walked into the Detox Center on Glendora Avenue in Cincinnati Ohio and took Step 1 “We admitted we were powerless over alcohol and our lives had become unmanageable.”