A Story of Recovery:

Planet Grief

My brother’s voice sounded calm and clear when he said, “Our mother was found dead in her garden yesterday.”

I stopped cutting vegetables. “Dead? What do you mean … dead?” I responded, “No, This is impossible. She was fine when she was here four weeks ago.”

My brother said that he didn’t know what happened, but that she was, in fact, dead. I hung up and a dark and heavy cloud engulfed me that would stay with me for another year. Mom! My mom

My mom and I had a very ambivalent relationship. It has never been easy. Memories of a lifetime relationship with mom flooded my mind. The day she beat me up when I was 17. The day she had laughed out loud about my breasts when I was 14. The day she took me to the hospital after I had taken an overdose.

Our relationship had become precious since I became abstinent and started working the Steps in FA. I thought about the day we sat in the open-air concert and watched the fireworks, and our last day together when she said good-bye to me: “I am proud of my daughter,” she had said, hugging me. I was reserved, but said, “Thank you for coming, mom. Next time I will come and see you.” She just had started to become something like a mother to me.

I hurt terribly. I felt guilty. I thought that I should have loved her more, should have had more time for her. I should have insisted on getting a few days off from work. I should have… why didn`t I? … and now, she’s dead.

Through the thick fog of disbelief, terror, and bewilderment, I heard a calm, clear voice within me: At least I will be going through this abstinently. I don’t know how I managed, but I did have an abstinent dinner that day. I walked into the living room and forgot what I had wanted there. I went to work and glared out of the window. I called in sick for a few days.

Now was the time for me to draw from the bank what I had paid into my “recovery account” for the first 11 years of FA. I clung to quiet time like I was drowning. I went to more meetings than usual. Sitting in the company of AA people (there are no FA meetings in my area) gave me a sense of assurance. People showed compassion. I got a few hugs, and it helped. I did not feel like talking. My sponsor encouraged me to make my calls, no matter what, and to keep the calls short. She said that I didn’t have to talk about what happened. She suggested that I talk about abstinence and gratitude.

Without FA, I would have isolated and ended up numbing the pain with food, alcohol, or a new relationship. That’s what I used to do in difficult situations before I came into FA. After my mom’s death, I came to understand the difference between grief and self-pity. I committed to not making any big decisions for a year or enter into a new relationship. I was glad to have a job where I could get out of myself every day.

I went through the funeral ceremonies and helped my brothers with cards, invitations, and cancellations of our mother’s commitments. That distracted me for a while. Then I had many sleepless nights, with unbearable anxiety. But within the emotional terror, correlating with some childhood abandonment issues that my mother’s death had rekindled, I felt the presence of God, just by the mere fact that I breathed. My mom would not breathe anymore.

Sometimes I thought, Damn, I am single. I felt that it would have been nice to have someone to hold me, someone who understood what it was like to be isolated on the “planet grief,” feeling distant and disconnected, despite working the FA tools.

It took more than a year. I did not follow the doctor’s advice to take antidepressants. Yes, I grew up in a dysfunctional family. In the past, I had no trust, and drew my strength from bulimia for the first half of my life. Food, control, alcohol, and sex were my higher powers. I had held others, especially my mother, responsible for many of my inadequacies.

Today the Twelve-Steps help me to take full responsibility for who I am. I work this program as well as I can because I want to be happy. I realize that it was the FA program, and how it had changed me, that my mom had admired about me. Thanks to FA, I could rediscover my love for my mother. Letting her go after such a short period of a harmonious relationship was the hardest thing I ever went through in abstinence. FA helped me through it, abstinently.


This story was originally published in the connection Magazine. Subscribe to the connection Magazine for more stories of recovery. Or submit your own story of recovery.