Chapter 1 - I’m Possible
I met Kat at a rehabilitation center in Thailand in August 2019. At the time, I was working with four clients. As soon as I laid eyes on her, I was overcome with sorrow. A fragmented human being, the sadness behind her eyes pierced my heart. I had seen that look before, too many times before. If this girl could not find worth in herself, she would never make it. It wasn’t just her alcohol-soaked skin, sunken eyes, bloated stomach, and telltale yellowing indicating damaged organs that caught my attention. It was in her eyes, a look of brokenness, resignation to sad empty brokenness.
Kat died today in a hospice in Australia surrounded by her forever loving family. She couldn’t beat the bottle, so the bottle beat her. She was 39 years old. People said all the words one says at such times like, “We hope she is at peace now,” and “finally she’s at rest”. I hope they find peace, I screamed in the silence of my heart. That they now had peace from the beast of addiction and its ugly claws that scratched away at their picture of a beautiful family. Kat’s just dead.
I really liked Kat; she was a special, caring, kind spirit. In another life, she had served as an ER nurse who was highly regarded in her workplace as I later learned. But in the months following her discharge from rehab to a little condo nearby where I lived in Chiang Mai, Thailand, I chose not to get any closer to her. I’d spun the “You’re one drink away,” amongst many other lines, but I just knew in my bones that her chances of stopping were slim, and nothing I said or did would change that. Her death spiral was strong, and she had lost the will to fight against the tide. I never give up on anyone until I’m standing over their grave, but she’d given up on herself, and the only one that could have saved Kat was Kat.
She wasn’t my client but that didn’t matter. I had learned a long, long time ago that people have to want recovery for themselves. They have to want it more than their next breath because it would take every ounce of their strength and determination to seize it. For whatever reason, the choice to change yourself is deeply internal. The best thing to do was stand back, wait, and watch. It’s a helpless place to be, knowing there wasn’t a damn thing I could do.
I’ve seen it from both sides now and know that there are only two types of people; the ones who fight and the ones who die. I don’t judge. There but for the grace of God, go I, I would be dead too. I was dying. I was Kat until I made a choice not to be.
I’ve met many Kats in my years of researching rehab centers from the inside out. As I like to refer to it, I was getting my PhD. in alcoholism. I don’t know the numbers; I remember the ones who fought their way out of the forest. And I remember the names of those who didn’t make it. I’m glad I’m not a numbers girl. I don’t want to count, because it diminishes the individual and makes them a little more than a statistic. I want to cry for each of them when the battle is over, but I rarely cry. Instead, I get angry, and then I get even.
I show people how not to die. I guide them to good people and places who will show them how to live. And for the ones who want to live, it often works. For every Kat, Linda, and Wayne in my life who didn’t make it, there is Sam, Lizzie, and Susan that did. And when I see them living, fighting, and believing, I raise my finger to addiction. I whisper, Screw you, Addiction. I'll show you who the boss is.
The reason I finally decided to put my world into words is to scream out a message; A good, peaceful, and calm life is possible. Take a close look at the word Impossible and separate the syllables. There you have it; I’m possible.
I want every person I meet to shout, ‘I’m possible’. The me I want to be is possible. It is possible to live the life you were destined to have free of addiction, and it’s not as hard as it sounds. You just must have one solid mantra as a foundation; I believe I can, so I will. I’m possible. Look deeply inside yourself, at what makes you ‘you,’ then get a really good clinical psychologist to help free you of weights you no longer need to carry or own. They represent the emotional and psychological baggage that is dragging you down, holding you back, and blocking you from who you were truly destined to be. The message is clear, we only have one life, make it count.
Would it not be a wonderful thing to be able to feel that yesterday was for reference and not for residence? The past is where our memories live, and the past can also act as an instructor. Today is the moment that matters. That today is the minutes and moments that we live in, and that tomorrow is where our plans and our dreams live.
To Kat, I hope you are in the arms of angels now and you have found some comfort there. I wish it weren’t so, but thank you for being the reason that I finally picked up a pen.
Sharing one’s life story is like riding naked on a city bus. You are definitely heading somewhere, but it is an uncomfortable ride. We treasure our secrets and don’t relish the idea of having our deepest thoughts laid bare, naked for all the world to see. But truth cares not about our shame or privacy. It demands to be told. So here I am naked. This is my story, my truth, offered as a tribute to those who didn’t make it, and a salute to those who did.
Day by day, client by client, one at a time, I live with this hope; That I may help change just one person’s direction either away from the doors of addiction hell that I experienced, or just shine a ray of light and hope if they have already arrived there. Perhaps I can give just one person the feeling that if they can find within themselves the courage and strength to seek help, encourage them to seek good professional help to find calm and peace and goodness in their world. If so, then I’m good. If my story can do that, then I’m good, and that’s when I’ll cry... when that someone again finds life. Not tears of sadness–tears of joy.
To explain how I made it here, I must tell you where it all began. I don’t come from a textbook life, although parts of my story read like one. People have often said to me, on hearing about portions of my life, “You’ve got to share this”, and “you need to write a book”. Tell the story of where you came from, who you chose to become, and where you went. Make your story matter, so others don’t fall as hard or get help before it's too late.
I can share my truth because I live today in a place of fullness rather than nothingness. The journey to that place was harrowing, traumatic, and required depths of honesty I had never explored before. Once I traversed the dark caverns, though, I saw a faint light in the distance - truth. I followed that light until I stood in the stark radiance of day. That unyielding commitment to truth, within myself first and foremost, has caused the sun to continue to shine on every single beautiful day.