The room was abnormally sullen
for a bright, crisp October late afternoon. Friend's faces were long and ashen, many streaked with tears
. Conversations were spoken in hushed whispers.
Feet shuffled, an occasional paper rustled. Coffee was poured in silence
There were only a few minutes to go before the meeting
was to begin. I grabbed an ashtray and a soda, then took a seat in the front row. "What the hell happened here?"
I wondered to myself. Little hand on the 6, big hand on the 12... The chairperson rang the bell. The announcement was made. One of our beloved fellow members had died. Details were sketchy, but the cause appeared to be suicide
Stan was a gifted young man with a compassionate soul
and a guarded, but devilish sense of humor. He was a few years younger than me. Besides our common bond of alcoholism, he too, suffered from severe manic-depression
. Each disease by itself is a daunting challenge, but together they create a viscious cycle. Addiction and mental illness feed upon one another and the result can be fatal.
Stan was very close with my old sponsor
, Gail. She knew the hell that Stan and I lived through, respectively. She, like many others that evening, began to share her grief
with the room. The look on her normally pleasant, round face was one of mixed anger, bewilderment and fear. Then her gaze landed on me. I shifted nervously in my seat, wiping my eyes. "... and Chris, don't you
dare kill yourself!" Gail demanded.
Had she been picking up snippets of my thoughts? Sure, I was upset. Stan was dead. The dude called it quits whether or not anyone else agreed with his decision. The hell with the people who loved him. The ultimate selfish deed could not be undone. I was pissed at Stan, but at the same time I was jealous... he was free. His demons
couldn't plague him any more. Free, selfish, dead bastard. How dare he succeed at something at which I have failed! But still...
I didn't respond for Gail's or anyone's benefit but my own. It was only 18 months earlier that my old cherished sponsor, Tommy, passed down my "sentence" before he died. His simple words have been the only thing that keeps me going at times. "Chris," he chided, "you've got no business
of a servant." If only Stan and countless others had been bestowed this same mixed blessing. Perseverance
isn't for wimps, but noone has to weather life's storms alone. Stan's death was a waste, but he did not die in vain.