After Tuesday’s post went up, I got an email from an old friend about it. We met years and years ago in my first child abuse victim support group and became friends after a fashion, or as friendly as two people with similar, horrible histories can become when that is the primary thing you have in common. Then, as is now, our lives and journeys through the days were very different. At that time I was newly married (to my first husband), physically healthy if a hot mess emotionally, and she was alone and struggling with depression, anxiety, addiction, PTSD (although it was not labeled as such back then).
Life continued for both of us, and for the 6 months or so I was involved in that group we went out for a soda (for me) and a drink (for her) after each weekly meeting. It was unbearable lying to my husband about my activities, but the idea of telling him was far, far worse. I quit the group when the pressure to open up and come clean became too much; I was not ready then, and it would be almost 20 more years and a different man, different marriage before I was prepared to talk about it with anyone outside of therapy.
But my friend stayed in touch with me, calling periodically to see how I was faring. Ours became a 2-woman support group off and on through the years, and although she lives less than 10 minutes from where I reside right now, it’s been more than 15 years since we have gotten together for a coffee or soda. We kept in touch by email mostly, with the occasional phone call thrown in. It was not a close friendship by any stretch, but there was mutual respect despite the many differences in our lives, lifestyles, and personalities. In my own way I loved her like family, yet the secrets that connected us also kept us at a very long arms length.
Today I learned she passed away last night. A drug overdose.
It’s odd and surreal – I just exchanged emails with her on Tuesday. I suppose I was not close enough of a friend to tell she was using again, although in my heart I would not judge her. Our journeys and choices through life were different, and mine of life with M, kids, friends, work was almost as unbearable to her as the idea of being alone, living on the edge, drinking, drugging, somehow getting by with minimal human contact is to me. Tuesday night she told me I was brave, to be so blithe and cavalier and open about my life and times and history in the blog. She characterized me as courageous to boldly forge relationships and to care for and about others in such a public fashion. I replied that bravery and courage had little to do with it when you are simply someone who tries to blend with the herd and stay invisible in the world where those you love and come to love dwell. She sent me a smile in return and that was that.
I have to leave for training in a few minutes and step back into my choice of life. In the end, I hope she has found that elusive peace. She was not the easiest person to get to know, much less like or love, but she mattered to me. The part of me that let go a long time ago will continue to miss her.
Rest in peace, Carina Leigh.