My cousin died this week. Ironically, she died on the anniversary of my mom’s double mastectomy. So on the day that mom and I were celebrating her life, my cousin was losing hers. Obviously, this is a sad occasion, but what makes it worse is that my cousin did not have to die. And it is because of this that I find myself feeling unable to mourn her loss.
You see my cousin was a drug addict. She had been offered all kinds of help for years and always obnoxiously refused it. The last time I saw her, she was in the hospital trying to get her druggie friends to smuggle marijuana brownies up to her. She was happy and smiling. It’s a nice memory, except for the drugs and the fact that doctors had told her if she didn’t change her way of life that she wouldn’t make it. But she there was smiling and happy, seemingly oblivious to the goblin knocking at her door. She balked at the doctors one and all, giving her usual three-finger salute to them in defiance.
But that was my cousin.
Years ago, she had a prestigious job making 70K. Then through a course of bad decisions and destructive relationships, her life just spiraled out of control.
Now she’s gone and I’m feeling kind of numb.
Perhaps it’s because I’m so emotionally exhausted from everything I’ve been through this past year that my emotional resources or drained. Or perhaps it’s because I no longer had a close relationship with my cousin having allowed it to drift away. Think of me what you will, but after growing up with a parent who had an alcohol and drug addiction problem; I felt completely unable to cope with her problems too. But I think it has more to do with the fact that for the past year I have watched people valiantly fight to keep living in the face of cancer.
After being exposed to that kind of strength and courage on a daily basis, it just feels impossible to have much sympathy for my cousin right now. True, drug addiction is a medical issue, but she had more resources than most and more chances than I can think of to help herself. She didn’t have to die, but for some reason she chose to.
I don’t know if she didn’t take the doctors seriously or she just didn’t care. Perhaps she was tired. I don’t know and there was no way of getting an answer out of her. She was so drug addled the last time I saw her that it was difficult to decipher much of what she was saying.
I hope this doesn’t sound like I’m judging her harshly, because I’m not. For some reason, she chose a tragic existence for herself that hastened her death. That’s horrible. I couldn’t save her, even though I wanted to. But there comes a point when you’re dealing with someone like this, that you realize that you can’t save them. They have to save themselves.
My dad was able to overcome his addictions and I was hoping the same for my cousin, but it wasn’t to be and it had nothing to do with fate, but with her own poor choices.
Just the same, I loved her, and yes, this is a loss, and not only to my family, but the community at large. You see, before drugs took over her life, my cousin was a social worker. I remember being amazed at the stories she’d tell of the people she’d helped. So, it’s ironic that she, not only became someone who needed help, but also someone who refused it. She had devoted her life to helping people in situations like hers and she did so much good. God only knows why even started taking drugs to begin with. She’d seen firsthand with so many of her clients how much drug addiction can destroy lives.
Maybe I’m a little angry at her. I don’t know.
I tell myself that I stopped missing her a long time ago, because the person she became was not the person I used to know and admire. But that’s a lie. Perhaps I’ve already mourned her and maybe that’s the reason why I’m feeling the way I do now or maybe this is another lie and I’m just stuffing my feelings for her deep down inside because this all hurts so much.
Even so, I loved her, even if right now, I feel too hurt or numb to even shed a tear.