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There’s a saying in AA, “There but for the grace of God go I.” It’s most often used when someone else relapses, or worse, as relapse can and often does lead to worse fates. I was thinking about this when I saw the news about actor Cory Monteith’s death. True, it hasn’t been confirmed yet that drugs were involved, but given his age (31) and his admitted struggles with drugs, it seems likely that the cause of death will be determined to have been an overdose. Truly sad.

I never got into drugs other than alcohol, unless you want to count sugar and caffeine. Drugs always scared me, so it was one path I never went down. My personality is such that I have no doubt whatsoever that had I taken them, I would have had problems with them. I am an addict, period. Sure, my drug of choice was alcohol. But an addict is an addict. The fact that I am sober, and have been for many years, is grace, pure and simple. Every time I hear one of these stories about someone who lost the battle with drugs or alcohol, I am both saddened and filled with gratitude. Saddened because it pains me to see anyone lose that battle, and grateful because I know that I am very, very lucky. I never understand why some people receive grace with respect to addiction and others never do. I know it’s not based on being “deserving,” because everyone deserves grace. It’s not based on need, either, because I have seen people get sober (or not) very early or very late in the stages of addiction. If it were need, the worst cases would always find help, yes? Unfortunately – heartbreakingly – it doesn’t work that way.

I got sober at 19 years old. My drinking career was blessedly short, and back when I was newly sober I had a lot of “old timers” say useful things to me like, “I spilled more beer than you ever drank.” I came up with a bunch of funny comebacks, but bottom line, it didn’t matter. However much beer they’d spilled, I was still there because I knew I had a problem. My age was irrelevant. From the moment I took even a sip of alcohol, I had zero choice and zero control. I threw up, a lot. I blacked out. I woke up covered in my own vomit, my head feeling like I had fallen down several flights of stairs. All of that over and over and over again. I could go to a party, grit my teeth and choose not to drink, but if I had even one, everything I just described would come to pass, because I never had just one. It wasn’t possible. When I got sober, my desire to drink was removed early. This is not the case for everyone, and I have always counted myself lucky. The first year was the hardest. I didn’t want to drink, but I also didn’t want to live. Every day was a struggle, and mostly I didn’t see the point. Sober but miserable isn’t a fun way to live. I went to meetings, I worked the steps, I prayed a lot and got through everything one day at a time, or sometimes one hour at a time. It was a long year, but at least I am here to talk about it. Some people aren’t that fortunate.

I don’t know why I am one of the lucky ones. I don’t know why Cory Monteith isn’t. There are so many people who weren’t lucky. Every time I read these stories, I look at Chris and Braeden and Avery and thank God for this particular piece of grace. My life isn’t perfect. In fact, these last five years have given me a whole lot of reasons to be angry at God, the universe, whatever. But I am here to be angry. I am here to kiss my daughter’s boo boos and watch my son ham it up for my entertainment. I am here to rail at the universe, or hold my husband’s hand and pray that eventually things will be all right for my family. I am here. Cory Monteith wasn’t so lucky.

There but for the grace of God….