[Hello, my friends... I have suffered a tremendous loss this week and it was suggested by a friend that I write about it, all of it, like I am talking to a stranger on a bus. I am doing just that. it will be stream-of-consciousness that I am hoping will make sense. if not, try and look beyond the sentence fragments and look at my heart.]
I have a new part-time job, one that required a drug screen and fingerprinting upon hiring - I am a receptionist at a Methadone clinic on Saturday mornings. I love it. I knew the job was meant for me when I saw it advertised in the paper, long story short: I started 3 weeks ago. Love these people, right up my alley, may eventually continue my schooling and get my addictions counseling certificate. However, I don't want to digress from who I am desirous of writing about, and that is my friend Audrey.
As some of you know, my last drink was had on December 2, 2007. I held on for dear life my first week and decided I needed a bit of help so I started going to meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous the following week and have yet to stop.
I remember two women very distinctly when I first started coming around, one of whom was Audrey. It was my third meeting and I walked into a crowded meeting and took a seat. She was loud, and fun, and gregarious and I liked her immediately, even though I wasn't there to make friends. She just seemed "real."
Over the ensuing months, I started sitting near where she was and we would exchange pleasantries. I found out a lot about her - she was open and honest, loved wine (as did i), loved her dog, was a gardener, had a pool, rode a motorcycle, loved being sober, was on the biggest flippin' pink cloud I had ever witnessed. I had pink cloud envy. I wanted to be cranky about her cloud, but could not. It suited her.
I guess I had about 9 or 10 months' of sobriety when Audrey took a long-planned vacation to I believe it was Africa. She said to me, in her usual joking manner, that she was afraid once she got on the cruise ship, she'd drink a glass of wine. What do they say when people make half-truth jokes? There is some truth behind their words? True to her word, she was barely on deck when she picked up and she didn't put down for two weeks. She felt all she would have to do is simply start back at AA meetings and she would be fine.
I guess it was about the springtime when she asked me if I would be her sponsor - Feb or March of 2009. Of course I said yes and we set off on doing our step work together. I think she got to about Step 9 and then admitted to me that she had been drinking the entire time she had done her step work. doh!! The sponsor is truly the last to know. We went back to Step 1. We did Steps 1, 2 and 3 several times over the ensuing months and she just.couldn't.stay.sober.
She would be on the beam for a week or so, then Friday would roll around and I wouldn't hear from her. I knew before she even called me what had happened - she picked up. As boisterous and belligerent and defiant as she could be with me, I always got that phone call - the one where she was crying and remorseful and sick and tired of being sick and tired. (I am omitting the quotes from a lot of the catch-phrases from AA, just bear with me...) I would say "are you ready, yet? time to surrender!" she would be like "I think so...." I would tell her that she had to completely surrender and start developing a relationship with her Higher Power and put herself into service and keep away from the liquor store. She was "all in" on Monday; by Friday, no call/no show.
But I never gave up on her. I would always try to encourage her to keep trying, she kept attending meetings, she kept calling me, she kept up with our 1-2-3 Step dance we would do, and she kept being Audrey. I also tried my damndest to convince her to get to a rehab -- a month off, working the steps intensively, getting away from her harried life, and she would steadfastly refuse. "I love ya, Pen, but that ain't happenin'." I loved her to bits. She would call me and at the end of our conversations, inevitably tell me how much she appreciated me, was grateful for me, loved me and was so amazed that I never gave up on her. She was never short on affirmations, that girl. I always ended with the same sentiments and would say "never will."
This past February, when she had let up on her program of "inaction," she called and asked if I could meet her for coffee, she wanted to tell me something. [Read: we didn't have a "falling out," but we were not actually connecting, either. the phone call both surprised and delighted me.] We met up at Starbucks and she dropped the bomb on me: "I'm leaving for rehab the first week of March." get. out. I was shocked and I said "why wait?" as only a sponsor would. She said "because my birthday is at the end of February and I want to drink." I said "Aud!!" she was to her own self true, that's for sure.
She went for her annual mammogram in between the news of rehab and actually leaving for same and found out in between days that she had a suspicious mass on her left breast. She was a breast cancer survivor, and was very diligent to make sure she had her check-ups (and, in fact, did two 60-miles walks for breast cancer, God bless her!), but this one needed biopsying. the week before she was supposed to leave for rehab, the cells came back "suspicious" and she said instead of putting her body through chemo and radiation again, she would have the "girls lopped off" and "get new, perky ones" in their place. This is what she opted to do this time around. But first, off to rehab she went.
[Sidebar: I just spent the better part of this past 45 minutes looking for the letter she sent me from rehab. I JUST.SAW.IT. like two or three weeks ago. argh!!]
She got back and we started back in on our steps, you guessed it, at Step 1. She had 30 days of continuous sobriety, and she was beaming. She really wanted it this time around and was willing to do things differently. like call me when she felt like going to the liquor store...go to meetings, faithfully...work on her steps...she was in the middle of her 4th step for the last few weeks because she was busy going to doctors and getting tests done. She was sober and loving her program, and in fact, we talked frequently and she was learning how to make her own sugar-free jams and jellies because she "needed a new hobby" since drinking was out. She made peach and strawberry preserves and was pretty proud of herself for doing so :)
The time was winding down to when she was getting ready for her surgery. Her husband's adult son had been in and out of the hospital, having lymphoma himself, and taking on experimental treatments. She had actually spoken of postponing her surgery until after his son was out of the woods, but we discussed it at great length and she made the decision to move forward -- she had people in place that were set to help her out when she got home, and her sister-in-law was scheduled to come stay with her for a few weeks to assist while she was recuperating. A couple of us were planning on taking meetings to her when she was at home: we were all set.
We had breakfast a couple of weeks ago and just really connected - she was preparing to celebrate her 5th month of sobriety and was just beside herself that she was able to stay sober and back on track. She invited me and my daughter to come swim in her pool that afternoon, and my daughter was thrilled at the invite. We went and spent the afternoon with her, floating around, she and Molly connecting on a savvy 18 year-old vs. salty adult level and hit it off. When we were leaving, Molz said "Audrey, you are a great time!" Audrey said "Molly, you're a great kid!" I’m like "let's go, the meeting is over of the Mutual Admiration Society." We all had a great laugh and it was wonderful.
Fast forward to last Saturday. I was invited by Aud to attend the morning meeting because she had five months' of continuous sobriety, officially, and her former sponsor was speaking and a dear friend was chairing. Unfortunately, I had to work at my clinic job, but I understand it was a wonderful meeting and she was beaming. It was her last meeting prior to her surgery, which was scheduled for Monday.
On Monday, August 8t, Audrey had a double mastectomy and reconstructive surgery immediately following. From what I understand, the surgery was supposed to take about 6-8 hours, but it took over 12. Her husband called and said the doctor reported she was doing fine, and the she was in recovery. The following day, however, it was discovered that she had a blood clot in her left breast and had to go back into the OR to have it removed. I am unsure of what happened, but she came out of surgery, still attached to the ventilator that was inserted prior to surgery and was moved to the Intensive Care Unit. I didn't find any of this out until Wednesday, when her friend shared with me that she was going to take a ride up to the cancer center for a visit on Thursday, but since Aud was in the Unit, she opted to not go up to see her because she was unsure if she would be able to get in and wanted her to get her rest. I had no idea Aud had gone through such a hard time, but I got a call from the patient herself on Friday afternoon, around 4:50 p.m. I was getting something out for my boss and said I would call her back, and she said she'd "take my call if she wasn't busy...." bless her salty self!
She ended up calling me because she was being transferred from ICU to the floor when I returned her call. I asked if she felt that she had been hit by a truck and she said "No, two..." She maintained her sense of humor and we had a great chat for about 10 minutes until I could tell she was getting a bit tired. She affirmed me, as she always did, and made it a point to ask me to let her buddies from her homegroup that she loved them and was "doing A-okay." What a gem. I asked her if she would like a visit from me and her friend AnnMarie and told her that we planned on coming up to see her on Sunday aternoon. She was excited at the prospect, and so were we.
Saturday morning, I went to work and at about 7:10 a.m., Audrey's phone number/picture showed up on my phone. I thought "what on earth is she doing up this early??" and let the call go to voicemail. About two seconds later, the phone rang again, and it was Audrey, again, and my supervisor said "you can get that from you need to?" and I said "It is one of my sponsees -- she just had surgery, something may be up?" so I asked if I could take five minutes to return her call. I listened to my voicemail message and it wasn't Audrey, after all - it was her sister-in-law/caregiver Liz, who simply stated her name and that I should return her call as soon as possible. I knew it was not good. I called the house number again and got a busy signal. I tried several times and finally, decided to call Audrey's husband, Dave, on his cell phone. He answered right away and said, quite frankly, that Audrey had passed away at 3:45 am. They were unsure what happened, she was lucid and coherent, speaking with the nurses one minute, and the next minute, complaining of nausea and dizziness and she basically passed out. From what I was told, they worked on her for 45 minutes to an hour and she didn't come back. She was "pronounced."
I finished out my 4-hour shift in a state of shock. I didn't know what to do - I called my best friend to tell him what had happened and thereafter, called Audrey's sister-in-law and spoke with her. I called the gal I was supposed to go see her with her on Sunday, and she had a very difficult time accepting what I was telling her. She insisted on seeing me because she wanted to be with someone who "loved Aud" and as soon as I was finished work, I met her at Our Lady of Sorrows Church and we sat and cried and prayed and lit candles and reflected on a life well lived and cut short unexpectedly.
I am broken-hearted over my loss and just needed to get it on paper, in black and white. i am processing through the pain and am not trying to isolate, but have been sleeping. Sleeping a lot. Audrey's services are Saturday and they are getting the hall together Friday night in preparation for the luncheon to follow. I have feelings about the conversation I had with her sister-in-law that I am also processing through, and am not quite ready to disuss them yet. Just acknowledging them is helpful.
There is more. As lot more. This has taken me literally hours to write and I am sure is not even close to my best writing. That's okay, though - this is my and Audrey's story, and to quote my girlfriend, "I'm stickin' to it."
Posted by ~pen~ at 8/16/2011 10:58:00 PM