I’ve been trying to write this post for a while but I keep abandoning my drafts and starting over. I haven’t a clue how to say anything meaningful without sounding trite. But let me try again.

Jon died exactly a year ago. He died of alcoholism. I’ve put off writing about this for a long time because I don’t know how to make people understand. Or to put it more honestly, I’m afraid that people won’t understand. Alcoholism defies understanding. Even though it’s all around us, it’s hard to see it for what it is.

I could go on about how alcoholism is an incurable disease, that alcoholics and addicts aren’t losers, that their disease is not their fault. I could say that people with addiction do horrible things, but that doesn’t mean they are horrible people.

I could try to explain that in loving Jon, I suffered from my own kind of incurable disease. I could write a book on this subject, and maybe someday I will.

I could describe how it felt to watch Jon destroy himself. How he tried so hard to get better, but couldn’t. I could tell you about how I walked away from him a few weeks before he died because his drinking was hurting us both so badly. At the time I thought our separation was temporary. As bad as things were, I believed that Jon would eventually choose recovery and we would be together again. I didn’t realize it was already too late.

I could recount the horrors of that day, a year ago, when I found out that Jon’s life ended. The agony of accepting that was it — that he was gone and I didn’t get to say goodbye.

I don’t have the time or the energy to say it all now, but this is a start.

I have so many feelings about Jon’s death. I’ve spent the past year trying to untangle and sort through them. Sadness, pain, anger, grief, loneliness, frustration, guilt, resignation, relief.  But there is one feeling that continually rises to the surface — I’ve felt it pretty much every day since Jon died.  I’m going to try to focus on that feeling today.

Gratitude.

My therapist often says that addiction is a gift. Most people have a hard time understanding what the hell she means by that. But for me, it makes perfect sense.

A couple of days before he died, Jon sent me a message:

I just want you to know that I believe that you are anything and everything you want to be. Best writer, editor, shooter…you name it. I believe in you. Love always, J.

Jon’s disease brought out the worst in him. It made him manipulative and selfish. He fed me (and many other people) a lot of bullshit in the weeks before he died. But this message was real. Jon believed in me and he made me believe in myself. No one can take that away from me now, and it’s the greatest gift I’ve ever received.

I’m grateful.

Here are a few photos I took this week in one of Jon’s favorite places, the Melville Koppies.

People on Koppies

Bird over koppies

Koppies skyline

Lady and dog

Lady on Koppies

Koppies powerlines

I want to do something special for Jon today. I’m going to make a donation to ToughLove South Africa, an organization that helps families affected by addiction. If you would like to donate to ToughLove too, their banking details are here. If you live outside South Africa and want to donate, please contact me and I’ll make it happen for you. Thanks.

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