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Memento Mori

Death is a confounding thing, isn’t it? It can happen just like that, to anyone you know in any moment of the day. It all starts when you are a child. There is a moment in everyone’s life when they come to the realization that they are going to die. Most of us don’t want to face this. Even as we get older, we don’t talk about, we don’t think about it, and we pretend like it doesn’t even exist. We have even created ideologies and have doctrines that bring us “comfort” and tell us that we will continue living on after death. It chills us right down the center of every atom that vibrates in our being, to even think about these existential facts. It is dumbfounding that something so palpable is such a taboo topic of conversation.

When it comes to Substance Use Disorder (SUD) I believe this aberration causes more harm than good. When we make decisions about boundaries and how we are going to treat our loved ones, who are struggling with SUD, out of a fear of them dying, it makes our decisions and the situation much worse. How it feels to lose a son or daughter to this disease, I can only imagine. After my divorce my kids ended up in Florida. That was insanely difficult, and they are still alive, I also get to see them at least 6 weeks a year. My parents lost two children. To say the least, my divorce alone gave me the up most respect for my parents going through this loss, so the point I attempt to make in the following discussion I know is not an easy place to get to. Think about the fact that if you had a child, brother, best friend, living with you and they were struggling with SUD, how that would affect your way of thinking, your actions, and the language you use with them. The fear that anything could drive them to disappear would run your existence. For instance, I set such in such boundary, they cross it, I kick them out, they use, they die, and I feel responsible, after all I was the one that drove them out. I believe it is this type of thinking that is keeping us from dealing with our loved ones in a responsible manner. A manner which could start changing so many lives.

The biggest step, I believe, is to come to terms that dying is a very real possibility. This is a possibility for anyone, at any moment, everywhere. Add a serious intravenous heroin disorder, that possibility goes up tenfold. Again, this is not something that is being said lightly. Death of someone we love is painful, it hurts, and is outright unbearable at times. To have a thought that you will never see, touch, hear, and feel someone you love ever again; well that is onerosity in its truest form. We must learn how to honor and respect the fact that our loved ones have a high percentage of losing their life amongst this disease, but at the same time to not allow the thought of them dying run our decision making. Mortality is universal, but what I have noticed over the years of reading eastern philosophical literature is that many people, in the east, are taught early on in life to look at the world in terms of yin and yang. Meaning, death would mean nothing without life, and vice-versa. I believe a paradigm shift in our perspective of death can come from the simple thing that we are doing right now, thinking and talking about it. The Latin phrase “memento mori” comes to mind. This phrase is a simple but extremely powerful one. It basically translates to “be mindful of death”. This simple practice can bring us comfort. It can bring us to a point where we can be at peace with death and not allow it to control every decision we make.

It is so important to remember the choices our loved ones make are not a result of our doings. They are not a result of our faults and character defects. We can only truly help our loved ones when we let go of our fear of them dying. When we can come to terms with the fact that death is a possibility, that’s when we can make the decisions that could help them change. This sounds somewhat morbid. Even as I’m typing this I keep slowing down and debating if I should even be discussing this subject. That’s the kind of thinking that keeps us from getting better on the subject. Think about it, think about going to sleep and never waking up again. Think about a loved one going to sleep and never waking up again. Find your way of coming to terms with it. Because only you can figure out how to do that. This blog is not being written to give you answers, it is being written to get you motivated to find your own. When the fear of death is no longer clouding your thinking, then and only then, will your life change in a way where it can change other’s.

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