I met Caroline several years ago, and she scared the shit out of me.
This happens every now and again. I meet another woman in recovery and I get TERRIFYING vibes off her. And I’ve learned, in the 9+ years I’ve been sober, that those vibes mean “this is someone I am supposed to know.”
Caroline had a magnificent “faux hawk,” great shoes, and a scowl. On paper, Caroline had it all: she grew up in the right neighborhood, went to the right boarding school, graduated from an Ivy League college. She was beautiful, athletic, and smart. But she struggled with her addiction, as we all do. I often sensed her sizing me up, as I did her. Our chats were friendly, but guarded. I was scared to death of her, even as I knew that she was supposed to be in my orbit, at that time, because she had something to teach me. I kept my distance. When she moved to California, I was relieved.
She requested my “friendship” on Facebook. I was flattered. I didn’t expect much. I got plenty.
Where we were unable to communicate in person, online our conversations exploded into hilarity. Our favorite pastime was “How Far Can You Go?” We’d trade jokes in extremely poor taste, upping the ante until one of us would take it just beyond that edge (and it was usually Caroline). I’d sit at my desk shaking with silent laughter, unable, most of the time, to share with anyone else what I was finding so funny.
One afternoon, we were exchanging stories about freakish things we did as kids. Back and forth we went until she dropped this bomb on me:
“I used to hoard my toenail clippings in a Barbie suitcase.”
“Oh. My. God. You win.”
I was so happy about the way our friendship was evolving. I figured I’d see her the next time she came back East to visit her family, and we could finally talk in person the way we were meant to.
Today I ran into my friend Nick. He told me Caroline was dead.
Caroline. Dead. Those words aren’t supposed to go together. How far can you go? Too far, as it turns out.
You hear it “in the rooms” all the time. You hear it, and yet sometimes you just can’t accept it. Because you go a few months, and maybe years, without drinking or picking up, and you start to feel “better.” And when you’re feeling better, it’s entirely too easy to forget that you’re sick. And you forget that THIS SHIT WILL KILL YOU.
And THIS SHIT affects people from all walks of life. It’s not because we weren’t brought up properly. It’s not because we’re amoral, hedonistic, selfish assholes. It’s because we’re sick. On paper, Caroline had it all: a good upbringing, an Ivy League education. She wrote poetry. She kick-boxed. She made me laugh so hard that I cried. But she was an addict, just like I am. She’s dead. This fucking sucks. I told Nick, “It sucks when anyone dies from this. But it sucks so much more when it gets the SMART ONES.”
I’m so sorry, Caroline. I’m sorry.