I heard from a few people that Al Anon (similar to Alcoholics Anonymous, but for the loved ones of Alcoholics) is really helpful, even if the loved one has a different addiction. When I looked up available Al Anon meetings there were some every day of the week, at several locations fairly close to me, and at multiple times throughout the day. This was encouraging, but at the same time made me upset. It seemed unfair that this support was so readily available to loved ones of alcoholics, but not of other addictions. Perhaps this was evidence of the stigma even the families of illegal-drug addicts feel when trying to cope. Hmm...
I decided on a 1 PM meeting and arrived almost an hour early. I walked through the church courtyard, straight to the office, and confidently asked the woman to point me in the direction of the Al Anon meeting. No shame this time. I was there to get help and I didn't care who knew it. She pointed at a room that wasn't open yet, but told me there was a bench outside of it where I could sit and wait. I let my skin take in the sun even as I got hot and a bit sweaty. I wanted to be completely engulfed in the light that I had deprived myself of for the past couple of days. I breathed in and out, letting my lungs swell with the air of the outside world that I felt happy to be a part of today.
Although I can't share much about what went on due to confidentiality, I will say that I did not speak at all during this meeting aside from choking on my name. I don't think this was because I was afraid, but because I just needed to sit and soak it all in. Instead of talking, I did a lot of crying, listening, and reflecting. After it concluded, the woman next to me, perhaps sensing the inner conflict I felt after not speaking up, reassured me that it wasn't necessary to share at the meetings. She explained that sometimes you get even more out of what someone else said.
During the meeting I scribbled down a quote from the book, Courage to Change, that the leader had someone read a passage from:
"We are only as sick as our secrets.
Until we let them out into the light, they keep us trapped."
After the wave of insecurity I put myself through over the past few days, this really resonated with me. As much as Blake's death was about him, it is now a part of me and all of those who love him. This tragedy can either become a pain buried in the depths of my heart, or a scar that blends into the landscape of my skin. It's my choice.
I realize I need to get to a place where I allow this experience to become a part of me without it defining me. This is tricky and is going to take time to navigate. But while I'm working on that, I can find comfort in my choice to free myself of the burden of carrying the hurt as a secret. I've made an effort to not get trapped and I am very proud of myself for sticking to that decision.