You may have heard the recent news about the death of Soundgarden lead singer Chris Cornell.  While the story is still unfolding,  his death was reportedly a suicide by hanging.   Cornell was only 52 years old and a recovering addict.   His family is questioning whether the drug Ativan played a role in his death. Cornell had a prescription for the anxiety drug but may have exceeded the recommended dosage. The possible side effects for the medication are suicidal thoughts and impaired judgement.   Was it the addict in him that led him to take “just a little bit more” for added benefit?   Cornell went public about being newly sober with the help of Alcoholics Anonymous in 2003. He remained clean and sober for many years. And then this.  A tragic, preventable death.

But what you didn’t hear about in the news was the passing of a lovely, elderly woman who battled alcoholism for decades. I had the privilege of meeting her “in the rooms” and getting sober having her “experience, strength and hope” to guide me.   She was an animated Southern belle, who said the serenity prayer and Lord’s prayer next to me in meetings with her trademark slow, Southern drawl. Her death brings sorrow and grief to those who knew and loved her, but there is also a certain amount of peace surrounding it because she died a sober woman. She fought the “cunning, baffling and powerful” disease for decades. And won. I’ll always remember her humorous stories and infectious laughter.

So the contrast? A famous lead singer in a popular rock band. A little-known, elderly Southern woman. Two completely different worlds.   Suicide vs. natural causes. The common factor? Addiction. Supposedly both recovering alcoholics/addicts.   Vastly different people bonded together by sharing the same disease.  I guess Cornell’s toxicology report will shed some light on whether or not he was, in fact, still in the throes of his addiction. Regardless, I pray for both of their families and that they both rest in peace.

The death of famous actors or musicians tends to raise awareness about addiction, temporarily at least. But what about the millions of “normal” people who battle the disease valiantly out of the limelight but succumb to its power?   Their passing isn’t plastered on newspapers and magazines or online publications. Some die on the streets a horrific, lonely death without anyone even knowing. Not sure if that is worse or if being the loved one having to watch someone die from alcoholism is.

This isn’t one of my more upbeat blog posts. But it needed to be written. The death of an addict, famous or not, serves as a good reminder of why we fight the fight every day. As has been said many times, alcoholism is “cunning, baffling and powerful.” It takes strength and determination to win the fight. It takes discipline. It takes HELP. If you need it, ASK for it. Many recovering alcoholics or addicts, including myself, take prescription drugs for anxiety, depression or other things.   We need to remain diligent and not let ourselves go to that place where we may think “just a little more” will help.   Cross-addiction is something that we hear about all too often.

When I drank, it was always “just a little more.”   Just one more drink. Just a little more wine. Just another shot. And it always led to just a little more trouble. Now, it’s “just a little more” in a much different way. Just a little more time without a drink. Just a little more serenity. Just a little more strength. Just a little more help from my higher power. There are many things for which more is better. Alcohol and drugs aren’t examples of those.

I’m in NYC this weekend celebrating my upcoming anniversary of 5 years of sobriety. Back to the last place where I had a drink, Memorial Day weekend of 2012. I am so much stronger than I was back then. So much more grateful. And honestly, I’m just a little more proud.

“Talent is God-given. Be humble. Fame is man-given. Be grateful. Conceit is self- given. Be careful. “ – John Wooden