"There's a bit of magic in everything, and some loss to even things out." -Lou Reed

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Preconceived Notions

When you hear about an addict--what image does that conjure? Do you think fearful thoughts, judgmental thoughts, compassionate thoughts...or prefer not to think about it at all? I can say in all honesty that years ago, probably even when I was old enough to know better--I was judgmental when thinking of an addict, throwing this person I heard about in a category of failure or depravity that I couldn't imagine being close to.

I cannot begin to say how deeply I have been affected by Katie Granju's story of the loss of her son Henry. I know that initially it was just because in following her blog and her writing, I felt as if I knew her, even just a little, so it was very much like feeling the pain for a friend.

I had read her blog entries, following Henry's struggle for life daily. I read her words and worried for her, hoped for Henry, and learned more about him along the way. Something struck a chord with me. Something deeper.

And then, Henry died.

I have hurt for Katie, but somehow related to Henry in a way I couldn't understand. I am not an addict, have never faced addiction. But, I have suffered from depression and battled it many times alone and in secret because of the stigmas attached to any kind of mental illness. I have been so close to the edge of not coming back. I know that place. I cannot compare my suffering to Henry's. But I know what it is like to feel at the mercy of something that is harming you--and in the face of it being powerless to help yourself or make the right choices. It is horrible, frightening, maddening. And more than heartbreaking.

Then, Katie published Henry's eulogy, given by his father. This series of words made me catch my breath:

...Henry was a brilliant, beautiful baby and child who from the very beginning, simply felt the world more deeply than most of the rest of us. This special sensitivity was both his blessing and his curse. His inborn and intense empathy and intuition gifted him with a natural creativity that he expressed musically and in writing. However, it also caused him great suffering, a suffering that he never seemed to be able to shake completely, and which he eventually attempted to mask in ways that hurt him more than they helped him. Henry was – in so many ways – just too sensitive for the world into which he was born.

A few people who have been close to me forever--who know me well--and who have seen me in darker moments, have often described me in this way--feeling things more deeply....too sensitive for this world...I can see myself in that way. It has been a battle for me my whole life to separate myself more- to not be so deeply hurt by others, by the world around me. I was so struck by the realization that none of us can judge what we would or wouldn't ever do or be. We are all closer to the edge than we care to know. I could have easily slipped into the abyss. The path I took was not so different from Henry's, it was just another form of masking that pain. I think of the harsh judgment I have had in the past thinking of addiction--of addicts. And now, I feel I understand more than I would care to.

Part of the reason I have been so touched is that I am so grateful at this moment for my life, for survival, for making it through everything even though I fervently believed that I would never feel the joy, love, and peace that I do now. I wish with all my heart that Henry had made it through this to feel the same. I have no doubt he would have. The world lost an amazing person--not an addict. A beautiful boy, a beloved son, brother, cousin and friend.

I rarely post a video of this length on my blog, but I ask you to take the 20 minutes to watch it. It is Henry Louis Granju's life in pictures and video. Watch these images and ask yourself tough questions. Make others you know ask themselves tough questions about how we judge people battling addiction and those who love them. And if you have children...please hug them, love them, tell them how amazing they are. Do this in honor of Katie and Henry.


Cheri Pryor June 8, 2010 at 2:13 PM  

I've been far too close to addicts to be judgemental of them. But it does hurt. A lot. It's difficult for me to separate my love for them from my hate of their addictions. It's a fine dance between love/compassion and co-dependency. I dance it every day. Thank you for passing on your own change of heart/attitude towards those with addictions. In times when I am completely, emotionally weary of the journey my loved ones are taking towards sobriety, it is a huge comfort to know there are other compasionate souls waiting in the wings to fill in the gaps.

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RMB June 8, 2010 at 2:57 PM  

Great post.

Many of us, especially recovering co-dependents (from families and relationships with alcoholics and addicts), are challenged with the doubled edged sword of feeling too deeply. Ironically though, it seems that the more interesting people I have encountered "feel too deeply."

You touch on a very important reality - that of the average person having little sympathy for addiction (or mental illness). People tend not to understand what they cannot see - we are classic empiricists.

It is good that we relate with the experiences we can, and that those of us touched by addiction do what we can to share our struggles, and help those persons affected.

Good writing.


Eva Gallant June 8, 2010 at 4:26 PM  

This makes me so sad for his family..to have lost him so soon!

Eva Gallant June 8, 2010 at 4:26 PM  

This makes me so sad for his family..to have lost him so soon!

Eva Gallant June 8, 2010 at 4:26 PM  

This makes me so sad for his family..to have lost him so soon!

Angella Lister June 8, 2010 at 4:35 PM  

Beautiful post. I so understand the feeling of feeling too much. For me, it is like having no skin, like being naked to the world. What makes me truly sad, reading your post, is the level to which Henry has just broken my heart, and yet I cannot feel the same depth of compassion for my own family member who is many years down the road of her addiction. I do believe Henry would have emerged from this. And that makes his loss all the more tragic. I also feel deeply for Katie as a mother myself. My son was born just 3 days before Henry. Same month. Same year. I can see Henry' sweetness in his pictures; I can see the gentle, wisecracking child his mother Katie so loved. I know what that feels like and cannot begin to imagine her pain. Thank you so much for making me aware of their story. It will lead me, among other things, to question my own heart.

Whitney Lee June 9, 2010 at 3:43 PM  

I have been in it, and through it, and also am connected with others who haven't made it to recovery. Addiction is much like any other illness in that it doesn't discriminate.

I hate that this story didn't have a happy ending. You are right, though. It is easy to judge something like this until it actually touches some part of your life. I will keep this family in my thoughts. I truly cannot imagine how heartbroken his mother must be.

Michelle June 10, 2010 at 12:19 AM  

i could not have said this better myself... in fact... it almost felt like i was reading words i myself had written.

i have been judgemental... abiout many things... simply because i didnt understand... and i still dont understand... but i try harder every day... and i empathize... i over empathize...

my heart goes out to the family of that boy... such a light should not have been extinguished... not that early... too early.

very poignant... very well written... and VERY deeply understood post.

Loredana June 10, 2010 at 1:06 PM  

Thank you so much for sharing this post and this video. I must read about Henry now, I must! I understand what it feels like to be 'on the edge' where something else is controlling you and you don't know how or if you'll ever be able to get back to your normal self. Because you don't even know who that normal self is. I never struggled with addiction but I have with depression and sometimes even in secret. I hurt for Henry's parents and I haven't even read his story yet.

Thank you!

Super Single Mom June 12, 2010 at 12:22 PM  

I just cannot imagine. I thought about my 12 year old and how he also seems to feel the world so "deeply"... gosh, just cannot imagine and I could not watch the entire video.
Crystal Lynn

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