I have lost a friend. The world has lost a light. And while this is one of the last times and one of the times I want least to make it all about me, like most everyone who knew her, I need to tell you my Sarah story.
I used to see her around, knew who she was, knew whose kid she was, but I didn’t know anything about her until the day she walked into my 12-Step recovery group. In fact, she was escorted into the room, crying and clearly broken, a caring guide on either side of her. It was after all the, “Hi, my name’s Amanda, and I struggle with addiction,” introductions so she didn’t get to/have to say any of that. But I knew. We were the only two of our kind in the group.1
Sarah did not come back to my group, and I used to wonder if she was too embarrassed or discouraged2, thinking she was the only one of her kind ~ which I could easily wonder, having often thought the same thing. Sometimes the addicts are obvious, but not always.
Later, I would have the good fortune to become friends with Sarah, and later still, she did reveal her struggles to me. I can’t actually remember that conversation the way that I remember her coming into the room that day ... because it was like ink and water between us. I knew and she knew that I knew. And that’s how it remained between us.
We never chilled together - or whatever it is the young folk call it these days. We really were just at odd angles to one another, I think - her being right between my daughters’ ages and my own. But I kept an eye on her, would see her around, and would always have a sense of where she was on the scale, and I know that she knew that, and there was never a distance, or a judgment, or discouragement or embarrassment between us that I could sense. I loved her and I’m convinced that she knew that too.
On Sarah’s memorial page, another of her friends posted a story about the first time they met. She tells how Sarah insisted that she listen to a song with some possibly sketchy lyrics ~ who does that when you’ve just met?! I don’t know if you’ve seen Garden State, but there’s a similar scene in that movie that maintains a special corner in my mind. There’s Natalie Portman, grinning with joy and something akin to pride, as she shares her song with someone she’s just met, someone she knows in her soul is kindred. I’ve inserted Sarah’s face into that ethereal scene.
I've also read those lyrics.
Sarah’s paths were darker than mine have been, but still, we knew each other.
That Sarah struggled with addiction may or may not have been obvious, but something else about her was clear and bright. She did know Jesus. She did know that her hope was in him. And she did cling to him, knowing that he would never leave her, no matter the path.
For people without this kind of faith, I imagine it’s hard to imagine that someone can struggle with something like addiction, and at the same time be assured of God’s love and salvation. I can pretty much promise you: it’s even harder for the believer to believe it. But as I’m certain that Sarah must have, there are certain promises to which we may cling.
For instance, I am certain that God, who began a good work within me, will continue his work until it is finally finished. (Philippians 1:6)
Sarah fought harder to overcome her addictions than anyone I’ve ever known.3 She may not have beaten it in this life, but I am certain that he has completed his work in her. And while I may not see Sarah again in this life, I will see her on the other side.
I’ve never been the devotion-writing type of writer. Don’t think I’ve written much or often or anything, maybe, that inspires someone to ... anything, maybe. I’m usually making it all about me, but if ever I could write one especially for you, for those of you who’ve been to the otherside, this would be it.
And here’s what I want you to know and what I’m convinced that Sarah would want you to know:
Even when we are broken, when we struggle, when we continue to struggle, when we are addicts, when we hurt people, when we can’t get our shit4 together, when we can’t overcome, when we fail, when we feel lost, when we feel unloved or unlovable...
We are loved.
“God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)
We need not be lost.
Indeed, Jesus has come to seek and to save those who are lost. (Luke 19:10)
And we are never alone.
“For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”“ Hebrews 13:5
Not all of you will understand this, but some of you will. Some of you will know me, will know Sarah, will know the struggles of which I speak. Sometimes the lyrics are obvious, but not always.
So just on the chance that you need a new song5, I’d like to pass you over my headphones...
1. Celebrate Recovery mixed group
2. I’d written most of this before Sarah’s memorial. I learned during the service that this may very well have been the first of any kind of group she’d entered, but it was certainly not the last. In fact, in the years that followed, she immersed herself into a community of supportive, caring people. This is a key step to recovery.
3. As another of her friends has noted, this kind of loss can be a discouragement and even a trigger for certain ones of us. Part of Sarah’s legacy is to fight hard against that which would defeat us. Please remember her for all that was good and beautiful about her. And please fight hard for your sobriety.
4. I’ve maintained a pretty strict code regarding the words I put in writing, but this time - I’m sorry - my imperfection had to show.
5. I Am Not Alone, Kari Jobe
6. If you know me, my family, my situation, any of it, then you know that Sarah could have been my daughter. To have made this about that, however, would have seemed indecent in my pit, in my spirit. Another time. Maybe.