Grief & Eugenics: An Ableist Horror Story, Part 11
This installment chronicles a shift towards advocacy and connecting with the community.
This article is Part Eleven in a series of excerpts from Fanshawe grad Adam D. Kearney’s essay, Grief & Eugenics: An Ableist Horror Story.
Around the time of this realization I got an email from the same bereavement organization who put on the sessions I had attended with Jolene. Due to the pandemic, they were now offering online sessions and the Men’s Grief Support Group was calling my name. At the end of a few months of meeting I was asked to provide some feedback. I ended up writing a mini essay which they later published on their website. I figured I would just use a quotation from that to summarize my experience of the group.
“I had experienced first hand the lack of support and stereotypes most men are forced into in our society. “Man up, sit down. Chin up, pipe down. Socks up, don’t cry. Drink up, just lie.” It is largely still a taboo for us to talk about or question gender roles when it comes to grief. It is a burden which is assumed we must carry alone.
Finding myself in a place where I was trying to be proactive in bettering my mental health, I knew I needed to speak with other men about their own journey’s of grief. Even though I didn’t find that I was currently in a bad place or in crisis, I also wanted to help foster and support a much needed community.
Our co-facilitators were great at guiding us through introductions and sharing the stories which brought us together. Offering support and guidance along the way. I have found that being able to give my grief space outside of my own mind very helpful.
Hearing how other people have and continue to navigate their individual grief allows me to add context to my own story.
I can better understand my thoughts and emotions as they present themselves.
Whoa, heavy, right?
Simply put, family and friends mean a lot to me. However, there are some things I have been through in this life that they do not fully understand. Which is no fault of their own, it is because they haven’t had to deal with it in their lives.
I knew going into this support group that it would be a safe and open space for people to share and understand each other.
I was not disappointed. Hearing our stories of sadness, frustration, anger and how life goes on if we are ready or not, gave me the continuing encouragement I need to be a better and stronger me.
I want to thank everyone involved in making it happen, as I feel we are all better for it.”
The last missing piece of the puzzle, and the biggest piece, was disability. Though the rooms of AA have been helpful, they could also be horribly ableist spaces as well. Rarely was I ever in a meeting with someone who identified as a person with disability. I knew of meetings that were 2SLGBTQIA+ friendly, meetings that were for women, there were even meetings for bikers, but I couldn’t find a single disability centered meeting. What I did find eventually was a facebook group called “Disabled & sober/sober curious people” (that is what it is still called today if you are wanting to find it), and it opened my world up in countless ways. I found out firsthand just how bad meetings can be for disabled and neurodiverse folks. I heard other people share about the connections between their substance use and life with disability. Most of all I heard a little part of myself in everyone else’s story. This was really the last piece of the puzzle that let me see the bigger picture, not just understanding what I had gone through, but how I might also move forward.
Enough with the fucking rockets already
In my drinking days I would occasionally get into big blow out arguments with people, but none of them were as big or as bad as the ones I would get into with my father. During a particularly brutal one just months before I got sober, I remember challenging him on some of his ableist views. Talk about the pot calling the kettle black. He threw it back in my face with the obvious reply “well if you actually feel so strongly about it why don’t you actually do something about it.” The sad drunken reality of it was that I realized I was a hypocrite. I had started to stumble down a disability advocacy path but knew I was the worst example of what an advocate should be. You know, an advocate should actually see the value and potential in life with a disability. I have spent the last number of pages rambling on about just where I was at with that, I thought it was impossible to figure it all out. But that was drunk me with a ton of other baggage hanging on.
The more I connected with folks in the Facebook group, the more I connected with the broader disability community that existed on social media. Much like my old camp days, folks started introducing me to articles, podcasts, books and movies. I consumed them ravenously. I wanted to figure out how other people could have dreams of bright Disability Justice Futures, and like what the fuck did that even mean anyway. I have always been a slow reader, I have long assumed I may have undiagnosed dyslexia. But over these last two years of sobriety I have read more disability literature than I have read any books during the decade before. I have even taken to reading some particular books to process my new disability perspective. I was shocked when I got around to reading the Origins of Satan and then a book written by an Italian exorcist how much I could relate to through disability and recovery (again once you look past the religious judgment).
Looking back now I can see where I went wrong–I lost touch with Josh. Not just Josh, but everything that I loved about our relationship. I regret not being able to apologize to him for becoming the person I did, and worse, for not being able to find the simple words that captured how much he meant to me before he passed. Regrettably, I can not change that, or any of the choices I have made in my past. What I can do is try my best to learn from those experiences. There is a gentleman in the meeting that I chair who will often say “no person is ever truly useless, they can always serve as a bad example.” So here is my story laid bare, so that we might be able to make some changes in this mixed up backwards world.
Disability isn’t inherently bad, it is society’s view of it that is. We have come a long way from the stone age. The leaps and bounds we have made in the medical world are astonishing. If you make enough money you can literally build your own dick shaped rocket and fly it into outer space (you would think Jeff Bezos could probably afford to pay his workers a little better). In a world so abundant in resources, why do we continue to devalue and oppress people for something they can’t change?
To be continued…
This memoir essay was published as a zine in Jan. 2023. If you enjoy it and feel you would like to support the author, you can find a pay what you can PDF or purchase a physical copy at handcutcompany.com.
Editorial opinions or comments expressed in this online edition of Interrobang newspaper reflect the views of the writer and are not those of the Interrobang or the Fanshawe Student Union. The Interrobang is published weekly by the Fanshawe Student Union at 1001 Fanshawe College Blvd., P.O. Box 7005, London, Ontario, N5Y 5R6 and distributed through the Fanshawe College community. Letters to the editor are welcome. All letters are subject to editing and should be emailed. All letters must be accompanied by contact information. Letters can also be submitted online by clicking here.