To those of us that didn’t make it to recovery and to those putting the work in every day to get themselves and others to realize the possibility of a life where you can experience joy and live with the bad times without dependency.
I tried my best for you. I wake up sobbing, have panic attacks in public just like I did this morning, but I’m trying my best to heal. We all are. I know you would just want me to be happy, but it’s hard when you aren’t able to move an inch without being reminded of the people you loved. It’s hard when there is no closure. There is nothing but old bills from the hospital and text messages you all saved- warnings I had written, messages of support, numbers you could call, moments of clarity that you wanted to share, thank yous for convincing you to get into treatment, admissions of relapse and bad days, photos of us.
I remember you squeezing my hand and as it turned blue causing alarms to blare, sleeping in the ICU waiting to see you and singing to you, hoping you could hear me. I remember you waking up and believing nobody was waiting in the hospital with you and when I told you that we were all there the entire time waiting for you to wake up, you just sobbed because you didn’t believe you deserved the love we all had for you. The thought of someone you love, that you see as a brother, thinking that they couldn’t be loved that much by anyone- it breaks me. I remember finding your hospital bill months after you passed and seeing how US healthcare failed you, putting you into mountains of debt before you could even legally buy alcohol and seeing how hard it would be for you to reach financial stability in recovery on top of the guilt- you lasted a month before going back to your old ways. I saw your pain. You didn’t need to say anything. I loved you. I still do.
I remember your parents sobbing into my arms, asking me if you were calling out “mommy, help me” and tiptoeing around answers and comfort that I basically had rehearsed at this point in my 20s, telling them that you felt no pain, that you drifted off peacefully, that I know it was an accident, that there was nothing they could have done.
I remember you sobbing into my shoulder when you were released from the hospital… your piercing blue eyes, bloodshot, hospital bands still on your wrists, saying you didn’t know what to do with your life, that you didn’t deserve the car your father gave you even though you knew deep down that he gave it to you because he loves you. You were so lost, but lost in ways that other young adults can only partially relate to unless they have reached into pandora’s box as well.
I remember the hugs you gave me after we sat at the park for a few hours, your class clown attitude melting away as I saw the real you, the real pain, the shame and then the bear hugs you gave me. Still throughout your own struggle, you still comforted me.
I remember your funerals and memorial services. I remember looking at you, admiring how much you would have loved your urn. I remember thinking how good of a job they did to make you look like the person I called my brother. But I also remember those that showed up inebriated in front of their family and friend’s that truly did try to help. You are all too young to understand how to handle the pain and the loss and the guilt of situations where you may have dragged them back to your world. Recovering from these things requires you to admit to things you regret. Talking helps. Survivor’s guilt is real. Very, very real. You can’t truly recover unless you make peace with your own mistakes.
I remember being on the phone with you and your mother, driving to rehab for the first time and the one person you wanted to reach out to at that moment was me. But I also remember you leaving. How I couldn’t convince you to stay.
I remember taking you in, giving you a place to stay after being kicked out, a home-cooked meal that you said was the best thing you had eaten in months. It was a sandwich, love. You needed to eat.
I remember seeing your body in the ICU; Without the clothes swallowing your body, I didn’t see just how emaciated you really looked until then. I don’t know how I missed the signs that things were much worse than I originally thought.
I remember convincing two of you to go to college. You both wanted to be engineers like me. I promised I would help you with applications, your GED, studying, finding scholarships. I knew you both were capable of much more than you thought you were. You both were so bright. It hurt to see so much doubt in your eyes.
I remember getting my first “you were right, I should have listened, please help me, I’m scared” text from you. It was deja vu. I had been here before and hoped it wouldn’t reach this point, but I was glad to be there for you. I did everything in my power to help. I didn’t want to be right about where this life would lead for you, but I unfortunately have seen it time and time again. I see the whole process. I’m not blind to it anymore. I saw the struggle and pain in the eyes.
I remember everything. Every detail. It haunts me, but it’s because I loved you all and I still do.
I can’t bury any more of my friends. I don’t know if I would be able to mentally recover.
I constantly feel guilty that I’m here and they are not. This beautiful sky is something you cannot see. One mistake and you were gone. You cannot recover if you are dead. People need to be given the chance to fight- increased funding for treatment centers, needle exchanges, mental health care, free narcan provided at pharmacies with free training on how to spot an overdose and proper administration, resources for loved ones to help them gain empathy for the experience of an addict, empathy from medical professionals, addressing homelessness, properly punishing the companies responsible for this epidemic instead of letting them off easy to make an example, provide closure, and fund programs to allow addicts to survive to the point of seeking recovery. Survivor’s guilt of former addicts needs to be more publicised as well. Maybe there was something I could have said. Maybe if I didn’t get in that fight with you, you wouldn’t have moved away and I could have saved you if something were to have happened here. It’s not your fault, but it is ok to not be ok.
I love you all so much. I miss you every day. How is it fair that millenial and gen z’s generation are dying before we reach 21? My friends should be alive. No parent should have to bury their child.
I remember the nurse said “you got extremely lucky this time, but next time, you might not be as lucky.” You’re right. He wasn’t. I know that nurse was trying to get through to him, but I don’t think many medical professionals can see it from their point of view. The immense shame, the lowest lows, near-death experiences, the stigma- it all stops us from getting help. Please find it in your heart to listen to addict’s stories. Go to an NA meeting, speak to people in this situation- especially the younger generation still filled with what looks like angst, but in reality is just a scared child, unable to function in this world because a drug has complete control over them and feeds on misery. Shaming them for trying to seek help only furthers the stigma against addicts of all kinds.
Relapse is an unfortunate part of recovery for many, but please if you are reading this and struggling… please try a treatment center for methadone, suboxone or any other options to see if it may be something you would be interested in. There are resources for you in those places. It takes time to relearn how to be human, how to make small talk
Know that once anhedonia hits and that pink cloud has let out from under you, that it is possible to move through it, to feel those emotions instead of hiding them away and numbing yourself. Pick up hobbies. Reach out to loved ones. Cut off all contact with people who are actively using- I know it is hard, but many will understand and respect it. Put the work in. You may be surprised at just how strong you can be.
Hunter, Dennis, Carson- we love you.