Smack(ed) – updated

This piece was originally posted last week.  I deleted it on the request of the loved one of my friend, but after much reflection am reposting it with the name of my friend removed.  It seems appropriate since while my friend was special, the situation, unfortunately, is not.  As the victim of a terrible disease and the drug dealers who feed that illness, he could have been anyone.  Heroin is killing the friends and family of people regardless of socio-economic, educational, ethnic and geographic boundaries. Sanitizing the situation does not change that fact.  Read more about this very real epidemic in Paul Grondahl’s ongoing series.  Peace to all of you who have lost children, siblings, parents and friends.  You’re not alone.

This morning on Facebook, nestled between the steady stream of photos capturing joyous Christmas scenes, there came some news I’ve been expecting for some time. But, as James Michener said, “We are never prepared for what we expect.”

When I met my friend, he was so on his game. Handsome as hell, kind, thoughtful and eager to learn, he had the potential to go anywhere. His days were spent working with other addicts, going to the gym and waiting tables. He was shiny and clean.

Over the time we worked together he shared some of his history with me. Hard drugs are something with which I have no experience. I don’t understand the appeal of a substance which may initially lift you up but ultimately will pull you down to the darkest of places. My friend talked about regrets and his hopes for his future. He was so smart and self-aware he convinced me that the days ahead were going to be brighter than those of his past. Until he told me he was looking forward to getting out from under the watch of the judicial system because he was eager to explore food and wine pairings at the restaurant where we worked together. I knew then that his sobriety wasn’t going to last, but the speed with which he ultimately fell was breathtaking.

I watched as his work ethic changed and his physical appearance deteriorated. He would disappear from the dining room floor at the end of the shift and return sweating and amped up in an almost aggressive way. He was soon fired and quickly burned through a number of subsequent jobs. He totaled his car and lost his sweet girlfriend. It was sad to see him.

My friend contacted me occasionally. About two years ago a longtime friend lost his son, a son who also happened to be a close friend of my friend’s. They shared the same disease and my friend had been the last person to see him alive. My friend looked like shit when I picked him up to drive to the wake – haunted with sunken eyes, unhealthy. I told him I was worried about him, that I didn’t want to have to go to his wake and asked if he could try again to get some help. I told him he was worth it.

It’s been almost a year since I last heard from him. His last message to me:

Hey sil…been a long time…u look amazing as always…I’m pretty sure ur the coolest mom ever…hope all is well with u and ur family…love always

I replied with the following:

Hey – what’s going on with you? Where are you these days? Healthy? I worry about you and hope you’ve found your way. Life is too short, my friend. XO Silvia.

Addiction sucks.

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