Yesterday was a pretty day. The sun was out. The sky was blue and the winds were warm. If you didn’t know what was going on then you couldn’t know what was going on. Yesterday seemed like a regular, ordinary Sunday. To some though, or actually to a great many, yesterday had an entirely different meaning.
I went to a candlelight vigil last night. I walked down an aisle of posters with faces of people that seemed like regular, ordinary people. They were all kids. I spoke with Moms that seemed like everyday Moms and Dads that seemed like the Dads you’d see on the ball field, talking proudly about their son or their daughter.
There is a connection here, which I will get to in a second. I looked around and I did not see sickness. I did not see hate — although, to be truthful, there was a common hatred to the common culprit. There were people from different backgrounds and people with different beliefs. There were wealthy people and others with humble means. No one pointed out their differences because the commonality was too obvious to go unaddressed. And me, I was regarded warmly by a few friends. Some of them were old friends and some are new friends.
I cannot say that I like these vigils. I don’t like the pictures and seeing the faces of kids that went out too young. In fairness, I despise the word addiction. I hate the aftermaths. I hate the feeling that surges through my heart. I would not call this survivor’s guilt because I don’t feel guilty that I survived. Not at all. I feel blessed however, yes, there are times when I wonder how I made it out. I’ve wondered why me.
My old friend Tommy told me he used to ask himself the same question. He said he used to wonder why? He said. “How come you got out and we got stuck?”
I showed Tommy how to steal a few times. I showed him a few tricks. I showed him a glass pipe after a trip home from Brooklyn, and like many others, Tommy told me how, “I’m never doing this again,” to which I replied, “Yes you will,” without so much as an ounce of regret. But then again, this is how social viruses are transmitted. They found Tommy in the bathroom of a Dunkin Donuts a few years back. We spoke a few times but Tommy was on his way towards a different destiny. This was Tommy’s third overdose within a few weeks. This time, the third one got him.
Yesterday was Overdose Awareness Day.
Over the years, I have met some absolutely amazing people. I can say that some of them are the best in the world. I can say that some of them inspire me. They motivate me. I can also say that some of them are gone now.
I do not compare my story to others because there is no comparison. I got out young. I got away. I spilled a fair share of my own blood and did my things. Of course, we all have our own story, which is why I look to identify rather than compare our differences.
I was told that I was “Lucky.” Funny though, because I don’t believe luck kept me clean or sober. Luck did nothing for my struggles. No, it wasn’t luck that did it for me. I believe that any change takes work. I believe in the demons and I believe in the beast. And I had to be aware of this.
My beast speaks to me in different tones. He uses different dialects and switches languages to keep me guessing.
My beast is an idea that always points out the options that can lead me down the wrong path. As a matter of fact, my beast tries to reach me from every angle, which is why I fight back from every angle to keep him in submission.
It’s amazing . . .
It’s amazing to see the resilience and strength of love. It is amazing to see the pictures of these kids and their smiles, my God, they were beaming. They were all beautiful, young, and yet, they are all gone. They died from a common theme with an awareness of something, which even though there are no secrets about heroin, more and more, we lose people every day.
I was told this is a white people problem. I was told the only reason why people care is because this is hitting the middle class and above. I can say this is untrue. I can say that as someone that was deployed to hospitals after reports of an overdose, I saw white people and black, Asian, Hispanic, Middle-Eastern, male, female, trans, gay, rich and poor. I met homeless and wealthy, all of which were connected to the same deadly social virus that killed a long list of my friends. This virus does not care about race or politics, even if we do. This virus claims any life possible.
But you know what?
The virus didn’t kill me.
I told a Father last night in no unspoken terms and gave him my word. I told him I’m an angry New Yorker.
I don’t like when anyone steals from me.
See, this thing stole from me.
So, now I’m going to steal back.
If you or someone you know needs help, please reach out.
No one else has to overdose and die.
There is a way out.
There is help out there and there are people that come from all different walks of life that would welcome you with open arms.
And if you can’t find the right spot, reach out to and email me: firstname.lastname@example.org
I promise to see what I can do because the one thing I learned and the one thing I want you to learn is we are not alone.
Oh, and Dear Rich,
I was thinking about you and a few of the boys last night. I keep that picture you drew of me on my desk. I wish we could have talked first. I wish you, me and Luke could have gone out for a pizza or something and come up with a better way to figure out this life. Just know that wherever you are, I’m glad I can call you my friend.