Memories From the Balcony – Black Balloons and a Quick Testimony

So, it does get  better.
You do know this, right?
Or is this just something that people tell us when we first walk through the doors?
Is this a way to get people to something new? Maybe . . .
Maybe that’s it.

Maybe the idea of telling people “it works if you work it” is more than proving the idea that “you’re worth it.”
Instead, maybe this is a way to say that in spite of the challenges or the discouragement, you have to keep moving.
You have to replace thought with an action which, if you think about it, that’s what this is – it’s a replacement model for a habit or lifestyle. So, don’t give up is what they tell you.
Or they’ll say, “don’t quit before the miracle happens,” to which you shake your head (and sometimes your fists) because it’s hard to see that the miracle is happening, right before your eyes.

I was thinking about the countless black balloons that I know of and yes, of course, this is symbolic of the loss of good people who date back to my childhood. I’ve learned more about this since my youth. Recently, I’ve learned more about this fight while serving in the trenches. I’ve learned more about the battles and the casualties.

No, this entry is not to damn the fight or to curse the stars.
If anything, this is only a sign of resilience.
This is to show that in spite of loss or in spite of heartache or pain, people can get better.
Not all stories have tragic endings and, in fact, some of the stories I’ve learned turned out to be heroic.
But me . . .
I’m not a hero and I don’t want to be.
That’s not my reason for this nor is this my place in the game.
No, I’m here for a different reason.
I’ve come here to defy the narrative.
I’ve joined this fight to destroy the stigma.
I’m here because I want to be here.
And that’s it.

I came across an old note of mine.
This was intended for someone I used to know in my past life.
They went right and I went left.
This is what made the difference between our survival.

I offer this in accordance with a date. Specifically, the date of commemoration is on March 6th when people, friends, loved ones and family across the country come together to remember the people who they lost to an overdose.

They call this black balloon day.

I wanted to stay away from this.
I wanted to keep this entire journal upbeat and nostalgic but in fairness to myself and in fairness to my truth, it is more important that I keep my journals time-based and honest.

For me, this is a testament.
This is a statement of respect. This is an acknowledgment of the courage it takes to clean up, change and get well.
Or at minimum, this is to honor the fight it takes to break free of your own hell.

I say this with an understanding of my own; however, my understanding is limited the view from my eyes.
I am not here to compare.
In an effort to grow and to change or, more importantly, in an effort to be more effective in the war that I’m in, I have come to the understanding that we all have our own demons.
We all have our own traumas and backgrounds. No one is alike.
Even when we are similar, no two stories are exactly the same.

I wrote a note to an old friend of mine.
Just to be clear, this person will always be my friend.
I will always love them as my friend too – it’s just that due to circumstances beyond our control, I’ve had to choose to love them from a distance.

I wrote this a while back –

Just a quick thought . . .

I don’t believe that we’ve grown distant. 
I just believe that we’ve grown.
That’s all

The jokes are old now.
The memories are there but faded
– and almost everything has moved on
like the rest of us have, aged, older
some are gone and some are missing in a different regard.

I don’t suppose you remember this, but –
I saw you standing in Penn Station once.
Dangling on a slow swivel
nodding –
This must have been close to ten years ago
Maybe more.
Your eyes fell halfway (sort of like your body)
your jaw hung open
You looked like we did that night after our “first” time
which was after we went to B-15th St –
or was that B-17?

It seemed the kid I once knew vanished.
The kid I used to see wearing his Cub Scout uniform –
he’s gone and died
We lost him somewhere on the streets of East New York Brooklyn. 
All that’s left is a man on the dangle

Your name came up the other day
which was sad to me.
I say this is sad because it was like talking about an old friend
who passed away too young.

Only you never died.
You just fell off the earth
You went one way.
I went the other

I don’t believe that we’ve grown distant
I just believe we’ve grown
I was fortunate to get caught that night
I found myself locked up in the holding cells

You were less fortunate
because you got away . . .

Over the years, I have done things to replace the thefts of my past.
I’ve done things to right the wrongs or to correct the mistakes my when I was hurting or lost. To be clear, I did what I could do to defend myself from wishing I was elsewhere, like in the warmth of a cocoon where nobody else could touch me.

I was challenged to step up to the plate.
And what I mean is this:
I was told that I talk too much.
I was told that I should either do something or say nothing.
In other words, I was told to put up or shut up.

Since then, I took this to heart.

I’ve learned that what I don’t know could fill a library.
I’ve learned that no one knows it all and, even better, no one wants to speak to a know-it-all either.
There’s no hope or glory in arguing with people.
I’ve learned that we all have to walk this earth and that to each is their own struggle.
I have no right nor place in this judgment.

Besides, that’s not my place in this game.
No, that’s not what I’m here for.
I’m not here to say how much I bled or to earn a merit badge.
I’m not here to prove myself nor I am here to compare scars or show who was tough
(or who isn’t).
In fact, I’m fine to admit this here and now:
I am not tough. I never have been.
I’ve been used. I’ve been ripped off.
I’ve played the fool.
All of that’s fine because either way . . .
I’m not tough
I’m just me which has been tough enough.

I remember the time when I watched two parents release a series of balloons into a cloudy sky.
This was their way of saying goodbye to their child. While their struggle was not the same as the black balloons, I can say that there is nothing more unnatural than a parent burying their child. 
I never want to see something like this again.

I watched the sky accept the balloons. It almost seemed like there was a hole in the clouds where the balloons lifted through. Somewhere up there is a child who explained, “I know what this means . . .”

Sure, I hurt sometimes.
I shake my head. 
I laugh too because there were times when we said things were good.
We used to laugh.
There are memories which will last until the day I close my eyes.
And I will cherish these.

I do not sound sick. I am not suffering.
I do not struggle.
I am me. I have my bouts.
I have challenges like anyone else in this world.
Therefore, it would be inaccurate to say that I am the same or different.
All I can say is that I have met some of the world’s most beautiful people.
Sadly, they’re elsewhere now. 

But not all of them are gone.
I’m not gone and I don’t plan to be either.
At least not anytime soon.

April 1, 1991 – that was my last trip.
It’ll be 32 years since I had a drug like this in my body.
By the way –
I was never supposed to be the one who made it
At least, that’s what the people betting against me used to say.
But they were wrong.

Oh, and hey Rich, 

I still have that picture you drew for me on my desk.
Thanks, man.
Thanks for being my friend too.

Sleep well, son.
I will keep you in my thoughts.

B –

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