Tragedy close to home

Today I found out my ex-boyfriend died. He and I dated when I was 20, and we talked about marriage. We broke up, because he was addicted to pills. I didn’t know it at the time, because I was young and naive. All I knew is that he was shady and mean sometimes. He called me at some point after our break up and explained his problem. I responded in a way a lot of people respond, “Ok, well why don’t you just quit, and we can get back together.”

He was a sweetheart, and we had a lot of good times. He tried to explain it doesn’t work like that, but I didn’t quite get it back then. He moved to NY to try the geographical change. It seemed to work at first, but then again it always seems like that up front. Unfortunately he took himself with him to NY, and I found out later that he actually overdose there and his breathing suffered so much so he had to get an inhaler. He was sick and struggling.

We never got back together or saw each other romantically again, but we stayed in touch intermittently. I finished my bachelors & masters, and started working at a rehab. I came to understand the full picture of what my ex was up against. When we talked I’d tell him he needed help. He agreed, but his father wouldn’t acknowledge his problem or help him get help. I remember he’d call me and tell me he was sober, but half way through the conversation his voice would change and I could tell he was on something. It’s amazing how you can literally hear it in someone’s voice. He’d tell me the same things over and over, and it was frustrating at times. One constant he repeated was how miserable it was to be an addict, and how every day he longed for the night so he would feel normal. It’s not normal for people to sleep all day, but sleeping all night is acceptable. He said he journaled about his lows, being “lonely” and “miserable”, the “darkness” and even having suicidal thoughts. And to be clear, he was not a person who was known to suffer from depression. I believe it was the addiction that caused him to have this experience and literally use those words with me.

I have always been a torch carrier, meaning I want to fight for the “right” things. So many times I tried to take him to NA, and one time he agreed. He promised me he “wouldn’t take as much” that day, but when I got to his house I could tell he wasn’t fully there. By the time we got to the meeting, he was so high he was nodding out consistently and almost spilled his coffee a few times. Ignorantly I was embarrassed. He tried to manage himself with suboxone a few times, and I tried to encourage him to get more help, go to NA more often, etc. But looking back, I really think he was too severe. He needed inpatient, and he just didn’t have the resources to get the help he really needed.

Ultimately I told him not to call me anymore, because I didn’t want to hear the same stories anymore. Harsh? Maybe to some, but it was hard to have the same talks over and over with no change. I told him to call me if he wanted to do something different. I never got a call. In fact, we lost touch. I saw on FaceBook that he had a baby girl, and I know he loved kids and wanted so badly to be a good dad. At some point he said he was making changes for his daughter, but clearly that did not last. I could always tell when he was on a kick to try to control his addiction, because he would start working out. He was always a really skinny dude, so his efforts likely didn’t ever last long enough.

I’m surprised he lived as long as he did to be honest. I actually told my friends and family that I thought his addiction was going to end him. When I saw that he passed, my main thought was that I honestly hope he found peace. He did “bad” things, sure. He was a part of the drug world and that’s just part of that world. And this guy, like most addicts, was attracted to risk. But he was also a good person, with a kind heart. I am heartbroken to know he’ll never meet his potential in this life. One thing loss solidifies for me is that life is too short. Loss gives perspective to so many things.

I share this story in an effort to give some insight into addiction as well as my own journey with understanding it. People think addiction is a weakness, but I don’t. There is definitely a biological component to it, and there’s a lot of strong psychological components as well. But one thing I know is that NO ONE decides to be an addict, and severe addicts aren’t enjoying the chaos. Also, addicts are some of the strongest, most generous people in their hearts. Some things are either outside of our control or at least feel that way to us, and either way, I am not fit to judge anyone’s experience. I won’t say that addicts are weak and just need to stop. I learned that lesson. He taught me that lesson, and I am forever grateful. RIP JB

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