I have this friend, well, I had this friend…honestly, the friendship is most likely over. I’ll back up a bit. I had an intervention with a friend. It wasn’t organized. It wasn’t planned. The damned thing just happened to leave a gaping wound in our relationship. There is no parlance to be met and nothing to be taken back. I told my friend that I think he is actively dying due to his heroin use.
Yes, heroin. In one small swoop of life choices and connections, I have become the person that was confided to about the usage and presumably the only person to be able to say anything. And I said something. I opened my mouth and out poured everything from my heart down to my gut. It was an unprecedented unpleasantness.
About 10 years ago I had a very good friend that was more than a bit of a celebrity. We were very close, akin to brethren. We called each other as soon as Friday afternoon rolled around, every Friday. We were in our mid/late twenties defining our lives through whatever means we had. He was a musician by trade. Never had a job in his entire life because he was a true wunderkind from his teen years on. I was on every list to see his shows and I went to almost every single one. Most of our time was spent at my house in my basement making music and watching this virtuoso do his thing. It was some of the fondest memories I have, and I know this will be a constant.
Around the time I met my musician friend, I met another friend at work. He was a loner. I mean real loner. He rarely spoke, but when he did it was with such stoic purpose that it was captivating and intimidating. Everyone just gave him his space. We worked in customer service and he blatantly read at the registers which was severely frowned upon, but no one had the gumption to stop him. We bonded almost immediately. I’ve always been drawn to my male friends as some sort of James Dean caricatures. I want effortless happiness, but what I get are troubled men with severe issues and they bond with me fairly readily. I am the opposing magnet to them. They may present the danger and anger, but I hold the anger and structure. I am every girl in a romantic comedy rolled into a smallish man. I don’t necessarily want to change them as the female rom-com protagonist may, I want to exercise my brooding nature by virtue of proximity to someone that can’t contain theirs. Maybe it’s a selfishness that I will never define; perhaps I want to feel beauty next to chaos or perhaps they just make sense to me. Either way, I can’t fully grasp the truth nor could I admit it if I did.
These two friends lived in juxtaposition. One was successful, charismatic and boisterous. The other was captivating, calm and collected. Both were looming personalities with shadows bigger than what could be seen and both were drawn to me. I generally think I’m a funny, decent, loving person, but nothing really explains how quickly both of these people took to me. These relationships grew so quickly that I didn’t have a chance to take stock in what was really happening. My musician friend and I’s relationship grew to us being nearly inseparable while my quiet friend at work only opened up to me and everyone was entranced by how I got him to open up. The only issue was that I did nothing to foster either relationship. I was just there and welcome to the rapport.
Flash forward a decade and I still work at the same place. I have moved up a bit through a couple positions, but my work friend is still relatively stagnant. Things have been tough for him professionally. My strides have not been easy, but they seem effortless compared to him. He still can’t communicate. He’s still the brooding figure at the workplace, but he knows almost everything there. People joke that we are alike in some undefined way. No one has ever succinctly been able to place it. I don’t necessarily disagree, I just don’t see it the way others do. Maybe what scares me is that similarity that everyone was so quick to point out about us because 6 months ago he told me that he was a heroin addict and that if he didn’t take time off of work to get clean, he was going to die.
I had sensed issues with him prior to this massive opiate bombshell. We hadn’t been speaking like we normally do–and given that I’m the guy he talks to at work–means that he’s not talking to anyone. We had been drifting and I just didn’t innately understand him the way I used to, but I had assumed it was because I had a kid and I was just thinking differently or adapting personally. When I really noticed his personal darkness, I forced him to have lunch with me. I told him that it was my treat and he sat frighteningly quiet slowly eating his burger as I attempted small talk in efforts to reestablish a connection. Right before we each finished our meals, he confided that he has had several friends OD from heroin use in the last few weeks and that he fears for his lifestyle. I knew he confided this in me because it would be confidential and that he knew my famous musician friend had also struggled with heroin. It seemed like a small weight was lifted and we talked somewhat earnestly for the first time in a long time. Two weeks later he came to me at work, broken and said that he was ferociously addicted and he needed to leave work to get clean or he was going to die.
The tiny rat on the wheel in my brain ran into hyperdrive. Nothing made sense. How were these two figures in my life on opposite ends both dealing with arguably the harshest of addictive chemicals? What was going on? What does this say about me? Why were both of these drastic personalities around me? What had I put out there? No matter. Focus on moving forward. Help whenever I can and move forward. Can’t dwell in the darkness.
My colleague took almost 3 months off from work to get clean. He didn’t go to a specific treatment facility, but he talked to several doctors and was prescribed two different medications to cut down on the cravings. After that time, he came back to work. He came back, but he was not the same. He was a shell. Every compelling ounce of that man was drained. He struggled with the most minor physical and mental tasks. I talked to him frequently in the beginning, but it waned. He simply wouldn’t talk much to me. I had to elicit every syllable from him. Our effortless, albeit succinct, conversations dried up and I realized that he only talked to me about his addiction because of my relationship to my musician friend/opiate-abuser.
People stopped saying that we reminded them of each other. We were our own persons. There wasn’t the undefinable draw to each other that once was, but not without trying on both our parts. Recently, he has been falling asleep at work at his desk. He does this almost daily. I try to walk by to talk to him to wake him up. I don’t want him in trouble with the boss while his meds seem to sap any form of energy from his already calm demeanor. This has been going on for more than a month and now he’s not known as the guy that only talks to me at work, he’s simply the quiet guy that sleeps at work and no one does anything about it.
Last week he passed out. He didn’t fall asleep. There was a noticeable difference. I was tasked to take him home. He fell passed out a handful of times in the 20-minute ride to his parents house. He’s been living there since beginning steps to cope with the addiction. He told me that he had a concussion and all was to be ignored because of this. Clearly there’s a real issue with someone with a concussion passing out so easily also.
He took a couple days off of work and when he came back he was uncharacteristically jovial. No one knew how to take it, so the just did it with an awkward smile. This lasted about one hour total, after which he couldn’t remain conscious for more than a few seconds. I begrudgingly told my boss and she forced him out and I was again tasked with taking him to his parents. On the ride, I asked him about the concussion and he told a foggy tale about being knocked out and robbed while outside a bar with a friend because they wouldn’t give a stranger a cigarette. I asked if the friend had left him there to wake by himself. He said it was so. I asked what happened to the friend and he admitted that he didn’t know through closed eyes. I inferred that they must have been noticeably intoxicated on something for a friend to leave and not to know what really happened from either party. He affirmed and passed back out.
His breathing grew sporadic. His body was simply forgetting to do its primary function so I began talking intermittently and tapping the brakes on the care to keep him jostling awake. Once we arrived at his parents, he waved me away, but I followed and sat him down outside. He lit a cigarette and slowly placed it on his leg and let it burn his pants. I moved his arm to stop any smoldering and told him that I am watching him die and that we both know it. He barely opened his eyes to say that he was sober and that this was a concussion. The knockout blow had occurred 4 days prior and this was simply not regarding that. This was it. This was the drug back in his life, but now he can’t be honest to me any longer.
His mother stepped out. She was a sweet lady in her late 60’s that had simply moved past this. She was actively ignoring. It made me upset at first, but then I realized that I’m not sure what this would do to me psychologically as a parent. It’s unfair for me to judge, although I found it disturbing that she spent more time baby-talking the cat than addressing her son phasing in and out of consciousness before her. I suddenly became the authority. She started to ask me what I thought it was. If I thought it was because of the concussion. If I thought he was on drugs again. Then she would talk to her cat, which was really his from a lifetime ago. From a sober time when he decided to get a cat prior to having to move back in with his parents as everything else was eaten by the drug. He rose slightly back into coherence to look at me when she asked if I thought it was the concussion. I looked at him and I looked at her and said that it wasn’t. She asked if it was drugs and I said, as one of his eyes focused on me sunken in his swaying head, and I said that we all know it was.
I inhaled and sighed out to tell her that he told me that he had used recently while we were talking outside. I also told her that the reason that I know these things with any certainty was because I had a friend. I had a friend that he knew. A friend that was a musician. This friend used less heroin than he did. This friend of mine also died by having a drug related seizure in his sleep, bit his tongue off, and asphyxiated on his own blood. His mother essentially said that was off-putting.
Over the next 3 hours, his father got home and I got him up to speed. I explained my unfortunate knowledge on this subject and looked as my friend eyes would go from closed, to open and filled with hazy hatred. His parents asked what they should do. I had no goddamned idea. I called a few clinics on their behalf and told them that they have to take him to the ER. They acquiesced and I waited to watch my shell of a friend shuffle to the car and be loaded in.
This has eaten me up for days. Then, on Halloween I got a text from my friend. He told me that I have no respect for him. That I have a lot of gall getting his elderly parents worked up for nothing. He essentially categorized me not simple as no longer a friend, but a full-blown enemy.
My wife has helped me center. She has gotten me to a point where I feel comfortable with my decision, but I am wrecked about the idea of his first day back at work, should he come back. He has until Thursday to get things tentatively under control, although I’m not sure where the boss really lands on the entire thing. We all wanted him better. We still do, but when do you let go? When do you say you’ve done all you can do?
I hate to think of things so bleakly, but I think of these two friends as some martyrs for my darker self. I have such a propensity for issues and personal torture. I wrap myself in my depression. I dwell on all the mistakes I make or perceive to make. One friend, I feel I let die because I didn’t make the right decision to stop him. The other friend has me eating myself alive because I made the decision to try to stop him. The may have been guardian angels for worse decisions on my part. Maybe that’s why we were so drawn together. Now if only I believed in angels. Honestly, the felt like black holes in my life. Not in a bad way, really. They sucked everything in, including me. But in the vortex around them came all of these amazing things, great conversation, art and pure intelligence that I have yet to see matched from anyone other than these two fascinating men. With that vortex from their black hole, they sucked up my darkness, my sins and made it theirs until it consumed them. They did that for others too. One dies a legend and the other lives a myth.