Those were the words uttered by my friend’s brother the day I found out one of my best friends was gone forever. I was sitting on the edge of a dock on a perfect, cloud free 75 degree day fishing with my three year old son with a 360 view of the glass like water. In an instant, that was all shattered, and my stomach dropped to the floor. I was left an emotional mess trying to rush my son inside to his mother before I completely broke down in tears. There were a flurry of calls that ensued to family and friends trying to explain what happened, or what has been happening, and trying to make sense of a terrible tragedy.
My friend and I met in college through mutual friends and then playing club rugby. It was the typical ‘started out as rivals turned into best friends in a matter of weeks’ scenario. He was a hell of a guy who loved the outdoors, sports, Meatloaf (Yep that Meatloaf), the Boss, and spending time around the people he loved. He was funny, articulate, stubborn, brutally honest, and lived a fast life. We liked to hang out together and would often crack beers together while in college and for the year we spent together living in Baltimore. Sometimes we would take it a bit too far and overdo it a little, chalking it up to being young and dumb. No excuses, looking back now, it seems dangerous and reckless. He moved out west then came back east as he started getting more serious with a woman that we all thought he would end up marrying, but things started to fall apart.
We would often talk by phone about 3 times a week to catch up on different things and get together a few times a year. I started to notice that every time I was talking to him he had been drinking and drinking heavily. Then we came to visit. He got completely blasted, followed by a few calls from his girlfriend to tell me that was happening more and more. We had some long talks, and he said he would cut back, never happened. I called his family and friends, and we all tried to reason with him, but ‘he had it all under control’. The girlfriend ended up moving on and then things got worse. He started having trouble at work, then with family, then with friends.
Through it all, we stayed in contact, and it was heartbreaking. For years, his family and friends tried to do everything to get him on the right path through interventions, rehab, AA, talking to professionals, staying, and showing support. Nothing worked and it was frustrating for everyone involved, but mostly my friend. Hearing him feeling like he was letting everyone down was awful, and I tried my best to try to pump him back up. Even joking back and forth about his dream to own an old school RV the day before he lost his battle with alcohol.
The memorial for his life was exactly like he would have wanted it. It was a beautiful ceremony and then friends and family, new & old, got together and celebrated for 2 days with endless stories about our buddy’s life. There were a ton of laughs and a lot of tears, but you could really feel the love that was shared by everyone. It felt right to celebrate and speak positively about what happened.
Addiction sucks. Flip on the news any day of the week, and you hear about another family that has been devastated by another lost battle. The reason I decided to tell this story is that maybe one person looks at themselves, a loved one, a friend, or a colleague and gets the help they need before it becomes too much to bear. My opinion is that the earlier you can catch something the better chance you have for beating it.