A Letter to the Friends I’ve Lost to Heroin

Dear Friends,

When I found out that you died, it broke me. Some of you were obviously using; others I can’t believe ever touched the shit. Bottom line – you’re gone. You can’t read this letter, but that doesn’t change the fact that I have things I need to tell you.

The first time I lost one of you I ran from my mother’s house as if escaping the news would change the story. An adjective doesn’t exist that can describe the rage; the resent that consumed me after I decided that you’d betrayed your future, and our family of friends, for the brief catharsis of an opiate. It stole you from my life, but never from my heart. Sixteen years later, I keep your xylophone in my garage. I imagine that you take a minute from your infinity to visit my kids when they play it, the way you might if you were still alive.

I have mementos like that for each of you, though most are not as obvious.

I have a Lifesaver in my pocketbook given to me at your funeral: an everyday reminder of how much I wish I could have saved you.

My husband was gifted a vile of your ashes: a morbid reminder of the role you played in our lives before your descent into the heroin subculture.

I have a picture of you playing your guitar at thirteen; vibrant and young. That’s the way I choose to remember you all.

If only I could have been there to deter you from making the choices that eventually lead to your story’s early ending. Had I known that heroin had become even an option for you, maybe I could have intervened with the support you so desperately needed. Would you have taken it? I know that wishes only come true in fairy tales, and that our lives took us down different paths, but I still wish that you’d walked with me instead. I might not be writing this letter if you had.

I used to get angry every time I heard of another overdose. For sixteen years I’ve joined an annual funeral procession and grieved the loss of another life to something I can never understand. I became desensitized from such frequent mourning. Now I’ve realized that ‘numb’ isn’t the way I was meant to be either. I’ve grown, educated myself, and learned to recognize your addiction for what it was. A disease. An epidemic. It should be taken as seriously as a razor to the wrist. Those considered a danger to themselves due to mental illness can be hospitalized against their will. Society failed you when you were vulnerable and left you to fend for yourselves when you needed help. For that, I’m so sorry.

As this daemon courses through the veins of our suburban streets, schools, and hides behind closed doors in the homes of those we suspect the least, it seems humanity may finally be shedding the stigma associated with your addiction. As bigger, badder drugs introduce themselves to our neighborhoods and the risk of encounter increases, I remember you. I speak openly with my children. I spend every dime I can spare to keep them involved in clubs, sports, and whatever hobby may end up being their defense against the growing presence of this poison in our communities. I pray that these investments will keep their hands from ever growing so idle that they hold a needle. Maybe it’s ignorant to assume that’s enough. Maybe it’s stupid. You can’t blame me for trying.

After the tears have dried and the dust has settled, I think of you fondly. I make a point of etching a vision of your smiling, healthy face into my memory. I hope you know that I’m grateful to you for the awareness that you’ve given me. I’m a parent that knows she has to fight to protect her children from what’s out there waiting for them. It’s not in some distant city alleyway, it’s right here. Right now. Thanks to you, I will not go through this life thinking “It can’t happen to my kid.” With a mom like me that lost a friend like you, hopefully my kids will never fight the battle that you lost.

Thank you for the good times. I’ll do my best to block out the bad. You are more than just a drug addict to me.

I forgive you for breaking my heart.

Sincerely,

Erin

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3 thoughts on “A Letter to the Friends I’ve Lost to Heroin

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  1. I’m so sorry for your loss, for all our losses. There are some powerful words here, including, “I spend every dime I can spare to keep them involved in clubs, sports, and whatever hobby may end up being their defense against the growing presence of this poison in our communities.”

    Liked by 1 person

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