On the same day, but an hour apart, I bumped into two friends of mine quite randomly. Two friends who could not be more different, but who had both disappeared into the same shadow world of opioid addiction and who were both now clean, sober and back from the void, having successfully slain that particular dragon.
It was surreal.
Completely unexpected, and it really stopped me in my tracks, twice, in a 60-minute span. It was their obituaries, not their collective recoveries, I was banking on, having given up all hope on the both of them years prior. And yet, lo and behold, here they stood, as big as Rodan and as beautiful as Hygieia: clear-eyed, vibrant and surging with a renewed lust for life. Back from the dead. Back with family. Back to work. Mending bridges, kicking ass and taking numbers. It made for a good day, a better week and a wild surprise out of left field.
Giving up on people is a really hard row to hoe, it can be fucking brutal and wreck you six ways from Sunday. And yet sometimes it has to be done for your own sake, your safety and your sanity. Cutting the symbiotic chord that feeds the best of friendships and then barring the door is something I don’t wish on nobody!
With both of these aforementioned individuals — I had run parallel to them in the past for years. We had worked on music projects, attended concerts, movies, the fuckin’ state fair; we had crashed and thrashed the same parties, the same barbecues, the same weddings… we’d been camping and pumpkin patch picking, sat around the same tables, fires and the popped hoods of broken-down cars. We did all the shit that close friends do, and then some, and, then… poof, seemingly simultaneously, they were both gone, as if the ground had swallowed them whole with only dirty bits of gossip connecting them to the living.
He or she had done this or that in the pursuit of dope, it was reported. An arrest here, an overdose there. An investigation had been opened. Johnny Law was seen sniffing around, asking questions on their whereabouts and last sightings. Bad news, followed by badder news… a real punch in the mouth. So you distance yourself, and make yourself scarce from their suffering, and you sit back, waiting for the word of their requiem.
There’s something about a person jumping head first into a self-destructive way of life that can warp your perception of them to such a degree that you view them wholeheartedly as your enemy, as if there is no trace of their former selves, those selves you loved but now see as a personal affront. They have become beastly to your civilized senses. Their sickness so vastly complex and all-powerful leaves you trembling and disgusted, so you turn heel and flee. And I’m not saying that’s the right way to play it; that my lack of any action taken whatsoever is the gold standard. Hell, I’m not even suggesting it’s the bronze standard. I stood by and did nothing, with fear as my only excuse. And yet they prevailed, and here was the proof positive of their resolve.
Hugs were given, jokes made and renewed enthusiasm was expressed in all their former interests… a drum kit had been purchased, birthday parties for children were being planned and talks of attending a concert in Cleveland together were discussed, as if nothing had ever come between us. A dual moment of such vast relief and dizzying happiness to transpire in the same day is truly a rare occurrence. And even though I fully understand that the road of recovery is one you must walk for the rest of your life, battle-scarred and acutely aware of the fact that on all sides there are specters trying to pull you back into the Minotaur’s labyrinth to be devoured. But I have nothing but faith in these two, Paige and Brain, y’all got this — big love to ya both in moving forward and conquering this shit!