When I got the text from Nicole, I wasn’t sure if it was true. Neither one of us knew for sure what had actually happened, but my heart sank, I felt sick to my stomach. I went to bed Sunday and hoped it was a rumor.
The next morning I woke up to texts confirming my fear: a friend had died of an overdose the previous Saturday.
Having spent the night at my aunt’s house, I woke up that morning and started my day as I normally would. I had breakfast and hung out with my aunt. I did not tell her the sad news, seeing as I still hoped it wasn’t true. I prolonged going home that afternoon, because I knew once I did I would have to actually process the loss of my friend. Finally, in the early afternoon, I decided to leave.
Once I was home, I sat quietly in my room for hours before I even began to fully comprehend what had happened. A flood of memories washed over me. I remembered going to the Snowball dance as dates and hanging out in his basement, and more recently running into him during a night out. We left the bar saying we would get lunch soon to catch up, but now that lunch is never going to happen. Ever. Little details I had forgotten came back to me. The more I thought about him, the sadder I became. Suddenly I began to cry – tears flowed off and on for the remainder of the day.
While he and I were not as close as we once were, he was a large part of my high school experience; he fills up memories and photographs from those four years.
Recently, I have read and heard about friends of friends on Facebook who graduated from nearby high schools passing due to an overdose, and I thought that would never happen to someone I knew. Yet it happened: a friend’s life was cut too short as the result of an overdose.
The suddenness of his death left his friends, and I know he had many, questioning so many things. He was always one of the most well-spoken and smartest people in the class. Why him? He was not attempting to end his own life; he was just having a night out that turned dark.
Since his death, I have become more aware of the overdose issue that has invaded the United States. Since the early 2000s overdosing has become an epidemic that is vastly spreading across our country.
According to The New York Times, in 2014 the number of overdose deaths reached an all-time high of 47,055 deaths within the year. That is the equivalent of 125 Americans every day.
No one is immune to overdoses – they are happening in both urban and suburban locations, to all socioeconomic classes. I have made an effort to educate myself and those around me on this issue that has spread across the U.S. since it is no longer something that is merely read or heard about on the news: it is something that is right at our front doors.
Losing a friend is hard, especially when that friend is suddenly gone. Yet, what saddens me more is that eventually most of us mourning him will return to the daily grind of our lives. We go back to work, back to our friends and families, and slowly but surely, we go back to normal.
But his family will never be back to normal, and those closest to him will always have that hole in their lives. It is my hope that his death has changed us in some way – made us more cautious and more thankful for the life we have. Made us question what drugs we take and how much alcohol we consume. We cannot change the past, we cannot go back, but we can live for today. We will carry him with us, knowing he has left an indelible imprint on our hearts through his love. The lessons he taught us by simply being our friend will mold and shape us into a better version of ourselves, and in that way he will be with us forever.