H.O.P.E. by Ashley Homstead
I wish that you could have held on through the pain. I wish that you could have made it through the struggle to see the other side. I wish that I wasn’t here, alone and I wish that you never died. They say that no one seeking recovery need ever die from the horrors of addiction, but there are some that will so that others don’t have to.
Together we sought recovery and together we sought addiction. Time and time again, we found ourselves doing things that we weren’t proud of and hurting people that we loved. Finding a reprieve in the rooms of recovery, only to walk away and return to our old ways. As addicts shackled to our addiction, ruled by getting the next one, we turned away from our families to live on the streets. No matter what, I trusted you. No matter what, you took care of me. You reminded me daily that I should go home to my parents and that they were probably worried sick. I refused to go home because I needed the next one and needed to stay on the streets to get it. When I would make terrible decisions, like being messed up and hanging around dangerous men to find what I needed, you would remind me how irresponsible I was and drag me out to safety.
When you were too messed up to know if you were coming or going, I watched over you and kept you safe from yourself and others. Whenever I was using, I didn’t eat, but when I was with you, you always made me eat at least one meal a day whether I wanted to or not. We took care of each other when we were out there. We talked of getting clean and changing our lives, but didn’t believe in ourselves. You would tell me that there was hope for someone like me, but not for someone like you. I always disagreed with you. We were both so wrapped up in our addiction that I saw no way out. Every minute of every day I wanted to die. I hated hurting the people that I loved but I couldn’t stop using. I always hoped that the next shot would be the end so that I and those that loved me would no longer hurt.
There were a couple times that we weren’t sure the other would make it, but we pulled through. I felt guilty when I left and could no longer be there for you. I was forced into a rehab program by my probation officer who was not terribly fond of you. He couldn’t see what I saw in you, but I loved you. You were my best friend. When I returned home 9 months later, you were still on the street. I found you walking one day and picked you up to go to a meeting. When I saw you, it was if my eyes had opened and seen the reality of our lives for the first time. I no longer weighed less than 100 pounds with dark circles under my eyes. I was healthy and colorful. You looked disheveled and sad, dirty and malnourished. I thought to myself, “this is what we always must have looked like.” You asked me how you looked, to which I replied “good” and smiled giving you a hug. After I dropped you off, I cried the whole way home. I knew that we wouldn’t be able to spend time together like before. I felt a survivor’s guilt for being clean and leaving you in active addiction.
Every time I took you to a meeting I wanted to rescue you and bring you home where it was safe, but I couldn’t. It wouldn’t have been safe for me. I loved you so much and hated to see you struggle but I realized that life could become better with recovery and I didn’t want to die. Times would come when we would lose touch. While I was working and taking college classes, you were getting arrested and returning to prison. I prayed for you. I wanted to see you do better. I believed in you. Times would come when we would regain communication. After your release from prison you wanted to go to meetings and you wanted to go to rehab. I thought my prayers had come true. I had almost finished my bachelor’s degree and was working full-time at two different jobs, when my best friend returned and asked me to bring him to rehab. My heart sank the day that you called asking me to pick you up because you left rehab. I was afraid for you, because I knew you would return to the streets. I was afraid for me because I loved you so much that I couldn’t ever say no to you, and I prayed that I wouldn’t return to the streets too.
One night came too close. We were watching a movie when you told me that you found something in an old suitcase. I asked if you wanted me to help you throw it away before I left for my meeting. You said “yes.” As my eyes gazed upon it in your hand, every fiber of my being became filled with fear and the urge to snatch it from its fall into the toilet and use it. A force not my own refused to allow my vocal chords to work, so I simply stared watching it fall into the water. You flushed the handle and I began to breathe again. I thought this could be a new chapter for us, but it was the same story. You returned to the streets. This time was different for me. I didn’t trust myself alone with you anymore, so I would only visit with another friend in recovery. I hoped the meetings would stick for you as they did for me, but you continued to return to the streets.
Over time, I was always there for you when you reached out, hoping to pull you out of the darkness and being so afraid to be sucked back in. I hated that I had to leave you alone out there, but I couldn’t take care of you anymore. Time passed, and I began working in treatment, receiving my certified drug and alcohol counselor’s license and graduating with my bachelor’s degree. I was so grateful to be celebrating 2 years clean at this point in my life and wished so badly that you could be there to celebrate with me, for two years earlier we walked into the same meeting and picked up a white key tag together, promising to stay clean just for today. Instead you were there in spirit, your ashes inside the charm on my necklace.
Two weeks before my celebration you overdosed, and the world lost your beautiful soul forever. I had prayed this day would not come, although I knew it was practically inevitable. Most of the people we ran with together had at this point either been in prison, lost limbs, were still miserable using or died of this disease. Then there was me. How come I am the one still here? Why not you? Why not us? Why must my parents gain a daughter and yours lose their son? Why do I with no children, continue to walk this earth and you leave a daughter behind?
I cannot answer these questions, but I can make the most of life for the both of us. I can spend time with your mother, cook with her, and talk on the phone forever, hoping that you are spending time with mine. I can invite her and my other family to my first home I was able to buy on my very own. I can hug your father at your funeral and tell him how much of an amazing person you are and that I am grateful to have had you in my life. I can write a letter to you for him to show the world how truly special you were. I can graduate college and go on to graduate school to become licensed to help others who are troubled like us. I can be a voice for other addicts and advocate at the local and state level to get the help for those that so desperately need it. I can live each day to the fullest, with your memory in my heart, sharing our story to bring hope to those who struggle.
To let others, know that there is life after pain, and that if you hold on just long enough, it does get better. They say that no one seeking recovery need ever die from the horrors of addiction, but there are some that will so that others don’t have to. I wish that I wasn’t here alone, and I wish that you never died. I wish that you could have made it through the struggle to see the other side. I wish that you could have held on through the pain. Together we sought recovery and together we sought addiction.