I wanted it to be a joke. A sick joke…
Time started to slow as soon as I saw my brother’s phone number pop up on my caller ID.
“Hey man, what’s up?” I answered.
“Uh, are you at home right now?” He asked
“No, I’m at the bank. Why?”
“Um, will you be home soon?”
“Is it Natalie? Is she ok?”
“No. No she’s not.”
“Is she in the hospital?”
My husband reaches out to me, motioning for me to tell him what’s going on.
“I think you know what I’m going to say, so I’m just not going to say it” Justin said.
“Is she dead?”
“Yeah. So if you could come to the house, we could use your support…”
“I’ll be there as soon as I can.”
I felt a numbness drape around me, engulf me. It was like putting on a wet coat, heavy and cold.
“She dead. My little sister is dead.” I said it out loud, repeating what my brother had said, to see if it made any more sense out loud than it did when barely whispered into my ear.
“Oh my God, I’m so sorry honey. Here, take this folder, I know you have a lot to deal with, we can talk later. Don’t forget your bank card and ID” reminded the banker.
I looked down at the two plastic cards, confused as to how they fit into my wallet.
“I don’t remember how this works” I said, shaking the wallet close to his chest.
Don, my husband, puts all my stuff together and pulls up the car.
Five days’ prior, my family had an intervention for my sister. She’d been using drugs and alcohol for many years before she finally went into treatment. She was in an inpatient program for about three months, after that, she was in sober housing for another three months. When she graduated… she was looking so good. Healthy and happy. Everyone was so proud. I saw numerous Facebook posts where she was out and about with new, sober friends (and old sober friends) and I thought that everything was going well.
Then I saw her on Mother’s Day. She looked… different. But familiar. She gave me a beautiful necklace with the September birthstone to honor Noah David who was due on September 29th. We started watching a movie and not five minutes in, she was asleep. A deep sleep. She had her phone resting on her chest and when it went off, she didn’t even twitch. I thought maybe she was just really tired… I have those days, a lot of those days.
Short story long, she was using again. She admitted to relapsing and reassured us that she hadn’t like the feeling and wasn’t going to do it again. She was getting an additional sponsor and committing to the 90 meetings in 90 days. What could we say? She’d anticipated each move, question and request. She feed us sweet lies, giving us truth decay.
Four days later, she was dead.
I am devastated. Crushed. Heartbroken. I keep hearing how lonely she was… and I kick myself. Why didn’t I reach out more? Why didn’t she say anything? As for my part, I can tell myself that I was busy with my daughter. She’s turning 13, school’s almost over, we’re moving etc. but I’m wondering if it was because I didn’t fully trust her. I wanted to. Desperately. But after so many lies… So much disappointment… I wasn’t ready to go through it again. Maybe I didn’t give her enough support… I was taking care of myself. I have my own issues with addiction and I was terrified I would go down the rabbit hole after her…
Up until right now, I’ve been so incredibly angry. How could she be so selfish? How could she not know how much we loved her? Been so reckless? Thought so little of herself? It’s such a fucking waste of talent. Waste of life. She had so very much to give…
She had over 646 Facebook friends. She reached out to exactly, ZERO. The one friend she did have, heroin, killed her.
My brother says he wishes he spent more time with her. I don’t know if I do. I mean, I’d give anything to have another day with HER but that was the problem. She wasn’t her. Even when we did get together, her phone would interrupt our conversations. She couldn’t sit through an entire movie, excusing herself three or four times before finally leaving before the film ended. She was either going a thousand miles a minute or falling asleep while sitting up.
I feel some small sense of relief, knowing I don’t have to drop everything and run because Natalie needs me or the dread of more bad news… The worst has happened. The worst is over.
I know I’m still somewhat in denial because I keep asking why. Why did this happen? Why her? Why now? And I know all the answers. It was the logical conclusion based on how she was living her life. She had nearly 9 months of sobriety and lost her tolerance for drugs. She thought she’d built it back up, she took a risk and it took her life… but WHY? God, WHY?
Because she had a slip, I lose a sister? My daughter will never really get to know her aunt? Part of me is grieving the fact that Tayla isn’t grieving. Not that I want her to be sad or in pain but Christ, this is my sister… and, she didn’t know her well. Don and I thought she wasn’t the best influence and I was tired of Tayla getting excited to see aunt Natalie and then she’d be a no show.
Part of what pushed Natalie over the edge was shame. She knew how proud people were of her and she didn’t want to disappoint anyone. Not again. We tried to be gentle with her. We told her that a slip was not the end of the world. “Please, just go back to the meetings” we told her.
“I will” she promised.
I had so much anger… I still have some anger but it’s subsided. While going through some of her notebooks from treatment, I found a goodbye letter to opiates.
Why did you make me say goodbye? Let me count the ways. At first, you were always there for me. Always by my side. You saw me through the loss of my uncle and my grandmother in the same year. My divorce. You were my best friend, my lover, my confidant, my strategist, my family and my Higher Power all rolled into one. How much fun we had together in the beginning on so many new adventures. You made me feel free, you made me feel safe; invincible. You made me feel euphoric. I could do anything I wanted as long as you were there with me. But that was in the beginning… since I’ve known you, an unforeseeable and most devastating turn of events have taken place. Waking up in an ambulance after my overdose, only to find it had taken 45 minutes to resuscitate me… That time we went to jail for three days for having you along with our other friend, Mr. 38 Special in the car, in Frogtown, on Christmas, when we were trying to score more of you… The Grand Mal. But most of all, you’ve stolen me away from my life as I’ve known it. My circle of friends changed before my very eyes- lifelong friends whom I grew up with and known my whole life. They vanished and turned into a low caliber of people who wouldn’t piss on fire to put me out. My family, so concerned and so worried and so hurt all because of the shell of the person I’ve transformed into since we’ve been acquaintances. My finances- all of my money, gone. Thousands of dollars a week. Hundreds of dollars a day. Turning me out to hustle any one and any way I could, simply to keep you in my life another day. The people at the pawn shop thought I was a good customer. When I sold all my jewelry, my stereo, my laptop, my car rims, anything I could to keep you in my life another day. But now my darling, I have nothing else to give. I am ready to say goodbye to you and I must go on my own way. I simply cannot keep you in my life another day. I wish to bid goodbye to your entire family. I need you to tell them if they see me on the street, that I’ll be walking the other way. For you have 100 million other friends, one third of America is waiting for you. I’m going to let you go and I don’t want you coming back.
Sincerely, Formally yours,
How can I be angry after that? I’m sure there are ways but right now I’m just so full of grief. Sorrow has the monopoly on my emotions and I think I’ll let it sweep me away for just a little while before I go back to the business of productive living.