Too close for comfort.

by Mindy on August 24, 2009

My parents often joke that I live my life through “rose-colored glasses,” and I suppose that’s at least partially true. I’m not entirely sure if I’d classify myself as an optimist, but if given the choice between half-empty or half-full, I’d likely choose the latter.

I guess it’s these “rose-colored glasses” that are making the recent death of a high school classmate a little difficult to grasp.

T* and I were not the best of friends, nor were we really friends at all, but we were without a doubt friendly acquaintances, to say the least. For four years, we shared a homeroom and had a few classes together throughout our high school careers. Actually, T was the very first person at my alma matar to extend a friendly gesture my direction when I was starting at a completely new school, filled with nearly 1,200 students, but only a half-dozen familiar faces. Her game of “tiddly winks” during freshman orientation made me feel more welcome than I thought I would.

And here I sit, almost 10 years later to the day, in shock that this former classmate’s life ended following a lethal dose of heroin**.

Today was T’s funeral, back in Scranton. Tears were shed and hearts broke as loved ones said their final goodbyes to a girl who spent less than a quarter-century on this earth. It’s an absolute shame that her life had to cease so soon because of something entirely reckless and rash.

Heroin is something most people never know outside of movies, TV and other fiction, and that is how it’s always been for me. I’ve never encountered or been near the substance, nor have I known anyone - to my knowledge – who even dabbled in this deadly drug. But T’s death brings its usage a little closer to home, even if the two of us never cultivated a close relationship.

This is a girl who I can vividly picture in my mind, who I can still hear laugh, whose sarcasm could easily fill a room. A person who was an honors student and a future social worker. Yet her life stopped at the age of 24 due to addiction. And while I wish I could say it was a complete and utter surprise, I can’t. Unfortunately, despite T’s ability to make anyone smile, her reputation also carried a history of drug use and at least one stint in rehab that the entire 2003 graduating class likely heard about. I just thought, or perhaps assumed, she had more sense than to push that substance problem too far, toward her own demise.

I don’t often think about issues like drug and alcohol abuse. They seem so foreign to me, so outside my own life, that they aren’t something I seriously consider on even an irregular basis. But it takes something tragic like this to bring a variety of questions – What’s the allure of drugs, even pot? Why make it a habit? Why do it if you know its potential consequences? Why, why, why? Etc. – to the forefront of my mind. And sadly, I know I’ll never find the answers I truly seek.

If anything at all comes from T’s death, I hope it’s a lesson for those of us who knew her – or who knew of her – to think a bit more, to appreciate life a bit more, to take this one existence we have as seriously as possible. My heart absolutely breaks when I imagine what her family is going through during this difficult time. To be honest, I’m not even sure I could adequately visualize the sorrow and pain they must feel. And to think that it was heroin, of all things, that caused it? It simply leaves me bewildered and baffled.

I hope T rests in peace and that some sort of lesson arises from her death. It’s incredibly unfortunate that it takes moments like these for people like myself to stop and consider drug use and its effects, but maybe this is the kind of wakeup call we need.

* For some reason, I hesitate to use her name. Sorry folks.
** Her obituary didn’t state a cause of death, nor was a news article written. However, all indications and word of mouth indicate a heroin overdose.

{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

thatShortChick August 24, 2009 at 8:43 pm

I’m so sorry about your friend’s death. I wish I had something more insightful to say, but addictions are brutal and so hard to understand.

“Hard to understand” is so right, especially for those of us who have never traveled that path before. I truly wish I could understand even the slightest bit.

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Amber August 24, 2009 at 8:43 pm

I’m sorry for your loss. It’s always hard to hear about someone so young dying. It’s even harder to hear when a young person dies from something like drugs or suicide.

One of my friends died when we were 16 from a car accident when she was speeding well past 100 and ran off the road and hit a tree. The one positive thing her death did for me and her closest friends was provide a lesson in what reckless driving can do.

I also hope that the people who knew T will learn a lesson from her death.

Wow. 16. That’s so young, and so sad to hear. I’m sorry that had to happen hun. If anything positive can ever come from tragedies such as hers and T’s, I hope a true life lesson for all of us would be it.

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phampants August 24, 2009 at 10:53 pm

sometimes we just have to pause and realize how short and simple life really is

Exactly. I hate that this is what made me do so. I really do hate that.

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Jessica August 24, 2009 at 11:14 pm

Oh my gosh, I’m so sorry for your loss.

It’s okay. As horrible as this may sound, it’s easy to handle because we weren’t close friends. =/

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Andhari August 25, 2009 at 9:12 am

Gosh, of all the substance abuse, I can honestly say Heroine is the worst, followed by cocaine. I know some people around me who have become a victim. So crazy, what a waste. I’m so sorry for your loss.

Heroin has always been far away from me. Sadly, cocaine hasn’t been and I can name at least a handful of people I know who currently do it. And you are so right. What a waste.

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Jill Pilgrim August 25, 2009 at 8:28 pm

I have a brother with a serious addiction problem. And its devastating to watch. Whenever I read stories like this I can’t help but get a knot in my chest.

I am so sorry. :big hugs:

I’m sorry if I brought up some painful thoughts for you. Hopefully he can kick the addiction, although that takes a strength difficult to possess. All my best to you, your family and him.

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Kimwithak August 26, 2009 at 10:38 am

Wow. It’s got to be immensely difficult to process something like this. Heroin is something I’ve never been near nor have friends or family, so I don’t know the specific effects. But drugs in general can be very possessive over your life, and that’s what worries me about people using them.

I’ve never tried any drug, not even pot, so I’m nearly oblivious to how the body reacts to such substances. It also means I don’t understand why people would even think about using them, as I never have. Maybe that’s what makes this so difficult to grasp.

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Melissa August 26, 2009 at 12:54 pm

I’m so sorry for your loss.

I have some family members that are addicted to drugs and alcohol and it’s so hard to understand what goes through their head and why they harm themselves the way they do. I will keep you and her family in my thoughts and prayers.

And I’ll certainly keep those family members of yours in mine as well. Hopefully they kick the habit before they end up like T. =/

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Justin (Oats) August 26, 2009 at 1:51 pm

What people don’t see is how the addiction doesn’t just effect the addict, but everyone around them. I feel bad for the family.

As do I. Her mom was such a nice, caring, compassionate woman. I haven’t seen her in years – she worked at my high school, so almost everyone knew her – but I can’t imagine much as changed and this has to be killing her inside. That poor family. I hope they soon find some sort of peace.

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LiLu August 26, 2009 at 4:23 pm

I’m with you. Heroine was always the “scary drug” I wouldn’t go near. So tragic.

Scary is right. I think this makes it even more frightening.

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OmegaRadium August 27, 2009 at 10:46 am

Its always bewildering to learn of a classmate’s untimely death. Graduating in 2003 in a class with about 500 students, I wasn’t close to everyone, but I was familiar enough.

Luckily, I’ve only learned of 2x deaths from my graduating class, and like you, I found myself thinking back to all the different moments that particular student and I interacted. Were they happy interactions? Was I nice & polite, or was I an ass? Of course, I was never an ass to either one of the two who passed.

I think T was the first of my class of 2003, with 232 grads, to die. I know of at least two others I knew who passed away, but one was the year before mine, and the other the year after.

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Felicia August 27, 2009 at 9:03 pm

It’s crazy. Our friends are not supposed to die. We’re too young to mourn our peers. Have you considered maybe volunteering at some sort of outreach center? Or maybe this blog may reach someone who is going through the same thing…

If we were 50s or 60s, there’d be a more reasonable expectation that our friends would die. But this young? In our 20s? It’s not something I expect whatsoever, which makes it that much sadder.

I’ll have to look into outreach centers here. I’m actually unsure if there are any.

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Stephany August 27, 2009 at 9:30 pm

Just found your blog and what a sad post! I recently had to deal with a child in the preschool I work at dying. He was just 16 months old and it was a senseless death. I’ve never had to deal with someone dying from substance abuse. My dad used cocaine on a regular basis when I was a kid. And he usually used when I was around. Drugs are senseless and just plain stupid. I’m so sorry for your loss.

A 16-month-old? That’s so sad. What happened? =( That poor, poor child.

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Ashley August 28, 2009 at 12:15 am

I’m really sorry. Situations like this just seem impossible.

That they do.

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hardlyhearshimself August 28, 2009 at 5:37 am

People tell me I can be unsympathetic and cold when it comes to dealing with death. I don’t know, I just don’t outwardly express it, but I certainly feel some sense of loss. I had a close friend in the 8th grade that I also discovered died years later of a heroin overdose. He taught me how to be cool, since before him I was pretty much a social outcast. It was awkward because I wasn’t entirely sure how to feel, since I hadn’t actually known him in years.

It’s strange when things you normally play spectator to confront you.

I love that last line you wrote. It’s so accurate. And I feel the same way about T’s death as you did about your friend’s. I haven’t spoken to her in years, so I hesitated to write the “RIP T” – as everyone else did – in my Fbook status or even send a sympathy card to her parents. I felt as though I was, at this point, too distant from her to be allowed to grieve as others were. Yet there’s still that sense of loss that’s hard to ignore.

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Hezabelle August 28, 2009 at 2:36 pm

It’s hard when something shakes you like that… but don’t let your rose-coloured glasses fall off forever.

I’m hoping they don’t. I suppose I like looking at the world as an idealist. I like to see the best in people. Maybe some would consider that a fault, but that’s too bad.

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E.P. August 29, 2009 at 10:28 pm

Oh, Mindy. I’m so sorry to hear about your friend’s death. My friend’s husband died a few weeks ago, and another friend of mine committed suicide a few months ago. I’ve found that through their deaths, I have become more attentive to the people around me and tried to be more in tune with everything going on. I hope something similar happens for you and your friends.

My heart goes out to you, your friends and T’s family. How are things going now?

Things seem okay now. I’ve talked to a few people who went to the funeral. They commented about how terribly sad it was, and I’m sure it was just heart-wrenching. I think a lot of us are still in disbelief, but that’ll happen, I suppose.

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