My sister was calling me. I picked up my phone, and I was met with tears on the other end. I took a breath and said "Who is this about? Who's dead?" And all she said was "Darren." I hung up, got sick to my stomach, and began punching my pillow.
I had never been angry or frustrated with a person that died before. The only emotion I knew that was associated with death was sadness. I couldn't shed a tear though. All I could do was yell and call him names, hoping that in some other realm he was feeling my wrath. How could he leave us all behind? How could he choose this ending for himself?
I can't remember a time in my life when Darren wasn't a part of it. I was five and he was eleven. We moved to Long Island, New York and he was our neighbor. Soon, our moms became like sisters and we became like siblings. I brought him to my karate lessons, we spent every fourth of July together, he did homework at my house, my grandma gave him Spanish lessons, I sang at his sister's wedding, and I went to visit him when he went away to summer camp. We were family.
I don't know when his addiction started, but it didn't make sense to me. He had a wonderful family, a great education, and the world literally at his feet. He could have done anything that he wanted in life. But he got sucked into drugs somehow. He lost sight of everything. My family and his, watched him change before our eyes. Though we fought hard to get him back, our efforts were in vain. The only one that could change his behaviors and circumstances was Darren... but he didn't want to.
There was one time in particular that I tried to reel him back in all on my own. A moment that I'll cherish forever.
When Darren went to jail, it evoked so much emotion in me that I wrote a song about it. I was in the music industry at the time, so anytime I would play shows, his mom would be there and I'd play this song with my band. I'd dedicate it to him every time. It always made me so sick knowing that he'd never hear it. Until one special day...
I was performing in a hospital for a group of older folks and from a distance I saw his mom. It was all very random. My show was last minute and I didn't know she would be there. She explained that Darren was upstairs in the hospital because he had gotten hurt and immediately I wanted to go and talk to him. I was told that there were police all around his room and that I wouldn't be allowed in, but I went anyway. I showed the officers the song, that I had written for him, on my computer and begged them to let me in so that I could show it to him.
Somehow, it worked...
I stepped into his room and sat on his hospital bed. I knew I had to make this fast because I was being timed by the police officers guarding his room. I was not allowed to touch him or have any physical contact but that did not keep either us from crying. I played the song and sang to him while we were both in tears. I tried to be quick while still cherishing the moment with him. It is a memory that I will never forget and that I hold onto still.
If you're interested in hearing the song, you can listen here...
You see...It did not happen all at once, I lost him bit by bit. With each new addiction he formed, he got further and further away from who he once was. He was buried in guilt, regret, and conflict. He always felt like a disappointment and instead of that motivating him to be better, it just discouraged him. No matter how many times we told him that we were rooting for him, it didn't matter because he wasn't rooting for himself.
I think about Darren often. He made me my first Facebook account ever! He did it in secret so my mom didn't have to know I had one. He would pick me up whenever I fell off my bike and he'd put a bandaid on me. He'd grab me from elementary school when he first started to drive so I didn't have to take the bus. He taught me how to sled on a huge mountain of snow. He is embedded in my memories of growing up and I am so grateful for these times he was in my life .
I've learned a few things during this time in my life.
Here are a few of them...
1.The pain never goes away. You just get used to it. Kind of like losing a limb. It's always missing but you just begin to live differently.
2. Addiction doesn't discriminate. It doesn't matter if your life is awesome and if you have a great family. It'll tempt you, and if you give in once, it's a very slippery slope.
3. Surrendering control is vital. I'd always get mad if he didn't call or text me back, because my family and I would worry when he didn't. However, I had to realize that he was going to do what he wanted, no matter how much I or anybody else tried to intervene.
What is it like to lose someone from an overdose?
It's a constant heartache and haunting of what should have been and what could have been. It's only being able to feel tiny moments with them in random dreams. It's gripping onto past memories so tight that your fingers start to bleed. It's continuing to love them with all of your heart, even when they never learned to love themselves. It's a sense of gratitude that you even had the chance to know them. Yet, it is also a build up of frustration that they made you care about them so deeply, because it only lead to being let down. It's random outbursts of tears, but knowing that having them in your life, even for just a few years, is worth all of the pain you are experiencing now.