Kami Geron is a freshman mass communications and studio arts double major and writes “Artful Ruckus" for The Daily News. Her views do not necessarily agree with those of the newspaper.
Editor’s Note: The following story features details of drug abuse and mental illness. If you or someone you know struggles with mental illness and/or drug abuse, call 1-800-662-HELP (4357) or visit samhsa.gov
I thought I could’ve saved him.
I thought, if only I had acted sooner, maybe he wouldn’t have gotten addicted to drugs and alcohol.
I thought of so many different scenarios, but that’s all they are: scenarios. This, however, isn’t a movie, it’s the reality of life. Life is full of snotty tears, long nights, built up emotions that burst out of you too late.
I have had to say goodbye to too many people in my life, but the worst ones are always the ones you had no control over.
Addiction is not an initial choice, the initial choice is to take a sip of alcohol or to smoke a joint. Addiction is a mental disorder with no cure, that affects more than just the person using. While I told myself my friend was “too smart” to get addicted — that he knew what he was getting himself into — he couldn’t just stop. His brain couldn’t think about how these vices affected him, it could only tell him how to stay on the high because the lows were becoming too low.
When you hear stories of addiction, you never think about it happening to someone you love. It’s hard to grasp that one day you have a best friend, and the next they’re a stranger. My story is a little more complicated, though; while I was able to see the warning signs, my boyfriend was too close to his friend to see the stranger he had become.
When I started dating my boyfriend four years ago, I didn’t realize it meant dating his best friend too — and that wasn’t a bad thing. He did everything with us and became a part of my family. By dating my boyfriend, I also gained what I thought would be a lifelong and trustworthy brother.
That’s why it seemed perfect when the two of them were going to room together in college — I knew I could visit them and always feel welcome.
Some people say when you go to college, freedom can get to your head. I told myself our friend was just “experimenting” in the beginning. Every night he was out drinking or smoking weed. He was just testing this freedom out, I told myself, then he’d settle down and do his work.
But soon, it got much worse.
He would come stumbling in at three in the morning, leaving the front door unlocked, waking us all up and crashing into every piece of furniture before falling into bed. He would then wake up at 2 p.m. the next day and smoke in the room he shared with my boyfriend.
One night he came in high, and told me he needed help on a project due at 11:59 that night. I tried to help him, but the deadline passed, and instead of working to get as much credit as possible, he slammed his computer shut and went out to get drunk.
I was shocked. Our friend was one of the smartest people in our high school class, and he was excited to study a very specific and hard major.
If I didn't think something was wrong by now I would've been a fool; if using wasn't bad enough, he was mixing his prescribed high-dose depression medication with depressants — his highs became too high, making his lows too low.
Unfortunately, our friend didn’t care about our opinion. It got to a point where I didn’t even want to come and visit them because I didn’t want my stuff to smell like weed, or to be woken up in the middle of the night. I didn’t want to worry if someone would come rob or hurt us because he left the front door open, or if we’d get in trouble for him having drugs and alcohol on campus properties. And what if he hurt others by doing things like driving under the influence?
The battle of trying to change an addict, and convincing this friend of mine that he was one, was too much for me. I became very stressed and started to experience depression and anxiety along with many other mental health issues on top of my heavy school workload.
I tried talking to him about how I felt and he wouldn't take me seriously. He told me my feelings were invalid, that I couldn't be depressed and that the only solution was medication if I wanted to be "fixed.”
One night last October was our breaking point. He came back in the early hours of that morning, left the front door unlocked and cracked open, stumbled up the stairs to our room and turned on all the lights. He stomped around for 10 minutes before crashing into his bed. When he saw us downstairs that next afternoon, he was hungover, so he eased it with more alcohol he had brought into the house.
We knew that we finally had to end the cycle. We called his mom.
He was out of the house the next day. He didn’t say goodbye, and he never came back to campus.
The few times I saw him over winter break, he was still using. He came over to my boyfriend’s house with bong water spilled all over him, which he masked with cologne. Another time we were sitting on the couch and heard the familiar sound of a glass bottle being open, and caught him drinking alcohol he had stolen from my boyfriend’s parents’ fridge.
He said he didn’t even realize he’d grabbed it. It was so heartbreaking to see his face, to see how he couldn’t trust his own body. But that was just there for a second, he instantly laughed it off like it was no big deal.
It was tough going back to school. My boyfriend was alone everyday; he no longer had the best friend who always was by his side. He would go to school, come back to the dorm, do homework, eat and sleep. It became a sad routine.
I felt just fine, I no longer had to worry about either of them being hurt. I selfishly had my boyfriend all to myself again, I didn’t have to battle for his time because we no longer had to babysit our friend. I knew he felt awful for how everything happened, but we knew we did the right thing by having him go home.
But addiction isn’t cured overnight, and it isn’t fixed by forcing someone to get treatment. Our friend would disappear for hours without telling his mom, and she called us one night past midnight frightened. Our friend was unreachable, and it became more dangerous than ever. It’s one thing for him to be gone getting high all day with a friend and his phone being dead, it’s another when you know he was carrying a knife with him on campus because the lows were so low. Could this be the day the low hit rock bottom?
He never came back to college, and I’ve lost all contact with him. My boyfriend struggled with getting closure, but anytime he tried to reach out he never got an answer. However, when we all were sent home from college due to COVID-19, magically he reached back out to my boyfriend.
He asked about me, which made me tear up. I missed him, how could I not? We had lost a piece of both of us, and it was so hard to think we failed him. But I soon started reliving everything that had happened, and there was no way he could’ve possibly changed after being home three months; we knew he wasn’t going to his therapy anymore because he didn’t believe in it.
After that one day, we went back to silence between us. He hasn’t reached out again, not to my boyfriend. He never really reached out to me, but then again I wouldn’t know. I wanted to remove him from my life, he had hurt the person I loved and hurt me, and hurt himself. I wanted to forget, so I did what we all do in this age: I blocked him on every social media platform, but I do still check his accounts and his mom’s Facebook, because the hard truth is I will always care for him.
This experience was one that I never thought life would throw at me. While addiction is common, I never thought I’d be affected by it. I feel like a part of my identity was lost when I lost my best friend.
I was, and still am, very angry with our friend. I let him into my life, and it felt like he threw me and my boyfriend away.
Not many people admit that they're upset with their addict friends. They're not who they used to be, they're sick. How can you not feel like a terrible person for being mad?
But the sad truth is he couldn’t stop — he had gotten addicted.
I wasn’t mad at him for this, I was mad at him for inadvertently ruining our friendship and for ruining his relationship with his best friend of 10 years. I like to believe that he knew what he was doing, just not who he was doing it to.
But addiction is heartbreakingly unfair.
My boyfriend and I were left with pieces of a relationship we both had, and we still haven’t found them all. That ignorance of our friendship was just as hurtful as seeing him suffer. It was unfair to me to see a best friend be blindsided by the pain he caused, not being able to see how he was hurting himself and us.
From all of this, I learned that numb is a scary feeling. It’s impossible to know what to feel or how to respond to every scenario. Not everything just affects one person. While our friend only thought he was affecting himself, he was hurting both me and my boyfriend, which in turn hurt many others around us because our mental health started to plummet.
Mental health is a serious battle in our society today. If you know someone who is suffering from depression, anxiety, stress or anything else, help them. My boyfriend and I were gullible and let things go too far, and we lost a dear friend to drug and alcohol abuse because of it.
Contact Kami Geron with comments at firstname.lastname@example.org and @GeronKami on Twitter.