Myself and 150 of Daniel’s friends and family celebrated what would have been his 32nd birthday this past weekend. It’s the second one he’s missed.
The farm he grew up on is 45 minutes from me. As I drove there the day before the celebration to help I unexpectedly lost it. I had not lost it like that over Daniel in a long time. But here I was driving through Pittsboro, loosing every ounce of mascara I wore on my face, feeling as lost and helpless as I had felt a year ago.
And the closer I drove to his family’s farm, the more I lost control.
I met one of Daniel’s lifelong friends at that celebration. He had struggled just as Daniel did to be free and clean of heroin. The week before Daniel died, he celebrated his sixth year of sobriety. And then he died.
Daniel’s dad allowed his struggle with sobriety to be touched on at his memorial. He said something along the lines of discussing it because you never know if someone will hear what Daniel overcame and need that message for themselves.
It turned out that someone did need that message and that someone was introducing themselves to me, clean, for the first time.
He said to me Daniel called him about a month before he passed and he chose to ignore it. He chose to not have to make excuses for himself to Daniel. He chose not to lie to Daniel. He chose not to answer. And that he regretted.
He said to me that he was laying in bed the morning of Daniel’s memorial suffering from withdrawals. He said that he hurt so bad that he couldn’t describe his pain. He said to go to Daniel’s memorial he had to use. And that’s what he did.
What I chose not to tell him was that I did see him that day. He was standing in the back of the standing room only service. He was crying hard. And he looked sick.
He said to me he was embarrassed to admit he’d been high that day. But he also was overwhelmed by what Daniel had conquered. Was amazed by Daniel who had been in his second semester of his first year in Med School. So, standing there, he had his reason to change. And for whatever reason, he became clean within a few weeks after.
He said to me his final regret was that he could not stand before Daniel and say to him he was clean. And he has been for a year and a half.
I took him to the box Daniel lives in. He placed his hand on top of the box and said, “hey man.” He took long, deep breaths. He cried. And then he told Daniel he’d been clean.