I woke up this morning to a text message from my sister. She said she had bad news and asked me to contact her when I had a minute. I knew something serious was wrong.
The news she gave me was neither surprising nor expected.
I knew that my Uncle had an addiction that had quite a grip on the way he lived his life. I also knew he was struggling with the loss of my Grandpa (his Dad). The last time I saw him was at his funeral and he didn’t look well. His appearance had vastly changed from the time I had seen him before that.
Nevertheless, I never anticipated that this day would come. I mean, everyone’s day comes. I just never thought his would be so soon.
At the young age of 51, my Uncle was found dead of a drug overdose inside his apartment.
This news left me feeling… well, numb. I’m not sure how I feel.
“I have absolutely no pleasure in the stimulants in which I sometimes so madly indulge. It has not been in the pursuit of pleasure that I have periled life and reputation and reason. It has been the desperate attempt to escape from torturing memories, from a sense of insupportable loneliness and a dread of some strange impending doom.” ― Edgar Allan Poe
I am grateful for the opportunity to have met him. My mother was adopted as a young child and was only reintroduced to her birth father (my Grandpa) about a decade ago. That’s when I first met my Uncle.
He was so friendly, caring, and so much fun.
My parents didn’t tell me much about him at first because they didn’t want to scare me. Maybe they should have waited longer to tell me the truth because I was scared.
The Uncle I met had a totally different side to him that I was cautioned about. A side that would steal from his own friends and family in order to support his addiction. A side that had gone to jail on numerous occasions for crimes he committed while under the influence. That knowledge combined with my own experience with people battling addictions led to my fear of the unknown.
My Uncle was always so caring and friendly. Whenever I saw him he was so interested in my life. He would ask me how I’m doing, how my wedding was, how my schooling went, what I do for a living now. He would tell me a little bit about his life, the side that he could pretend was normal. He would say that we should get together sometime for coffee, and that he missed me.
I would engage in the conversation, nod my head and say “yes,” even though I was honestly fearful of being around him. Not fearful of him, but fearful of his addiction, not knowing if he was using at that time, and not knowing what he might do if he got upset or angry.
So, I never contacted him after we would visit at family functions. I felt guilty, but my fear was too much to fight through.
He would often send me messages on Facebook asking how things are going in between family functions and remind me that we should get together.
All of this has left me wondering if I should have done more to stay in touch. If there was something I could have done to help him in his time of need, dealing with the loss of his Dad. If I should have been more open and honest with him about my fears and let our relationship form a bond.
It has also left me remembering the cliché, life is short. 51 years is not long enough.
Have life experience dealing with a drug addicted family member? I’d love to hear your thoughts on my feelings expressed in this piece.