“There is nothing like puking with somebody to make you into old friends.”
-Sylvia Plath The Bell Jar
Sometimes I wish my best friend was dead. I have to live with that guilt. It’d just be easier though.
My friend Matt lives with a needle in his veins somewhere in a car in Dallas. I live in fear of the 3 AM phone call saying I have a body to identify or a funeral to attend. I spend hours searching namus and doenetwork sites to see if any bodies have been found in that region that would match his description. I’m perpetually ready for a funeral.
Matt was born 15 minutes before I was in the same hospital. I was supposed to be born first, but we always joked about how it was best if he went first to test the waters. We didn’t officially meet until 1st grade, but right away we were inseparable. We made for the oddest couple. He was always cynical and dark and brooding. I was light and soft and happy. In elementary school I used to get upset because people would always tell me that my best friend was a jerk. At that age I couldn’t see it objectively, he wasn’t a jerk to me so I didn’t see the problem.
We grew up together. We lived just a couple blocks away from each other. By the time middle school rolled around our parents just accepted our attachment to each other and would allow us to stay up late at each others houses watching TV or surfing the web. This was pre high speed everyone had internet days and we used to go find AOL chat rooms and pretend we were anyone but who we were. We’d stay up late watching MTV and Comedy Central Presents. Mitch Hedberg was our favorite. We’d watch movies together, he’d pick things like Natural Born Killers or The Matrix, and then I’d make him watch My Girl or some old musicals with me. We discovered Radiohead together and could have sworn that the song Creep was written for us. He led me to TOOL, I led him to TV on the Radio and The Pixies. We got high together for the first time and drunk together as well. It was a really normal teen angsty existence.
Matt was born a white male into an upper middle class life. He was supposed to have it easy. As early as 5th grade they started playing with his brain chemistry. During the late 90’s there was a ritalin epidemic going on. It mostly effected boys, basically if a kid was a little bit….well….not well behaved it was common to shove some pills at them, usually ritalin. Just some pills to quite them or to subdue them. I do intend on getting into the research on that in the future, but for now this is just my experience. Or his experience rather.It was a constant cycle of new pills and prescriptions, all designed to make him and kids like him easier to deal with. I don’t know how or why he ended up with addiction problems, addiction doesn’t run in his family, but I can’t help but think that a lifetime of being used a chemistry set didn’t help much. By 19 it was clear he had a big problem with alcohol. 19 is also when him and I split ways. I was leaving for Denver, he was leaving for Texas. The night before I left for Denver Matt and I watched Citizen Kane over at his house. He told me it was dumb to watch a movie as many times as I’ve watched that one, I told him he was born in a state of perpetual grumpy old man. What we meant to say was that we were going to miss each other.
I knew he had been suffering with depression, anxiety, and alcohol dependency, but I didn’t know it had escalated to cocaine. I found out that night when I went upstairs to see if he was almost done making popcorn and I found him doing a line. He looked furious that I had caught him in the act. I wasn’t sure if he was going to explode or not as he had developed a bit of an explosive anger problem over the years. Instead he told me that he couldn’t wait until he never had to see me again. I’d rather he had yelled or thrown something. I have surprisingly thick skin because of growing up with him and others like him, I don’t cry easily, but that hurt. He rolled his eyes, and told me he’d meet me downstairs for the movie in a few minutes. We then watched the movie, ran our normal commentary, said our goodbyes, and I walked home alone. It was one of the only times he didn’t walk me home. I was OK with that.
It’s been almost 10 years now. I’ve only seen him a few times, and the last time I hardly recognized him. I’ve spent 10 years researching male addiction rates, the ritalin stuff, cringing at 3 AM texts thinking it’s going to be thee one, when usually it’s just a friend unaware of time differences. I’ve dealt with some very shady characters from Dallas and Louisiana trying to keep track of him, and I keep an eye on dead bodies found in that area wondering when it’s going to be him.
I’m going to start sharing all that for anyone else dealing with a friend or family member with addiction. It’s hard to do it alone.