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Editor’s note: names have been changed for anonymity.
Feb. 1 marks one year since one of my close friends, Chad, passed away. Everyone called him “Happy Chad.” He had red hair and pale skin, the best laugh and he always wore a baseball hat and a vest. He was an amazing guitarist and spent a lot of time volunteering, which I was unaware of until I read his obituary. I’ve never met a person that had anything bad to say about him. We lived in a town just an hour outside of New York City — it was hard to grow up there because it’s a place with a lot of money going around, and there is no limit to the people and things you could be introduced to. It was a town where we all grew up too fast.
Once Chad started hanging out with the wrong people in high school, he was introduced to the world of drugs. Shortly after, he got into a car accident in a friend’s car and broke his neck. He was prescribed oxycontin and he became addicted to it. His friends were not a positive influence either— they all did oxycontin, and their tolerances went up so high they eventually ended up shooting heroin. You would’ve never known Chad was a drug addict unless he or someone else told you. He got sober after a few months and was doing great in college, but he eventually relapsed and ended up in rehab. Once he got back, he was hanging out with the same detrimental people in the same detrimental town. Chad was the only one of his friends who never stole or deceived anyone. Most of his friends were fortunate enough to move on from drugs and move forward in their lives, but Chad got left behind. At 19, Chad was found in his room by his mother, dead, with a needle in his arm.
Chad’s addiction was his own internal demon, and he never imposed it on anyone else. He was a completely normal, intelligent young man who got caught up in using drugs as an escape. It’s really a prime example of not judging a book by it’s cover. Everyone knew him as “Happy Chad” on the outside, but there was no way anyone addicted to drugs could be entirely intrinsically happy. His nickname could have been a lot of pressure in itself. Everyone thought of him as such a happy spirit, but there must have been something within him that was lacking a true, genuine, authentic happiness that could come from himself. That’s why he resorted to an outside source.
No one ever questioned Chad’s happiness, and no one ever expects to lose a friend at such a young age. Unfortunately, it happens — especially if someone’s friends are oblivious to what’s really going on in their lives. To keep someone from slipping through the cracks, you’ve got to make sure you’re being present enough in their lives.
Don’t take anyone’s outward appearance to be all they’re going through — be aware of any possible changes in their life. Are they being more distant toward their friends? Are they hanging with a new crowd? Are they starting to slip in class? Make sure to be mindful of when they are talking, and reiterate how they can always go to you for anything. While you shouldn’t constantly push yourself on to someone, making sure they know you’re always there for them if they need it can make a huge difference. Even a small conversation can eventually get someone to open up. In the meantime, be present and appreciate the time you have to spend with them. You never know when things could change.
Before the age of 18, I experienced the deaths of people I personally knew. These experiences have led me to believe that no one is ever really “gone,” even though you can’t be with them in the same way. Their physical presence may not be here, and you may not be able to physically see them or verbally speak with them, but they are always with you — that extra second you had to swerve before you hit another car, a friend you made while you were feeling the most lonely, the woman who gave you back your wallet with everything in it when you thought you lost it, the competitive job you’ve always wanted that you got employed at — the daily miracles are endless.
At Chad’s funeral, his former band played “Here Comes the Sun” by The Beatles. I was sitting in the church and praying to Chad, asking him to give me a sign that he will always be with me no matter what. Later that evening, I was speaking with someone in my apartment complex about existence and the entire concept of no one ever really being gone. Mid-conversation, “Here Comes the Sun” started playing on the computer. We both smiled, assured that it was Chad, letting me know that he’ll always have my back, as well as everyone else he loved and cared about in his lifetime.
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Domna Dali at firstname.lastname@example.org.