“So, exactly what religion are you?” J asked. We were sitting across from each other at a Mexican restaurant.
“A christian mystic” I replied. He about fell into the floor laughing. He stopped long enough to catch his breath.
“What the hell is that?” He asked with an infectious grin.
“I’m not really sure” I said, as I plunged a chip into some salsa.
The conversation went back and forth like this for several minutes.
J was Mormon. He wasn’t looking to judge or convert me. He was just curious.
He had a growing family. He had adopted 2 girls and was in the process of adopting their 2 sisters. I admired him immensely.
In the doctor’s lounge, while we were all loading up on coffee, he would explore his decaf options. Always coming up with new things to drink and try.
He became a runner. He probably lost about 50 lbs. He would give us exercise advice “just go and run”
He was a free spirit. A “hippy” soul. He was laid back, generous, and had a casual yet put together style.
He loved music. He wanted to take a few months off and follow a certain rock band across the country while they were on tour.
He had a magnetic personality. You felt like you could trust him with anything.
He was always scheming new ideas, new business ventures, and he had decided he would go to law school after he finished residency. To him, the world was full of optimism and promise.
But J was not without his demons.
I called him from a bar one night. A buddy and I were having a few drinks and we decided to give him a call and have him join us.
“Sorry guys, I can’t meet up right now. I’m in an AA meeting”
What? I had no idea.
I didn’t see him as an addict. He seemed too put together. Too functional.
I knew he had some issues in the past. But I thought this was due to partying. Having fun. Just a little marijuana here and there.
J died a few months later. Alone. In a car. With a needle stuck in his arm.
His patients lost an amazing doctor, his wife lost a husband, his daughters lost a father. And I lost a friend.
Addiction can strike anyone, anywhere, any time. It’s a demon with many faces. And it leaves nothing but carnage. It’s a war to the end. To those not in the trenches, they will never fully understand.
So, I’m going to keep doing what I do. I’m going to help every soul struggling with addiction that I come across. I will stand for those that can’t stand. I will fight for those that can’t fight.
I won’t always be successful. It’s the nature of the beast. But I’ll be damned if I don’t go down swinging.
I’m not doing this for J. I’m doing this for You. I’m doing this for me.
Hold on to those you love, for the flame burns dim and our life is but a whisper.
And to J, “I’ll see you on the other side, buddy”