Submitted by Tabitha Shorte from Parenting Matters
Teen addiction is a very serious issue in our society today. Unfortunately, due to the nature of a teenager’s brain, experimentation usually comes with the age. If our teens aren’t educated properly to understand that just one joint or one hit could be the start of the path to addiction, they could end up making life-changing choices. We need to teach our children that although they may have the power to choose to experiment, they don’t have the choice of whether they become addicted or not. We also need to teach our children that once addiction takes over their lives, they lose complete control of themselves. I am sharing this letter from a student of mine when his best friend died from an awful accident while he was high. I share this with you in the hopes that it may bring to light the pain and suffering everyone goes through when dealing with addiction.
Letter to my friend Markus
I can’t believe you are gone. I’m still in shock. It’s eating me up inside. We were best friends…we grew up together…the crashes on our BMX bikes, the late hours playing Call Of Duty…we were inseparable. Until you started to go your own way. I chose not to hang out in the same circles as you, and we drifted recently. I always thought we’d get back to hanging out more. Once you got the hurt healed, and you found yourself, we’d go back to the good old days. I guess that’s not possible anymore.
I want to say I’m sorry. I’m sorry for not being a good enough friend, for not stopping you at that first vape. I wish I would have done more, I wish I said more. I am left holding the regret and having the guilt weigh me down forever now.
I wish I was there for the first time you used. I knew you were hurting. Your mom running out on you and your dad, your dad’s anger, the violence, you needed an out. You were trying to fit in at school. The vaping, smoking, weed, moving to the harder drugs, I knew you were trying to find your place with some other people while trying to quiet the demons inside. I wish I told you to not to start, not to take the first, second and third puff. I wish I forced you to face your problems at home before it got out of hand.
I wish I chose to support you instead of walking away. The fact that I didn’t try to get you to see the light will haunt me for the rest of my life. We were just kids, I thought you were just experimenting…’ sowing your wild oats’ like my dad says. I wish I knew that those drugs you were using were going to end your life so soon. I would have never given up. I would have fought for you, pushed you, and made you get clean. I wouldn’t have given up. I thought it was just a phase. Now, it’s a phase that will never end. Your legacy has been demolished by your death.
I wish I was at that party when you got punched in the face.
I wish you were sober when you got attacked.
I wish you had called someone: me, your dad, anyone.
I wish you wouldn’t have left that party to walk home.
I wish you didn’t have bleeding in your brain which caused you to stumble and fall into a ditch.
I wish it didn’t rain that day causing puddles in the ditch you fell into.
I wish you fell into the ditch on your back, not face down.
I wish you were aware enough to lift your face out of the puddle to continue to breathe.
I wish I was there to pull you out of the ditch.
I wish I wasn’t the one your dad called the next day when you didn’t come home.
I wish I didn’t offer to go with your dad to try and find you.
I wish we didn’t find your body two blocks from your house.
I wish I didn’t have to see your dad cradle your lifeless body as the tears ran down his cheeks.
I wish I was more of a man and didn’t cry too.
I wish I never heard that agonizing scream that came from your dad’s grief.
I wish I could talk to you one last time.
I wish this letter made me feel better like my counselor said it would.
I will get my wish today of saying goodbye to my best friend. I’m not sure how I’m going to hold it together when they bring in your casket. I’m still in so much shock. I just can’t believe it. Don’t worry though, I’ll be there for James and Sam as they try to cope with losing their friend too. At least I learned my lesson, I’m going to be a more involved friend. One who will speak up, one who will face the demons, one who will support his friends by not allowing addiction to grab hold of the ones we love.
I wish you to rest in peace, my friend. I’ll miss you bro.
I share this true story as a reminder of how quickly addiction happens. Although we have a stereotypical vision of what an addict looks like, there are many, many ‘normal’ teens who struggle. I changed the names of the people involved, but the events are true. ‘Markus’ was a student of mine and it was in fact his father and his friend who found his body. As a parent myself, I just can’t imagine, the guilt, the sorrow, the grief.
I am hoping by sharing this story, we can see how quickly accidents can happen, and when substances are involved we are all left to wonder, ‘what if?’ If ‘Markus’ was sober when he was punched, could he have shaken it off? Because his body was so fragile from his abuse of drugs, his blood vessels were extra thin and the punch to his face caused the blood vessels in his brain to begin to leak. Unfortunately, he was unaware of this because he was under the influence (he probably didn’t feel the warning signs) and ended up passing out in a puddle in a ditch. Would Markus have lifted his head and knew he was drowning if he was sober? Would he not have passed out in the ditch, to begin with? We will never know.
I also share this story for teens who are wondering if it is okay to experiment. I know teens think that trying a substance once is “no big deal”, but it’s amazing how once turns into twice, turns into ten times, and no one knows what the magic number is for an addiction to take hold. Once a person is addicted, nothing else matters; their friends, their families, and the pain they cause their loved ones, their only mission is to score the drug of choice to get the high they now NEED.
Having known ‘Markus’ before he became addicted to drugs, I know he would feel awful to know how much pain he has caused his family and his friends because of his actions. He was such a kind, loving young man, he was athletic and loved his little sister to pieces. As he began to experiment with drugs, he began hanging around with a new group of peers, his attitude and attendance at school suffered, and he refused all help or guidance those of us who cared for him offered.
I myself was in shock and grief when ‘Markus’ passed away, but when we had our grief sessions with his friends in my class, it became apparent how much they were suffering as well. My heart broke for those ‘Markus’ left behind because they felt completely responsible for not being “better friends” or better parents. ‘Markus’ has been gone for a few years now, and although we are working through our grief, I beg of you, please, please just say no. If ‘Markus’ would have said no the first time he was offered that first puff of the vape, there is a very, very good chance he and his buddies would be enjoying the new BMX park our city just built, or staying up to the wee hours of the morning playing the newest Call of Duty release. We all miss ‘Markus’ and although I can’t change the past I do hope someone will learn from his story and make the right choice when they are offered that first drug.