You were there, you lived through it, you loved them
On a beautiful summer evening at the Maidstone Club in East Hampton, New York, I attend a cocktail party celebrating the 21st birthday of the daughter of a socially prominent and affluent family.
I did not attend elite boarding schools and Ivy League colleges, so I do not know many people at the party. Standing among three generations of the one percent, I look around for my boyfriend but it seems as though he has disappeared. My high heels hurt my feet.
A romantic fog rolls in, shrouding the golf course. While I look for him, my boyfriend shoots up heroin for the first time in the pool house with other party guests. My life is about to change forever.
In the time that follows, as addiction takes over my boyfriend’s life, it also dramatically changes mine. We lose the apartment we share, but not before I clean up human feces, find dirty syringes floating in the suds as I wash dishes, put out a fire on my bed, am robbed, and find a prostitute in my living room. Blood is everywhere in our apartment, most mysteriously arcing across the ceiling.
My boyfriend steals my debit card and cleans out my life savings. I lose my job. He loses his job on Wall Street.
His little brother, who still has braces, shoots up and becomes an addict.
I start getting tested for HIV. I am scared to tell anyone about his addiction or to get help.
Eventually, through a series of miracles, because everyone involved has reached the bottom, he is admitted to one of the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation Addiction Treatment Centers.
In a taxi with everything I own on the seat next to me, I go home.
Here is the important part:
This story is similar to that of many people addicted to opiates and those who love them. The addicted person dies or goes to rehab, and the lover, father, mother, sister, or child takes a deep breath. The important part, the part I want you to cut out of the newspaper and carry in your wallet is this: It is not your fault. Nothing that happened has anything to do with you. You were there, and that’s it. You lived through it. You loved them.
Now, go find some dreams of your own to fulfill. Don’t look back. You can’t do any more than you did. It is over. Live a full, rich life. You will carry the pain with you forever, so don’t feel like you have to stay in touch with the person whose addiction took over your life.
People, like my boyfriend’s little brother, will die, and that will almost crush you. Pain and sorrow will wake you during the night and will be part of the rest of your life. Tamp it down, however you can, and the next day smile because you beat it again. Then, go and live your life. Godspeed, my friends.