Years ago, I fell in love with the movie Mask starring Cher which tells the story of Rocky Dennis, a teenage boy suffering from a rare condition known as craniodiaphyseal dysplasia. To this day, I’m not really sure why I love the movie so much, if maybe it’s the fact that I relate to Cher’s addiction issues in the movie, the difficult love relationship between he and his blind girlfriend or the amazing soundtrack sampling songs from Bob Segar. At the end of the movie, Rocky dies due to complications of his disease and when his mother finds him in bed, the song Ripple from The Grateful Dead begins playing in the background, as she puts pins into a map sobbing, “Now you can go anywhere you want, baby.”
It’s always these melodramatic, sad Terms of Endearment/Color Purple type movies which cling on to my soul and make me feel alive. And yet, from time to time, I find that life, is so much more real than the films which those emotions.
I knew a Rocky in my own life. He struggled hard with addiction and held several long periods of sobriety. About two years ago he called me and we started meeting once in awhile to talk about stuff in his life. When we would meet he would tell me everything that was going on his life and ask for advice on how to improve his future. He would read me his songs or tell me about his children and his ex-wife who he dearly wanted to reunite with but realized that he wasn’t good for her at the time.
And then he stopped calling. I didn’t hear from him for almost six months…until two weeks ago. I was out with some friends and Rocky called me late one night, leaving two consecutive messages telling me he was doing much better and he wanted me to know that he wanted to come in some time and say hi and let me know how he was doing. I never heard from him again.
Today, his ex wife called me and told me that he had overdosed yesterday and died. And when I got off the phone with her, I sat outside behind my office and wept. Maybe at the fact that I would never get to see him again or that he was leaving behind two beautiful children and a family that cared deeply for him, but also because addiction had yet again gotten someone I cared about so deeply.
I called my best friend in recovery and told her and she said, “I think we forget everyday that this is life or death.”
Life…or death. We’re promised those things by this disease but I forget those things regularly. I forget when I’m working with someone that has relapsed, trying to get them into treatment or trying to help them with legal issues…that this could have been the end of this life that they know. And none of us are bad people…we’re all good people trying to get well.
I’m tired of losing friends and people I love to addiction. But on the other side of the knife, I wouldn’t be where I am in my life if it weren’t for this disease, so it cuts both ways. I just know I’ll keep on doing whatever I can to keep one more person around and try to live my life to be an inspiration to those that don’t think it’s going to get any better. It’s all I can do.
When I first got sober, I lost a friend I had made in treatment to an overdose. My sponsor told me at the time, “some people have to die so that other’s may stay alive. Learn from this.” And I did. And hopefully, someone will learn from what I’m writing and allow Rocky to be an inspiration to them. Because this didn’t have to happen. And it’s no one’s fault. He’s just one that got away.
Which is why today, I drove home from work and blasted “Ripple” by The Grateful Dead and wiped tears from my eyes in honor of my good ole buddy Rocky. May you meet Jerry Garcia and my mom upon walking on those clouds, paint words on the sky for everyone to hear and always, always continue to smile that quirky, little smile! And as the AA texts says…hopefully we’ll meet again as we trudge that road of happy destiny! I dedicate this song to you…because how poignant that, like the song, you’ve made such a powerful impact, or ripple, into the lives of others!
I dedicate this one to you!
If you know someone who has a problem with addiction, if it affects their life in some small way, DO NOT take it lightly. It is life or death. Contact me or someone to help…because, we’re on borrowed time as it is!