IT HAPPENED TO ME: My Heroin Addict Ex-Boyfriend Died Almost Three Years Ago and I’m Just Now Accepting It

Death isn’t easy to cope with. It’s even more difficult to deal with when it involves your first love throwing themselves in front of a train.
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Hannah Twery
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Death isn’t easy to cope with. It’s even more difficult to deal with when it involves your first love throwing themselves in front of a train.

I’m not the grieving type. Funerals make me uncomfortable to the point that I become irate. I don’t cry when I hear someone, other than an animal, has died. My average reaction to death is a heartfelt, “Oh shit.”

It was no difference when my ex, who I was still very good friends with, committed suicide. I was sad of course but, even though it’s terrible to say, I had seen it coming for years.

He had tried to commit suicide on multiple occasions that left him with a giant scar on his arm from gouging a crater sized hole out of his forearm and no recollection of the time he overdosed in the kitchen of the hovel he was staying at.

The mass amount of heroin and the occasional few hits of meth amongst other drugs he consumed left him emotionally precocious and at a constant three way stop of irrational anger, extreme depression, and manic happiness. He had been predicting that he was going to die by the age of 25 since he was 17 and his reckless lifestyle only validated his prediction.

Though I had foreseen his early death and thought I was prepared for the grieving process, it took me almost three years to accept that he was dead.

The only photo of us together that exists. Unfortunately it’s at an artsy high school angle.

The only photo of us together that exists. Unfortunately it’s at an artsy high school angle.

If you've ever been in love with a drug addict, you know that it takes a toll on your initial idea of a healthy, non-dependent relationship. You become more grossly obsessed with their whereabouts, their criminal history, and their general well being than you would be in an average relationship. 

Once he stopped the boilerplate "high school kid popping OxyContin and smoking a ton of weed" phase, he moved onto heroin and gave meth the old college try. 

Our relationship became less about what we were going to do after school and more about when we were even going to be able to hang out. He had to find a new place to crash every month after he made the half-baked decision to drop out of high school and leave home, even though he had a scholarship to a prestigious art school so substantial that any wannabe creative type would gladly cut off their ear for it.

After a while, he made the positive decision to return home which is when the suicide attempts started. He was running after my car after I had spent a sober night with him watching cartoons and making out. While he was waving to me, his sleeves dropped down to show the gauze around his wrists.

His parents made the hard, but smart, decision to send him to a wilderness program in East Jesus Nowhere, Montana so he could detox and learn how to become an actual human being. He wrote me three page letters once a week during the few weeks he stayed there, which made him a constant in my life although I had started dating someone else.

Even though he was in and out of treatment centers for quite some time he stayed a constant in my life, despite my having moved on. He sent me sloppily handwritten letters reminding me of how much he loved me and that time that he proposed to me over a Marlboro 27 and a ring made of a tin foil scrap. 

He showed up smelling like a rotten pumpkin at the Waffle House I frequented after school when he hopped Greyhound busses all the way home from some halfway house in Louisiana. He called me from weird numbers every time he moved to a different state after he had quit the halfway house system. He even showed up on the corner down the street from my dorm room during my first week of college to wish me luck.

Obviously, when someone or something is perpetually showing up in your life and gets ripped out of it at random when you’re least expecting it, it’s painful as all hell.

He had called me on New Year’s Eve from some Texas number bursting with an energy I hadn’t heard since the pre-hard drugs phase. I kept our conversation short and barely listened because I was selfishly more involved in a high stakes drinking game. 

He kept butt dialing after I hung up, but I’m pretty sure a couple of those calls were deliberate because when I had had enough I picked up and screamed into the phone about how he needed to leave me the fuck alone and stop ruining my good time.

That was the last time I said anything to him. It wasn’t even a conversation, just irate babble.

I found out he died a couple days later from a friend who had seen it on Facebook. I was in shock, partially because I was battling a bad case of the flu and partially because I couldn’t believe that he was gone. It was like he vanished. 

When I found out that he had jumped in front of a train it was even worse. Like I said, I knew he was going to commit suicide but I thought it would be more like a quiet overdose and not a fast, violent death.

Although I was startled by his death, I didn’t cry. I only berated myself for the fact that I had been such an asshole to him the last time we spoke. I didn’t cry about it at all until a year-and-a-half later when I was drunk and feeling particularly guilty for yelling at him.

Up until now I only pretended like I had come to terms with his death. There was still a sliver of me that believed that I’d eventually get a call from a random number like I used to or that he was just out there somewhere and faked his death to avoid the mountain of warrants for his arrest. 

I kept blaming myself for his mortality, and in turn I couldn’t get over it.

After a couple mental breakdowns to “By the Way” by The Red Hot Chili Peppers (it played on our first date) and a failed attempt to find his grave, I came to the conclusion that it’s not my fault that he’s dead. 

Of course, anyone who knew how to properly grieve would have figured this out years ago, but it took me a while. Letting go of the self-loathing and personal reprimanding that I associated with his death helped me accept that he’s gone and not coming back and maybe, in some messed up way, it’s for the better.

I am in no means romanticizing drug use, mental illness, and suicide. Loving an addict is not as darkly beautiful and creatively lit as Requiem for a Dream or Kurt and Courtney’s relationship or those one word titled books like Smack that you read in middle school.

Instead, loving a hard-headed addict, especially for an extended amount of time, is like taking care of a rapidly eroding brick wall. 

You can only do so much to keep it up, you can’t expect anything in return, and there’s only so much time before it completely falls apart on its own terms.