William "Cage" C. arrived at Lifetime Recovery the day after I did. He was 21 years old, from Alamo Heights, an avid reader, a film and music elitist, one of the smartest kids I've ever met, and a heroin addict. He had been here back in November, but he left early to get into a sober house in Austin. He slipped back into using again and came back here to Lifetime for help. My buddy Rabi and I took an immediate liking to Cage.
He was young, but his face and the look in his eyes showed that he'd gone through some shit. It was the same look I had. He was beat down and needed some help.
After detoxing, Cage started to come out of his shell. He played Rummy and Spades with us, was a killer 1st baseman in softball, and didn't care what other people thought about him or his unmoving opinions on life, love and religion. Oh, and the boy liked hackeysack, Benjamin Franklin and the Wu Tang Clan. Go figure.
For the next 30+ days, I watched him open up in our small group therapy and individually to myself, Rabi and a few others. Rabi and I saw ourselves in him...saw the same pain, same issues with the same drug...we wanted him to succeed.
Cage and I completed the first phase (30 days) of our treatment recently. The second phase (60 days) is that we got to leave the center during the day to look for work, go to meetings, do service, eat fast food...whatever. Then we come back for evening classes and sleep at the rehab.
Cage was in great spirits. He hung out with his dad his first day out...got a haircut and a shave. He looked like I felt - ready to take on the world.
He was found dead yesterday morning at home. He would have turned 22 today.
He and I were a lot alike...we both thought we were too smart for our own good. We both also thought that this treatment was our last shot. Addiction is progressive...we both felt that death would be imminent if we went back.
The thing is, while I wanted to teach him, he ended up educating me. He embodied the phrase "to let what does not matter truly slide". He acted like he didn't give a shit, but the truth was he just didn't care about little meaningless crap. He helped me let go of my attempts to control things or other's actions of which I had no control over. I couldn't thank him enough for that. I will miss him more than this blog entry can express.
Today Hunter would have been 42. He had a big heart and his personality lit up a room. He could even make me less cranky, believe it or not. He loved photography, live music (watching and performing), his wife Jennifer, his blood brother Erik, his dog, his friends, and for some reason, me. Oh, and the fucking Seattle Seahawks, who I still watch to this day.
I had to work through some unresolved issues with grief and guilt about him over the past month, using his sudden passing in 2008 as an excuse to bury myself further into heroin. Our last conversation was him being concerned about my drug use. Sitting here thinking about Hunter and about Cage certainly makes me keenly aware of my mortality and of the pain that is part of life. I try not to dwell on "why them and why not me," even though it's natural.
I made a promise to Hunter and to myself: I will not waste the life that I still have. I will carry the memory of my best friend Hunter with me for the rest of my life. And I will not be forgetting my friend Cage and what he has taught me through his life...and death.
Happy Birthday, Hunter. I have 53 days clean...I'm doing this for both of us. I love you, man.
Rest in peace, Cage. I love you too, brother.