Once again, here I am, laying in bed while my brain is scrambling thoughts one hundred miles per minute. She has a tendency to switch from happy, sleepy thoughts to stressful, scary thoughts… but not until after I spend fifteen minutes trying to squeeze into a corner, without waking my big-headed dog. I finally find half of a pillow, rest my head, and (lucky for me) I am now stressed out and overwhelmed. As a college graduate living in a college town, my biggest worry is usually something like, “Should I have bought that dress earlier? Maybe I should go back. Well, no, honestly what shoes would I even wear with it.” Although, every once in awhile, a brief thought about the fears of moving back to Des Moines, transferring jobs, leaving friends, paying off student loans, and other boring, stress-free nonsense will pop into mind as well. I usually try to drop that stuff as quickly as possible and move on to the important things in life, i.e. Grey’s Anatomy season 12. Tonight, however, was different. I haven’t posted on this page for an embarrassing amount of time; but, for whatever reason, I just really felt like I needed to post tonight and forget all about Derek and Meredith’s long-distance relationship, when Karev is going to propose, and where in the world Dr. Yang is at now. I sluggishly grabbed my laptop, signed into WordPress, and I actually had one notification!! Ironically, my one single notification read, “Happy Anniversary! You registered 2 years ago today!”
Two years have gone by, but the memories haven’t faded one bit. The memories of the day I found out she was gone, the memories of our last car ride together, the memories of our last nap with her tiny leg thrown across the entire bed… Every single memory is still perfectly intact. It feels like we were laughing together just last week, but it also feels like ten million years have passed by since I heard “Anna died” through my phone. When I think of her being gone, I have no idea how I have held my self together for so incredibly long. When I think of the last time I was with Annie, a smile grows across my face and I begin to tell my favorite stories from our time together (for the 37th time that day).
One thing social media is actually good for, is the many, many pictures of Anna’s bench I was able to see on Anna’s ANNA-versary (What a PERFECT name created by Katie and Julia).
I had planned on driving to Des Moines for the Anna-versary, but the second I got behind the wheel of my car with the sun shining… My happy memories with Anna turned into sadness on account of we will never be blaring Y’all Want a Single and screaming the lyrics with the windows down, ever again. I turned around almost immediately, and I ran back into my house to return to the fetal position while snuggling my dog. I stayed like this in bed for over 24 hours… again.
As many of you now know, I was in the exact same fetal position for three months after first hearing of Anna’s passing. Much to my dismay, two years later, I subconsciously returned to the exact same position, searching for her comfort. Although laying in bed did make the day go by faster and was much easier than explaining my puffy red eyes to the 600 people walking campus at any given time, it reminded me of my past that I have worked so hard to get rid of. I was so upset and anxious I couldn’t even drive my car to Des Moines to see the spot where I had spread some of Anna’s own ashes. I spent the entire day hiding from the sadness and pressures of April 4th.
They say things get easier as time passes, but I don’t believe it. Maybe some things are meant to never truly change.
I have been thinking about my posts, how bluntly open I am about my experiences/knowledge of drugs, and how quickly many adults can be immediately turned off knowing I smoked pot in high school. Well, parents, this is the rest of the story that you don’t understand.
It is no secret that 1960-1970 birth cohort has experienced their fair share of experimentation with drugs. Back then, no one knew the effects of these drugs. So many people were using drugs and smoking cigarettes that the thought of saying “no” hardly even came to mind. My parents were born in the early and late 60’s. To this day, I do not know the extent of their drug experimentations, and to be quite frank, I do not think I should ever know, being as I’m their daughter. I can assume that they joined in on illicit activities with friends, but it is something I will never know for a fact. We never talked about drug use in my home, never mentioned ‘cocaine’ or ‘crack’ or anything like that. The one time the word ‘pot’ was ever used in my home was when I was about 13-years-old and my brother 16-years-old.
My mom sat us down and said, “Are any kids in your grade smoking dope?” With a very, very confused face, I looked at her and said, “What does that mean?”
To me, ‘dope’ was a term used to describe a goofy, outlandish, strange person. (i.e. the “Grandpa is a dope!” notes I left scattered around my Grandparent’s home as a playful prank.) She then corrected herself with more ‘hip’ language and said, “Do kids at school ever smoke pot? Do you know how much a dime bag costs?”
Note to parents: Kids do not say ‘dime bag’ or ‘dope’ anymore. ‘Dope’ is now a term used to describe something awesome, cool, or ‘far out’ as some of you would call it. Also, a ‘dime bag’ is no longer a thing. I found out 2 weeks ago that dime bag means it costs $10, and not the amount of marijuana you receive is the size of a dime. I’m 21.
At age 13, I did not know what a dime bag was, where to get marijuana, and no one I knew openly talked to me about smoking weed. My older brother was more shy in high school, and also looked at my mother like she was crazy and felt very uncomfortable during the entire conversation. It was very apparent that we had no knowledge of ‘dope.’ That was the end of drug conversations in my household.
While writing these blog posts, my parents, as well as all of you strangers, found out for the first time that I had smoked pot in the past. I commented on the how uncomfortable it was telling my parents, and apologized in my post as well. In the same post, I mentioned seeing cocaine in college, and knowing several people who have done that and beyond.
Here’s the kicker, parents. Your kid has too.
You can be as naive as you would like and continue to tell yourself that whatever college your child attends “doesn’t have that problem,” your kid “would never associate with people who do stuff like that,” “he/she doesn’t go to parties where that stuff is present, they would leave.” Ok, let’s put it like this. Kids here at Iowa, snort cocaine in the library. Iowa State, same thing. “Well, he/she has never seen that before.” Ok, let’s move on to the party scene. You have to be 21 to be in a bar, which leave house parties, lots and lots of house parties. House parties do not have security roaming around, do not require an ID or really even an invitation, and do not have people regulating your drinks. House parties make a very great place for drugs. Surprise, surprise. I was at a house party in college when I first saw cocaine. I walked into the bathroom to find two girls with a $100 bill up their nose. I didn’t know them, they didn’t know me, and I have never seen them since. Welcome to college, parents. Your kid has seen drugs.
My major is criminology, so I would say I’m pretty well-versed in the topic of drugs. However, many students are well-curious in the topic of drugs, due to lack of knowledge. The way kids describe drugs, it sounds like a great time. “Take these caps, your body feels so good, and you will have so much fun, just laugh all the time, and hug everybody!” Who wouldn’t want to do that, right? Oh, but you are going to be pounding water like a fish. Oh wait, and don’t drink too much water, a bunch of kids keep over-hydrating themselves causing their brain to swell, and now they’re dead. But you’ll feel so great!!!
I had no clue what the difference between ‘molly’ and ‘ecstasy’ was prior to coming to college. You could show me two pills, one ibuprofen and one ecstasy, and to this day I won’t be able to tell you which one is which. (pictures of drugs are VERY outdated in my textbooks.) Freshman year, I didn’t know girls who were going to the bathroom together, were actually doing lines together. I would have no clue that my friend’s random roommate was stashing blow in her desk drawer. I didn’t know how much a gram cost, or that the group of kids behind me just did a drug deal under the table.
But parents, you do know these things. You know the differences between these drugs, things to look out for, behaviors that are correlated with different drugs. You know what deadly additives can be in cocaine. The bad side effects of a ‘bad trip.’ These are all things your kid doesn’t know and needs to know. How is it that you can sit your kid down, tell them how babies are made and not to have sex, at age 13 when she first gets her period, but you can’t sit your 15-year-old kid down and explain to him the dangerous opportunities every single one of us has experienced? Isn’t that less traumatic; warning your kid about something that they may never even come in contact with, opposed to handing over condoms and praying they don’t use them until after age 30?
I have a very close relationship with my little brother, and am very open with him about how persuasive someone can be when describing drugs, but how dangerous they really are. He knows he can ask me anything about drugs, dangers, etc, and I am more than willing to explain it to him. I will get down to the very last, nitty-gritty detail of what I know about drugs, in an effort to completely diminish his curiosity (and to traumatize him with the idea that simply looking at drugs causes immediate death). Tell your kids whatever it is you think will scare them away from using drugs, ever. I believed that a Christmas elf was writing me letters during his break from making toys until I was 11-years-old, because my parents told me they also had elves visit them when they were kids, so obviously our family was just extra special. Your kid is going to believe whatever it is you have to say, as long as you make it sound legitimate. When other kids say, “No man, that’s not true.” Your child is still going to have that little voice in the back of their head reminding them of their Mom’s friend that overdosed on MDMA her first time and died at age 15. Trust me, disappointing your parent is 100 times worse than being the lame kid at the party. The guilt your child will feel knowing how disappointed you would be if you knew they did Molly will eat away at them enough that they won’t do it again.
Drugs are far too available, unpredictable, and intriguing for you to still think your kid is immune. The least you could do is have a conversation with your child, even if you know for a fact they aren’t using drugs, maybe they know someone who is very curious about drugs and don’t know what to do. The best thing you can do for your child is to be open to their curiosity. Let them ask you questions, otherwise they are going to ask friends’ questions… Next thing you know, they have the pill in their hand.
One year. An entire year has gone by since the day I found out my best friend was gone forever. To this day, I could very easily describe the day I found out about Anna’s death just as easily as I did in my post months ago. It feels like just yesterday, and to think and entire year has gone by is sickening.
I have been dreading this day, “one year since the worst day of your life and the day your life changed forever.”I have been dreading it for weeks. As a mental defense mechanism, I attempted to block out the thoughts of how awful ‘one year’ will be, I won’t be able to get upset if I just don’t think about it! If I just store all of memories in a little hidden box, keep myself excessively busy, and pretend like nothing is happening- nothing will happen, right?
Avoiding my thoughts and feelings might have been the worst plan of attack possible. I will say, realizing it has been a year since Anna’s death might actually be even harder than the day I found out she died- at least I was still in shock then. There is no more shock. I can no longer get away with thinking, “No way, it’s not possible, she’ll be back.” The wishful thinking is gone and now it is just pure reality punching you in the face (& stomach) with brass knuckles that spell “APRIL 4TH.” That’s basically what it feels like for the two weeks leading up to this very day. In the midst of being sucker punched by the invisible hand of reality, the imaginary wall barricading all of the memories, thoughts, and feelings, from my mind finally poured over the edge and took me under like a tsunami. The tears came pouring, the loneliness set in, and reality hit me over and over like a semi-truck. This is about the same time I decided that ignoring my feelings was, in fact, a horrible idea. Since these emotions had been building up for weeks, my little ‘don’t think about this stuff’ box filled up quickly and burst open like a grenade. I was still away from my family, Anna’s family, and the people who knew her best. I was still in classes, scheduled for work, and had endless amounts of stress not related to Anna’s death. I was planning on letting this all build up, then allowing it to explode when I said so, fully prepared with puppies and 7 month old nephew for immediate cheering up. Instead, it was just me.
…and my cellphone. Which comes in handy when you have a meltdown at 11:30pm on a Tuesday! As most college students are, the majority of my friends were out enjoying $1 “waters” and making wonderful (horrible) decisions. However, one friend responded with, “I know, reflection can be difficult.” I deemed this understatement of the year, but it is a perfect summary of everything that was going through my head at the time. I was simply reflecting on the past. I was thinking about what I was doing at this time last year, how I was feeling, I was simply relieving the horrible emotions and horrible feelings all over again. I was reflecting on how different my life was that Friday compared to that Saturday. I was reflecting on life before I found out and what I wish I could redo. I actually had the thought of, “If I would have just gone to work that night then..” -Seriously? WHAT WOULD THAT HAVE EVEN CHANGED, JORDON, WHAT? My point is, reflection is not only difficult- it’s torture. It’s one of the hardest things in the world to not reflect on how much better life was with Anna, but it just lets the hurt linger and linger. The reality goes from a semi-truck hitting you over and over, to a plane flying through your house and ripping you away with it, repeatedly, if that were possible.
Reflection should be on how far I have come since losing Anna. Yes, life without her sucks and it’s hard and I miss her more and more every single day- but if I think about how far I have come in accepting her death and living my life again, I know she has been pushing me along the way. At this time last year, I locked myself in my bedroom for the next 3 months, ordering delivery food, throwing it back up shortly after, not showering- essentially withering away in the shell of my body terrified to go on with my life. I didn’t think I would ever get out of that stage, and I never in a million years thought I would see any part of my old self again. I can’t even explain the changes I have gone through in this one short year, and I know I didn’t do it alone.
Life after losing someone doesn’t get easier, ever. You never miss them any less, you never wish they were here any less, and your love for them doesn’t shrink. You miss them more and more every day, you need them now more than ever, and you love and appreciate who they were to a higher degree the longer you go without them. That will never change. One year without Anna doesn’t mean I feel any differently about her death than I did one year ago. I feel exactly the same and often worse every day of my life. But one year without Anna on earth, has shown me there is hope for a future. It is possible to have life ahead of this tragedy, and not all of it is the horrible stuff I was expecting. One year is just one baby step in my life without Anna. Trying to live my life without a backbone of a friend to hold me upright is hard, it’s lonely. I often find myself searching for that person in the wrong places and depending on the wrong people, but I’m learning. It takes time to learn how to hold yourself up, when the world continues to shove you down, it’s not easy, but it does get easier as the days go on. This year is just one out of many years without Anna to come, and one out of an eternity of years with Anna, that I get to spend in Heaven- and for that, I couldn’t be more excited.
Although i have clearly been kept very busy lately between the holidays and school, I never go a day, or even 3 minutes, without a little Anna banana reminder.
First, it was Thanksgiving break. All of the college kids go rushing home for Thanksgiving break mostly for a real home-cooked meal, but secondly to be reunited with the true, life long friends from high school. My instagram newsfeed was filled with pictures of classmates igniting old friendships and reliving old memories. My snapchat ‘newsfeed’ (for lack of a better word) was filled with my new friends, smiling and laughing with their old friends, in a way that only real friends can make you laugh. Then, there was me. Cleaning my Dad’s house on the second biggest party day of the year. I wanted to go out with old classmates, I did. I wanted to see all of my old friends, but I couldn’t. I could not bring myself to go do all of these things knowing that such a big piece was missing. One day I will be able to accept the missing piece in my life, but I still could not celebrate a true ‘Thanksgiving break’ without being able to rush over to Anna’s house as soon as my family stuff wrapped up.
Next, Anna’s 22nd birthday. December 11th. The same day I got my first tattoo. “Seize the day, Family over Everything.” Anna’s 18th birthday party. December 11th either meant we were going to have a great night, or we were skyping in the library and talking about how great it was going to be to see each other so soon and have a really great night.
December 27th, 2014: One of the last days I saw Anna before heading back to college. Anna was using, I had no idea. Now, it makes sense and little things add up in my head.
Some of my fondest memories were over Christmas break. Us girls getting together to exchange gifts, staying up late and cooking literally any food we could find, driving the jeep through extreme death warning blizzards just so Anna could go to Kum & Go, wearing pajamas all day and running around the house, ordering pizza and having a 20minute debate on how to approach the pizza man if he actually turned out to be a she- a mind boggling puzzle we have yet to solve. School breaks were always the time to go home and see your real friends, the friends that have kept you grounded through it all. That’s not how it is anymore. Going home for Thanksgiving break is no where near as happy and cheery as it is for a lot of other kids, December 11th will never just be ‘December 11th’ ever again, Christmas break will never have the same cheer, relief, and relaxation it used to.
I’m currently laying here writing this post as a way to fight the urge to FaceTime Anna. I know I can’t FaceTime Anna, but I laid in bed for much too long wishing I could FaceTime Anna. My heart was literally being tugged down into my stomach before writing this. It was just today that I put together all the pieces as to why I haven’t been my happy holiday self lately, and the sequence of events that are going to happen the next few weeks for me. I honestly hadn’t even thought about what was happening at this time last year until today. Partially because I didn’t have time to think about it, but also because my mind doesn’t want to remember what was happening at this time a year ago. The thoughts just kept rushing into my head. I would remember one vague memory from last December, then all of the sudden each and every second of the month is replaying in my head. I couldn’t call Anna on her 21st birthday last year because I was in the library. Not only could I not call her, I was 33 minutes late. I know this because it was supposed to be the greatest day of our lives. I was 33 minutes late sending her a text message, she was right on time whispering in my dreams on my 21st birthday. All of these memories coming back to me, slowly but steadily, seem to build up on my chest and get heavier and heavier until I have to stop remembering and start focusing on my breathing. It feels as though my heart is gone and the memories are falling on my chest, harder and harder until they are heavy enough to fall right though the place where my heart should be. My heart had been ripped out and now just the thought of Anna is falling through me and I can’t even grasp it. That’s how quickly memories can fade. Which is also a good part about this bog, I can’t tell you how many times I read my own blog posts just to remember. Remember Anna, remember how I felt, remember how she looked, remember the smallest little memories that pop into my head when I’m writing, but completely disappear immediately afterwards. I don’t want the memories to fall through me. Anna’s memories will be forever engraved in my heart, no matter how hard it is ripped from my chest, rung out, and squeezed to it’s last beat- Anna’s memories are still there. They can never go away. And wit these posts, I have a way to always go back and remember how Christmas break used to be, what Christmas break will be one day, and who I used to be with my best friend by my side.
This semester I’m taking a creative writing class. We are supposed to be writing ‘short stories’ that we will be turning in at the end of the semester. However, I don’t want to write short stories. I don’t want to make stuff up in order to have an affect on people. I want to tell people the harsh reality of life, the way things really are, and how easy all of your lives are compared to the man sitting next to you, and the woman next to him, so on and so forth.
Our assignment today was to read a short story titled Going to Meet the Man by James Baldwin. It is a good read, but requires that you have a very strong stomach and a mind open to acceptance. During our conversation about the story, my professor read off some of his favorite quotes. One of them being something about if your writing doesn’t offend someone, than there really is no point to your work, it is more important to have someone absolutely hate your writing, than for them to just put it on the shelf and never remember it. He also mentioned that some of the best works come from authors that talk about the one topic that no one wants to hear about, talk about, or even know about- just as Going to Meet the Man had done. When I was talking about my feelings on the story I had just mentioned how much I felt that the best part of the story was the fact that he was so openly speaking of such a harsh, hidden topic. As soon as the words came out of my mouth, this blog and the responses I have got from people jumped into my head.
I have had people thanking me for writing, appreciative for giving others a different outlook on addicts, and just thanking me for the information they otherwise wouldn’t have known. The information on my blog isn’t new information, I didn’t find these statistics or feelings or create any of this. Everything I am writing are things that have been felt by several other people, statistics that were found by someone else– I am simply putting the information out there since no one else has. If I hadn’t lost Anna, I wouldn’t have learned this statistics. I wouldn’t be able to share this information if my best friend didn’t die. Heroin use was nothing I ever wanted to talk about, know about, and a death by overdose was absolutely something I never wanted to experience in my life. It is not something I would ever wish for any other person to experience in their life, however, it is absolutely something I love writing about. I love writing about it, in hopes that none of you do have to experience it in your life. In hopes that you will all see that pain, hurt, and disaster that is created from this monster. If you can stop one person in your life, if you can give one person any sort of information on how to help their loved one- I have succeeded. Although my posts are kind of all over the place- sad here, happy here, REALLY sad there- all in all, I hope you all can find something to share with another person, one thing that will help one person.
I have had a couple people message me with their personal thoughts on my writing (which I love hearing!! hint, hint), but the messages I have received are amazing. One of the first messages I received, an old high school classmate shared her experience with alcohol and pain killer addiction. First of all, I can only imagine the amount of strength it takes from someone suffering from an addiction to share that with someone who she was never super close with, so I was already impressed. She continued to share her story, and by the end I read, “So thank you for talking about it, and telling people what it’s like. My family won’t even talk to me anymore because of it.” I couldn’t believe it. She just told me some of her most intimate thoughts, and then thanked me?! To me, hearing her story and how she related to my posts was plenty enough. That is all I ever wanted from this, was to effect one person and to help them in their recovery, overcoming their addiction, anything. I just wanted one person to listen.
So you can imagine my reaction when I then received another message from another high school classmate. This time, she thanked me for being friends with Bryant. Thanked me for being friends with Bry, and thanked me for talking about how amazing he was and just telling his story. The next sentence I read, “I don’t know where I would be without that eye opener, so I probably owe him (and you) my life.” Wow. I had to read the message about four times before I could actually process what I was reading, and afterwards, I had no words. I could not believe it. “I probably owe Bryant my life. MY LIFE.” Bryant is gone and he is still here. He saved this persons life. I can’t stop repeating it in my head. I can’t tell you the happiness, the sadness, the joy, and just the overall overwhelming feeling I got from reading that message. I could not have been more proud to be his friend in my life.
Both of these messages I received were things no one wants to talk openly about, most people don’t want to hear about, and the person on the other side absolutely does not (but needs to) speak about. They are very personal, very real, and very hard to tell another person. That’s what makes it so important. That’s why we need to share these things. That’s what makes each and every one of us so important- the stuff that we don’t want to tell people, is the stuff we need to tell people. I never would have thought of myself as ‘a writer.’ I remember in high school, my parents would always get so frustrated that I had a better grade in German than I did in English! “You speak english! How does that happen?!” It was because I hated to read and write! So I have no idea how this blog comes out, I just know that it is important for other to hear it. This is my reality. This is happening. This happened to me. Everyone needs to know, just as much as you need to share your story. You never know who will be effected.
I keep photos of my friends I have lost on my bedroom wall. Some people think it’s morbid, but for me- it’s so I know I will never forget. Never forget their smiles, their laughs, their faces, I can trace every inch of them and know that I have life here left to live for my friends who do not.
The past can hurt. But the way I see it, you can either run from it or learn from it. -Lion King
I recently added this quote to my wall, right next to the faces of my friends that have passed away. I do believe there is a lot of truth in the quote. I do believe that you can let the past hurt you forever or you can learn to cope and grieve and better yourself.
I was laying here, looking at the quote, staring at Anna’s pretty smile, and in my head I kept repeating, “Anna’s dead. Anna’s dead. Anna’s dead. She’s dead. No more Anna. She’s not coming. Anna’s dead.” I can’t put these words together and have it make logical sense. Anna’s dead. It doesn’t even sound right. It’s been six months. Anna has been dead for six months. No, she can not be dead. Nothing inside me can fully accept the fact that she’s gone. I keep looking at her pretty smiling face, hearing her laugh, listening to her childish jokes, and the squeak in her voice when she would call me babe- none of it implies that she could ever be dead. What my head isn’t telling me, is that all of those things are only in my head, they aren’t in front of me anymore. They are no longer things I can share with the world. I can’t call Anna and hear those things, they’re only in my head. They will stay in my head forever.
I keep trying to picture her laying in the casket, and the casket driving away with my best friend’s body inside, but it still will not click. My head still can not accept it. She can’t have left me here. A young, beautiful girl like Anna can not be dead. She isn’t. She is my best friend and I can’t not have her.
I look at Anna, Bryant, Brandon- it can’t be real. They are all such young, attractive people. There is no way they are gone. To this day it is still hard for me to believe Bry is really gone. I had watched the video of his car in flames thirty times, and it still is not real. I listened to the most heart breaking speeches of my life dedicated to Bryant, and he still can’t be gone. I stared at Brandon in his casket, and it still doesn’t seem real.
When someone close to you passes away, it almost makes you crazy. You can’t even fathom life without them, and in your head it is very hard to live a life without them. There is not a second of the day that goes by when I don’t think of Anna. Every stupid thing I do, I can hear myself saying, “Anna would say this.. Anna would do that… I should call Anna and tell her.”
Some people say this feeling goes away. That one day, you stop thinking those things and you finally accept it, but I really don’t know if I could. I don’t know if I can accept life without Anna’s laugh. I hear that she is dead, and it’s just not real to me. Emotionally, I don’t think she could ever be gone. There are days it hurts, it rips me apart to know I can’t call her or hug her or listen to her. But other days, it’s almost like a warmth, the happiness that I still have her inside me, that I can still hear her voice. I play it over and over in my head, so I never forget it. I never want to forget it. I will never forget her. She will never be gone. She will never be dead. As long as I have her inside me.
We all spend hours daydreaming of what our lives will be. As children we are always asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up little girl?” I had my whole life planned out. I was going to grow up, skip over all that law school business, and become Judge Judy. I was going to find a tall, beautiful man that had a mysterious resemblance to my Ken Barbie Doll, and he would become my husband. We would have a huge wedding with white sheets everywhere, doves flying around the church, and I would walk down the aisle in a huge, fluffy white princess dress with a six-foot long tail following me. It would be perfect.
We later find something else that fits us better. I grew up, I adapted to my surroundings, I have felt different emotions, and eventually I grew into a whole new person that six-year-old little girl could have never imagined. I have no desire to be Judge Judy, nor do I want doves flying around pooping on my wedding guests. I met reality. I faced life. I have seen and lived through things I didn’t even know could happen.
Beep, beep, beep! By far the worst noise any freshman can hear at 6:55 in the morning. Rubbing my eyes with my ears still ringing from the beeping reminder that I have to get ready for school. I slowly get (fall) out of bed and start stumbling towards the bathroom. My eyes are squeezed shut tight enough to not give me a headache, but just enough to not let a peep of light through. Trying to regain stability, I slowly start to open my left eye in an attempt to decide if I really need to shower today, or if I can go sleep for twenty more minutes. Ugh, fine! Flipping on the showerhead, I go fall into my comforter until the water heats up. Why so early?
Finally ready for my first day of school, sporting a great pair of jean shorts and a sweater with just a couple holes. I stop in the mirror and decide I still look cute, but not like I’m trying to hard, perfect. I look at my phone, school starts in fourteen minutes and my brother has texted me three times to come get in the car. Oops. I grab my bag and head for the garage. I hop in his jeep and start texting Anna.
“Where’s your locker? I’m going to be late. Where you at?”
“Dude I don’t know, we aren’t there yet either. Meet me and Rachel at the gym door.”
“Lol, okay, cool.”
It was inevitable that Anna was late to school. Teachers eventually just stopped expecting her to be on time at all. I can’t say much, however, considering I was sent to the dean’s office for having too many excused tardy slips in a row. Anna and I were two peas in a pod.
As a six-year old, I would have never imagined what it was like to have a best friend that was so similar to you in so many ways, but yet so completely different. Anna was the ‘naughty’ one, and I was the ‘curious-but too-scared-my-dad-is-gonna-find-out’ one. I would always be the one to talk Anna into just telling our parents because I was scared they were going to find out anyway. Anna still had a way of manipulating me to live life on the edge every once in awhile. Together, we brought out the best in each other. There is something to say about a best friend who knows you better than you know yourself. I would die for Anna, and I have no doubt in my mind she would do the same for me. Blood alone could not have made us any closer. That’s a very rare thing to find in life. I could tell Anna anything, call her anytime, annoy her all I want when I was bored, and it only brought us closer. We would fight about real life, serious issues. I would scream at Anna about how stupid she is being and how much trouble she can get in, telling her she is being a complete idiot, speed away from her house, and she would call me back to tell me I’m right and give a sincere apology. Typically, she would end up doing whatever I told her not to anyway, but she would just tell me after she did it so I didn’t have time to force her out of it. Little snot. Looking back, that’s one of the things that kept us so close. If she always gave in and let me have my way, we wouldn’t have been as close as we were. We tested and pushed each other to points that no one else could. When I was feeling down or complaining about some rumor someone started about me, she would just look at me and say, “Dude why do you even care?” As I was defending myself, coming up with the most logical argument I could, her response was usually, “Dude whatever, screw that b*itch! She sucks anyway. People say sh*t like that about me all the time. Whocares. Let’s go make some guac.” We would jump in the jeep, jamming out to some Eminem, the bass shaking the entire car, and nothing else mattered anymore. Anna is the only one who can make everything in the world seems so small and a stupid song blaring in the car be the most important thing in the world. I was always worrying about the future, and Anna was living in the now. Together we would balance our thought processes out to be able to live in the now, but still think about the consequences in the future. The most perfect relationship.
Throughout high school, things never changed. We were always the same Jordon and Anna, and most of the school knew us as ‘Jordon, Anna, Rachel, and Sarah.’ Senior year brought up it’s own challenges, but in the end we were always the same best friends forever.
As we were planning for college, weighing our options, it became official. We were going to be separated. Rachel and I going to Iowa, Anna going to Iowa State, and Sarah going to DMACC. We made the best of our last summer together, and eventually said our teary eyed good-byes. Anna promised she would come visit me every weekend, and we would skype every day. I don’t think any of us realized how much work college was actually going to be. We did still keep in touch and skyped often. However, Anna’s plan of coming to Iowa City every weekend was a bit of a long stretch and only happened twice. Even the distance couldn’t tear Anna and I apart. Every time we talked we just picked up were we left off, and it was Jordon and Anna once again.
You can imagine my shock when I got the worst phone call of my life. Anna was dead. Anna overdosed on heroin. HEROIN. Anna was always a pot-smoker, but she never did heroin before. Yes she did. She was an addict for a year. That’s all it took. One year, and she was gone.
There is no one here to make me focus on the song playing quietly in the background of the hair salon as I process the news. There is no one to go make guacamole with me, and pretend like nothing happened. It happened, and that person was gone. No one could make me feel the same, and no one had the spunk Anna did to fix all of my problems. I had to deal with this without her. The worst day of my life and Anna wasn’t there to fix it. As I sat in the chair trying to wrap my head around what had just happened, I could feel myself sitting on the world’s axis as everything around me kept spinning. I felt like I could literally see the people spinning in a circle and I was just stuck in time. I couldn’t do anything about it. The tears were just falling down my face, I couldn’t stop them, I couldn’t make them come any faster. I had no control over anything, and I had no idea how I was going to live the rest of my life without Anna. I didn’t know how I was going to get through the rest of today without her. How I was going to show up at her Mom’s house in four days when she got back to Iowa with her daughter’s body. What I was going to say to her little sisters, her Dad, her Brother, her Step-Mom. All of these thoughts and I just needed Anna there to tell me to shut up as she turned up No Scrubs to the max volume in her car. I’ll never get that again, and it’s all because of one stupid f*cking drug that continues to run ramped through our streets. A drug addiction that we as a society discriminate against so bad killed my other half. The greatest thing I could ever ask for in life, a best friend, a sister, is gone forever because of heroin. And I didn’t even know.
Another one of my friends who passed in an unjust way… Please read
After the Coroner’s inquest concluded Thursday Sept. 4 in Versailles, Craig Ellingson, father of drowning victim Brandon Ellingson, called the jury’s decision a “hometown verdict”. The Morgan County jury was seated to review the death of Brandon Ellingson, a 20 year-old native of Clive, Iowa and Arizona State University student, who died while in custody of the Missouri State Water Patrol on May 31 at the popular Midwest tourist destination, the Lake of the Ozarks. The Ellingson family was disappointed in the jury’s determination that Brandon’s death by drowning while handcuffed and in custody of Missouri State Highway Patrolman Anthony Piercy was ‘accidental’.
“I still think the inquest was a joke.” Craig Ellingson said following the decision Thursday. “Basically what they were trying to do was get Piercy off the hook so he…
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After losing a person you love and care for, you start overthinking things every time anyone else you love gets in a car, on a plane, doesn’t answer and return your phone call within the hour.
I first learned this after Bryant passed away. After seeing news of Bryant’s death on Facebook, but seeing Bryant just 9 hours before, I texted him telling him that it isn’t funny for people to joke about stuff like that and to take it down; That text never got a response. Instead, minutes after I sent the text message, I got a phone call with the worst news a seventeen-year-old, high school senior, preparing to graduate in 6 months wants to hear. Since that day, I have always had a little anxiety when people don’t show up to where they’re supposed to be, don’t call back, etc. Although, it’s one of the things I’m working on, I don’t think it will ever fully go away.
After the second, third, and fourth times of losing people who all hold very special places in my heart, I started to worry twice as often- about the most irrational things! My dad is notorious for showing up a good ten minutes after he said he would. Now, on the ninth minute of him being late the thoughts start racing through my head. “What if he rolled on the gravel, what if someone didn’t see him, what if he hit a deer, what if he had a stroke, oh my gosh- what if it was a heart attack while he was driving, OK- two more minutes and I’m calling him, wait what if he dies in those two minutes, I should call now.” *picks up phone and starts dialing immediately* When my father does answer I usually hear something along the lines of, “Well Princess, I can’t finish up here and get home if you keep calling me. What’s up?” Annnnnd then I’m embarrassed, pretend to ask where the remote to the tv is (even though it’s in my lap) just so my Dad doesn’t think I’m crazy, hang up, and scold myself for worrying so bad when I told myself yesterday I would stop doing this. It’s really just a never ending, embarrassing, and slightly humorous cycle.
My father is very healthy, has been driving since before he was legal, and although sometimes unfortunate for me- has a very good sense of his surroundings and anything unusual happening around him. Even when he’s sleeping… and his daughter snuck out back to chit-chat and hand out free sodas to her friends that were walking home from who knows where after also sneaking out. Moral of the story, it would be a very, very small success rate for one of these crazy thoughts of mine to actually play out.
That’s just the way my brain has become wired. As I prepare for my senior year and changes that are coming my way- I realize that I really can’t prepare for many of these. My whole life has been filled with spur of the moment, unexpected, and one in a million life circumstances. There is no way my whole life is going to change now and become this smooth sailing road for my big, senior year of college. No way God would let me get off that easy! The good news is, however, that now I can recognize it. I no longer expect smooth sailing or the thought of, “Well maybe this month will be better and less stressful.” Yeah, right! Each month and each year has just been a little pretest for me, for God to make sure I can handle whats coming next- even when I think I can’t.
Don’t get me wrong- I’m still very nervous, and stressed to be hoping a loved one will just please get a job in the states instead of sending him off to Canada, putting an end to the best four years of my life and beginning lots of exciting adult years to come, mentally preparing myself to bartend twelve hours a day for a bunch of drunk football fans while trying not to pull out my hair, becoming Auntie Jo and restraining myself from inducing my sister-in-law myself because I’m sick of waiting to see what the little guy will look like, budgeting my money well enough to make it through my year, crossing the I’s and dotting the T’s on my financial aid/bills/mounds of paperwork taking over my desk space, and trying to stay sane the whole time… which is the hardest part!
The difference is- this year, this month, this time, I know there’s something coming that I’m not planning on and when it gets here, I’ll be ready for it! Even if it takes 3 bags of cotton candy!
(Okay, I’m not sure what could ever happen that would require three bags of cotton candy. There is a small chance I’m just using a potentially horrible situation as a way to eventually suppress my current craving for cotton candy, but who are you to judge?!)
I know a lot of my writing is just me expressing feelings- hatred, sorrow, love, and grieving- toward Anna and the entire situation. However, today a whole new light was shed over me.
I was at work until 3am Friday night, knowing I was to be at my second job again at 7am. I have made these shifts work frequently in my past, and was mentally prepared to do it again. I got home around 3:15am Friday night and I could not sleep for the life of me. I laid in bed, not thinking about anything, not worrying about anything- simply content, but not tired enough to somber my body. As I lay there, hugging Anna’s robe, rolling over every half hour to check the time- I could not pin point the reason for my insomnia. I rolled over again at 6:54am, and shut off my alarm that was set for 6:55. I continued to lay in bed, nothing major crossing my mind other than the fact that I knew I was going to be exhausted during my eight hour shift. I needed to get myself together. Finally, I rolled out of bed, got ready, and with some help from McDonald’s breakfast menu and a very, very large iced coffee I was ready to take on my shift.
I was nearing the end of the shift, thirty minutes to go, when I received a phone call from my Dad’s fiancé. It wasn’t unusual for her to call me, but something didn’t feel right. I called her back on my work phone, fifteen minutes left in my shift, and I hear, “Jordon, I need you to stay calm okay?” The most terrifying words a daughter can hear. I did my best, but the fear of my father being in pain and sickness got the best of me. The tears started flowing, and refused to stop. My father was in the hospital with severe abdominal pains, and my fifteen year old brother was the hero that drove him there. There was something blocking his small intestine, and he was filled with tubes to help correct it. I was able to speak to him, and he sounded just like my Daddy, which helped to ease my nerves. He was tired, I told him I loved him, and he went back to sleep.
An hour passed, and my grandma called me to tell me he was going into surgery. Of course, this sent me into panic mode. What if he’s allergic to the sedatives? (He’s had surgery before, unnecessary Jordon) What if this, what if.. STOP! This continued in my head for the next hour and a half until I got the call that surgery was over. During that time, I had made three trips from my old house to my new apartment moving my things. My dad was supposed to be there to help, and this was the first time I felt like he wasn’t there because he physically could not be there, not because he was too busy. My dad was always there for me, no matter what. I felt empty and alone. It was my daddy, my big, strong, tough Dad- in surgery. Out cold, being cut open. The tears were on and off until I finally got a call from my grandma that my dad was doing well, surgery went great, and he was sleeping. It had been the best case scenario and they didn’t have to remove his intestine, just open a pinched piece of scar tissue.
I was relieved, happy about having my new apartment, and excited to spend time with my friends without fear tugging on my soul. One thing led to another, and there I was sitting in the middle of downtown when the fear came back and the realization that my dad had just overcome emergency surgery three months after I lost my best friend. I had a bit of a break down, and finally took it upon myself to go home. I felt weak, empty, and hungry! I stopped by the walking taco stand to grab a bite to eat, without knowing what was coming next.
As I was soberly, patiently waiting my turn- A groom and his obvious group of groomsmen following behind him like ducklings, causally made their way in front of me. They clearly needed to soak up the alcohol in their system, so I didn’t say anything, but just let them by. The woman working the stand said something to the men, who apologized and asked me how my night was going. I looked at them, tears beginning to fill my eyes, I replied, “It’s horrible actually. But I’ll be okay. Congratulations on your wedding! Where’s the wife?” My weak attempt at a subject change did not fly with Mr. Groom. The groom looked at me, apologized, gave the woman money for my meal and asked me what had happened. Everything immediately poured out of me, the fact the I had lost my best friend, the surgery.. The words came out before I knew what I was saying. The groom looked at me and said, “You know what? I’m 32 years old, I just got married. I had buried way more than you at your age. By the time I was 21 I had buried five friends to suicide. I can tell you right now- it sucks. You’re going to lose people you love so dearly and it’s miserable. You keep thinking, ‘Why do I keep meeting these people when they all just die?’ I can tell you right now, it’s because you are a better person from it. You are a better friend to those around you, you can show more compassion to those you love, and you will never forget a single memory. You will become stronger from it, it sucks right now but just wait.”
How can it be that I met this man (who was possibly blacked out drunk), at a walking taco stand for goodness sake, downtown Iowa City, an hour after his wedding– still willing to take the time to stand there and tell me exactly what I needed to hear? A complete stranger! How does that happen? It doesn’t happen. Unless someone made it happen, for a reason. Just like everything else we have thrown at us. There is happiness in every dark storm, we just have to hold on tight until we figure out where it is and how to grasp it.
Last night as I was chatting with an old friend of mine, I was telling her Anna’s whole story and my struggles that came along with it. When I was finished, she said to me, “It just makes me so mad. Like, my uncle is 38- he’s been using heroin his whole life, he will go to prison for a year, get out and be clean for a few months before he’s using again, and he really doesn’t even want to get clean. Why did it have to be Anna, so young and wanting so badly to get clean, instead of someone like my uncle who doesn’t even care to stop using and care about getting clean at all. He barely has anything going for him anymore, why did it have to be her?”
And for the first time, I actually believed what I was saying when I replied, “You know, I used to wonder the same thing- but now, I’ve finally come to the conclusion that it was Anna for a reason. If someone like your uncle had passed- not as many people would be affected by it, people would almost expect it to happen at this point. If it was him, it would just confirm the alledged stereotype of drug addicts. Before all this, if you asked me what a heroin addicted looked like I would say- an old man, lots of wrinkles, long hair, sitting next to a dumpster on Skid Rowe shooting up- that’s just the image that came to my head. I would have always kept that vision of a heroin addict, and I would continue not to give a crap about those people. I, and many others, needed a punch in the stomach before we realized that addicts are people, they are deserving, and they need my help. Which is why it was Anna, who knew and loved everyone she met- so that it would affect so many people, and people would start realizing what is happening. It was an eye opening experience for hundreds of people, and those hundreds of people wouldn’t be able to help another hundred people if it wasn’t Anna that passed away.”
Everyone has that feeling after losing someone. The thought of, “Why couldn’t it have been me? Take me don’t take them.” I can’t tell you how many countless times I have yelled at God for taking Anna away when she had so much going for her, and so much life inside of her- that why couldn’t he have taken me? I looked up to Anna in such a way that I saw her life to be more important than mine even. THAT’s how important and special she was. She was not just an ordinary girl- which is why so many people were so devastated to hear the news. It took me days, months, just to get over the shock of her death. To this day I can still stay that I have yet to fully accept her death, but I can say that I have a small idea of why it was her death. I would not be as motivated for my future goals, my future career, and the rest of my life if I hadn’t lost her. I would have never given addiction the time of day or even a small glimpse of a thought. I would have continued on my original career path, with a little motivation but not much, and not really knowing what the meaning of my life was. Now I know, I know I’m meant to be doing this. I meant to do DEA or drug rehab work, and there is nothing that could have motivated me more than losing my best friend.
I know so many other people have gained so much more insight since she has passed as well. People are learning about addiction, learning about heroin, and watching so many young people being judged because of their wrong choice, and eventually losing their lives due to the wrong choice. Anna was a child when she passed. She was twenty-one years old. Statistically she had lived just over one-fourth of her life before it abruptly ended. She was still dependent on her parents, who raised her her entire life, she was still in the process of making bad choices and learning from them- just like all twenty-one year old children do. How many children does the world need to lose before you step up to help save them? Not every twenty-one year old child is lucky enough to have parents that love and care for them as much as Anna did- and those children can potentially lose their lives a lot sooner, or stay here a lot longer being completely miserable, living in hell, with no bright light at the end of the tunnel- no way for them to get help because they have no one left to care for them. Without help from our society, more and more children are going to lose their lives to addiction because there is no one there to stand behind them and give them a chance to get the help they are longing for. Twenty-one year olds who’s family has given up on them, refuses to care for them any longer don’t have $30,000 to get rid of the monster that is eating away at them. They shouldn’t have to have $30,000 in order to be themselves again. All in all- more and more children are going to keep losing their lives, until more and more parents have to suffer through the worst experience they could even imagine- or we can put an end to it all now, and stand up against it before it gets to that point. We can’t do it alone, and the more people who know that this is happening- the more people that will help. Stop hiding it under a rug and being ashamed of who your family members are or were- speak out and help save someone else’s family member. Stop being selfish and thinking your reputation is more important than another person’s life.
Now that I have reached 1,500 views, I guess I should probably mention why the title of this page is called “warrior,” considering most of my messages are about death and heroin addiction. To some, that doesn’t sound like much of a warrior. Here is why.
According to dictionary.com:
warrior: (war-ee-er, wawr-yer, wor-ee-er, wor-yer) 1. a person engaged or experienced in warfare; soldier. 2. a person who shows or has shown great vigor, courage, or aggressiveness, as in politics or athletics.
According to the World English Dictionary:
unknown soldier or warrior: (in various countries) an unidentified soldier who has died in battle and for whom a tomb is established as a memorial to other unidentified dead of the nation’s armed forces.
Merriam Webster dictionary:
warrior: a man engaged or experienced in warfare; broadly : a person engaged in some struggle or conflict <poverty warriors>
And lastly, the online Urban Dictionary:
warrior: A person who beyond all obstacles still manages to be successful. A warrior will often be troubled in life, but will persevere in the end.
Socially, a Warrior will often be down to earth, functioning entirely off of what they perceive as logic. While this can lead to arrogance and stubbornness, a Warrior has a soft center, and can be befriended with ease by anyone knowing how to reach it.
Often intelligent, strong, determined, and skillful. A Warrior, despite whatever problems they may have, is perfect. In their own way, each Warrior is perfect.
All of these definitions come together to create a new definition of a warrior, my definition of a warrior.
Warrior: a man or woman, who chooses to fight a battle, even if they know it can not always be won. A warrior is not perfect, but does not squander their time on personal issues. A warrior learns from their imperfections, and shares their lessons with the world. No matter how big or how small the challenge, a warrior fights with the same determination and strength in order to succeed. A warrior never gives up. A person who fights vigorously for themselves and for the people around them. A warrior is selfless, willing to make large sacrifices. A true warrior takes charge and shows initiative to help others win their battle, doing whatever it takes in order to succeed. A warrior is someone who carries on their legacy, their fight, their strength, and their determination to win the battle, even after they are gone.
That is my understanding of a warrior, and my understanding of who my best friend was and still is. Anna made the choice to use heroin, but she also made the choice to change. She went to rehab, she fought the horrible disease in her brain. She prevailed, and she went through the worst hell anyone can imagine to do so. Anna was not perfect, she did relapse (along with the other 90% of opioid addicts in the first year after treatment), but Anna went back to rehab. She went back to detox and put herself through an intolerable misery again. She continued to fight, she never stopped fighting. She had journal after journal after journal of her struggles, changes she made, and her thoughts throughout her trying times. She was determined to get clean, determined to make a change for herself and for her family. She never wished to hurt anyone, and she knew that her actions were killing those around her, and she was willing to put herself in copious amounts of pain in order to see happiness in those people.
In the end, Anna did pass away. BUT Anna did not lose the battle. She is still fighting. Anna sacrificed her life in order for the rest of us to see what heroin can do and is doing to so many amazing people. God took Anna, one of the greatest warriors there was, in order for those of us who are still here to become warriors as well, and to succeed in Anna’s fight against addiction. Anna didn’t give up when she relapsed the second time, she was making a point to prove the true power of addiction. She shared with us the lesson she was forced to learn the hard way. Anna saved all of us the trouble of being put through such a hell, by simply showing you her hell. I would have never had a clue about heroin addiction, lack of care in rehab facilities, extreme expenses to get help, or the power opioids have over the brain to create such a strong addiction- without first losing Anna. Anna is one of, if not the, best person I have ever known, and for this I know she left me here, with her family, because she knew we would never stop fighting for her. She knew we could be the ones to step up and make a change in so many of the one-minded, stubborn people in our world that refuse to see the bad that is surrounding them. That is why Anna’s family created “Anna’s Warriors,” because that is exactly what we are, what Anna is, and what we are doing. We are fighting for Anna, Anna’s battle, and we sacrificed the most amazing person we knew without wallowing in our grief- but instead using it as motivation to save the rest of you, your family members, your friends, from experiencing anything like what we have been forced to go through. Along the way, we will continue to pick up more warriors until we have a fully stacked, impregnable army to fight Anna’s fight of addiction and raising awareness of drug use. It is not a race, together all we have to do is save one soul at a time, and we will succeed: together.
I was up last night, unable to sleep, and missing my best friend once again. I was searching through music and listening to old songs on youtube when I came across the song “Meant to be” by TLC. It was written when TLC got back together after one of their members had passed away. Anna loved TLC, and it was just too perfect of a song for me to find while missing Anna so much. I decided I needed to do something to remember this song, and remember Anna with forever- and thats how this video came about! I have plenty of pictures of her, a couple songs that fit her perfectly, and her voice at the end reminding me she’s still my “long lost best friend, Anna.”
Ahh, the big 21st birthday!
Now that I’m 21, I’m obviously much, much older, mature, and smarter- just like every 21 year old out there…. Oh.
Twenty-one doesn’t feel much different than twenty (sorry to spoil it), and twenty-one without your best friend around is even less fun than twenty with her around. Anna and I had been planning our twenty-first birthdays since we were roughly sixteen, and had the best trip to Vegas with all of our high-school girlfriends planned out in our heads. I’m not sure how we thought that trip was going to work out considering we’re all broke college students… No, I take that back- Knowing Anna I’m sure the hotel room would have been charged to Carla’s credit card and Mom would have grounded us for life. On our twenty-first birthdays, Anna and I would obviously meet each other after a long semester of college, go out and show this town how it’s done, and have the greatest night of our lives because we are legally able to drink without our parents taking our cellphones or cars. Anna’s birthday was first, December eleventh, and she was really, I mean reallllly excited to be twenty-one. I’m not exactly sure why thinking back on it now, I suppose just because she could go buy a six-pack whenever she wanted and was no longer terrified of the Kum and Go worker telling her she looked nothing like a 24 year-old Rebecca, with blonde hair like her ID said. That, and the fact that Anna had the height of a sixth grader and would still get ID’d for cigarettes at age twenty, both caused her to be even more excited for her birthday than the average college student. I, who has always looked older than my age (mostly because of my height), was always excited, but never really over-the-top like Anna. At age seventeen, most people assumed I was around twenty-ish and it just went up from there. Luckily, I have remained looking twenty-one for the past couple years, and I’m praying it will stay this way the rest of my life. Wishful thinking. Anyway, Anna had enough excitement for the both of us. She was more excited for my twenty-first birthday than I was. We would set all of these plans, Anna would write out timed itineraries for our celebrations, where we were going to be when, and she was researching our girls weekend in Vegas before we were even out of high-school.
Our twenty-first birthdays were nothing like we planned. The itinerary was bologna. On Anna’s twenty-first birthday, we hadn’t factored in the fact that I was taking a final exam and had three more left to take that week, while her college was already out. We didn’t factor in the fact that Anna was a recovering addict, and couldn’t drink anyway. We didn’t expect Anna to no longer have the jeep that we had spent countless days driving around blaring music in quiet neighborhoods for no reason. We didn’t realize our lives would have made such a sharp turn. That wasn’t the plan. It was all ruined, and I didn’t even get to see Anna on her birthday. All I could do was send her a, “OMGGGG HAPPY 21ST BIRTHDAY BEST FRRRRAN! TAKE A SHOT FOR MEEEE! And call me when you’re drunk later! Lolz. Love you babbbyyy” text at midnight while I was cramming for my exams at the library. That wasn’t the plan.
But, God had a different plan. He needed Anna to come home before my twenty-first birthday even happened.
I spent my twenty-first birthday in Iowa City with some of my dearest friends, all who know what I’m going through, and they showed me the best time I could have asked for! I mean, I got two free meals that day.. they know the key to my heart, what more could a girl ask for?! Well, okay, yes, I could ask for my best friend, and I often do, but that just isn’t going to happen. I did enjoy my birthday, but in the back of my head I kept thinking back to my birthday itinerary and it was all wrong. It’s little things that pop up in my head all the time reminding me of what I think it should be and what God’s plan really is. I still drove over to Anna’s on Sunday, just like my itinerary said, except this time it was just Carla and I. Carla got me a gift, including Anna’s Chapstick egg that she had signed, so I knew Anna was still there, but it just seemed like something was missing.
It will feel that way for all of the days to come, especially the milestones Anna and I had already planned out, but somehow there is always a comfort around me knowing that change happens, Anna is still popping up around me, and it’s up to me to figure out why my life doesn’t match our itinerary- what I’m supposed to do with the life I do still have on Earth, knowing that it’s not going to match the plan I had all along… and that’s okay.
Sometimes, best friends are even more than that. When you find a best friend that you know is going to be there your whole life, she’s now your sister. I looked up to Anna in so many ways. She showed me so much in life, and I learned so much about life from her that she could be nothing less than a sister to me. Blood could not have made us any closer. I had always wanted a sister growing up, and I even went as far as to dress my baby brother up in my clothes and call him Tina. However, Dad was not amused, and little Joshy wasn’t Tina anymore. God did give me Anna though, she was closer to me than anyone in my life. She knew more about me than I knew about myself, she knew how I was feeling before I even said it, and she knew who I was without me explaining myself. I think that’s why these past few months have been so hard for me.
Lately all I can think about is trying to pick back up all the pieces of my life that shattered right in front of me after I got the worst phone call of my life. It seems like nothing is fitting back together the same way it was before. My life changed so quickly in such a way I could have never imagined, and I mentally could not handle it for a long time. As I mentioned before this is not my first rodeo with losing a friend, but this is the first time losing a sister, a best friend, someone who knew me for so long, so well, and a spot in my heart that is completely irreplaceable. It was such a shock to me mentally that I just completely shut down.
I physically could not get out of my bed without breaking down. I couldn’t leave my house without crying. I couldn’t eat without being sick. I sat in my room for days upon days, usually watching Netflix, the sunlight blocked out completely, and just a lamp on to keep me company. I didn’t want to do anything. I did have a need to do anything. I had no motivation to do anything or to live my life at all. I stayed put in my bedroom where the real world couldn’t get to me, and I could block it all from consuming me. Most people say it’s the opposite for them, sitting inside makes it worse, but if I had left my room during that time- I know something terrible would have happened. I was in such a confused, whirlwind place, with thoughts racing through my mind every second of the day, it was exhausting.
Many people, including my Father, Grandmother, siblings, no one knows is that I have been going to therapy for months now. Since Anna died, I have been going twice a week in order to try to keep myself sane. I am a psychology major, but I never in a million years thought therapy would be anything that could help me- I was strong enough. There comes a point however, when you mind experiences so much, that you can’t take it any longer. I was in such a depression I was losing weight by the day, even when I would eat. My hair was falling out, and I just looked miserable all the time- and I was miserable all the time. I didn’t talk to anyone for weeks after Anna died. I had no desire to talk to anyone. I just wanted to curl up in a little ball and wake up a new person, with a new life, and be somewhere far, far away from all of these memories. No matter how badly I wished the next day would be different, it was always the same.
The hardest thing about all of this, was the fact that Anna wasn’t here to understand how I was feeling. No one has understood me the way Anna did, and when I try to explain it to them- they still don’t get it. Until you have been a person suffering from depression, you have no idea what it is like. It is the worst thing you can imagine, and you wake up feeling like hell every single day, praying you can stay out of sight and counting down the minutes until you can crawl back up into that black whole and hide from the world.
I’m on medications for anxiety and depression, and after 3 months of extreme depression I am able to leave my house without having a huge panic attack. Large crowds without someone I trust around are still a trigger for the anxiety and a longing to run back to my black hole, but it has been much easier to cope with when I know it’s coming. The hardest part now, is putting the pieces back together.
I was in my room, alone, not talking to anyone really, for a good two months before I was able to come out of it. In that time, my friends graduated and left, people I cared about deeply came and gone, and eventually I was left with my family, my therapist, and my ex-boyfriends dog (whenever he was willing to let me steal him). I didn’t go out, congratulate my friends, or even tell them goodbye before they left. Even thinking about going to see them made me so anxious I would have a hard time breathing or even moving- I would just freeze up (or faint- which gave me my first black eye).
Now, I have forced myself to be social again. Before all of this set in, I was always with friends. You couldn’t get me to leave anyone’s side for twenty minutes. I’m a twenty-year-old college student, all we do is hang out with friends and have sleep overs on school nights, and do everything our parents wouldn’t let us do when we were nine. The only problem is, I have no one left to be social with. I managed to lose all of my ties with everyone because anytime anyone asked me to do anything, the answer was always no. Eventually, they gave up. Trying to rebuild friendships is not an easy thing, especially when everyone has gone off and made new friends and you’re just there, taking up space, and not understanding any of what’s happening around you. My world is still foggy walking around and seeing people. I feel like I’m moving in slow motion, and everything around me is just passing by in fast blurs. It’s impossible for me to get out of my head, and try to enjoy what is happening around me. With time, things will get more clear, but for now I am still so lost. I continuously have thoughts like, “who’s going to be my maid of honor?” “Who am I going to call when I get engaged?” “Who is going to celebrate with me when I get my first job?” “when I graduate college?” “Who is going to be with me ten years from now” The answer to all of those questions was always Anna. Since high school we had planning on giving each other speeches at our weddings. Instead, I was a giving a speech at her funeral.
It seems like without her here, nothing fits in place. The relationships I want to be in aren’t working, and the places I want to be with myself aren’t there. I have a hard time knowing who I am without her, because so much of my heart was consumed and created through Anna being my backbone.
So for now… it’s just me. Trying to figure out how these pieces change their shape and mold into what my new life is going to be without my sister next to me. I don’t have answer for what my life will even remotely look like next year, next week, or tomorrow- and that ‘unknown’ is a very scary thing. It changes who you are and how you think. Everything I built my whole life is completely changed, and for the first time in my life- I have to figure it out completely on my own.
With as much research, books, and articles I have read, I still don’t understand the drug. I don’t understand addiction, because I have not been faced with the disease. Smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol are a completely different addiction than a drug addiction. A drug addiction is completely different from a heroin addiction. From speaking with other addicts, listening to Carla tell me how badly Anna hated her addiction, I have come to understand one thing- heroin is not just a mental addiction. It is a physical addiction. Someone trying to quit smoking after smoking for 15 years is typically going to be very irritable, annoyed, uncomfortable, and distracted. Someone who is addicted to heroin and hasn’t had their hit for the day- can’t get out of bed, can’t eat, can’t function. Even if they wanted to move, if they were hungry, if they wanted to go lay on the couch instead of bed- they physically can not do anything without the drug. It’s not a little voice in their brain or a little itch on their leg that they can just block out and keep living normally. The receptors in their brain have been re-formed and their neurotransmitters have created new pathways that will not allow their body to preform without first having the drug. They no longer have the same pathways as you and me. They have a whole new way of thinking, after just one hit.
Part of rehabilitation process is attempting to once again, create more new pathways, so that the body no longer has to function with drug. It is always a constant battle for someone with a previous heroin addiction. For the rest of their lives, they will be labeled as ‘an addict in recovery.’ Heroin addiction is so strong that every single day is a constant fight against the neurotransmitters in their brain. How many of you are strong enough to over come the thoughts about your financial stress, problems at work, the things you forgot on your to-do list that keep you up for hours when you’re trying to fall asleep? Imagine those thoughts, times ten, every second of the day. That is what an addict in recovery is going through. Eventually, these thoughts become less and less, until something triggers the old pathway in their brain to light up. There they are again, trying to fight back against their brain. Can you imagine? Can you imagine what they are going through? I don’t care if they chose to shoot up in the beginning- they did not chose to be living a constant battle, every day, against the most powerful thing on this earth: their own brain. Honestly, (before learning more about it) I would think that if I were to do it one time- I would be able to fight the urge to do it again. I’m strong enough to fight back. Yeah, well, that is how I think before my normal brain pathways are completely reconfigured. The brain I have now is not the brain I would have after using heroin.
Stop looking at addicts like it’s their own fault they got there. Stop judging them by what you think you know. You don’t know. You know nothing. Many addicts in recovery are one hundred times stronger than you will ever be. Stop treating them as worthless people. They were just like you- until a monster took over everything they have ever known. Yes, it was their choice to use, but the consequences were not their fault. That is the world we live in that offered them the drug in the first place, us doing nothing to get these drugs off the streets, the rest of us treating them scum, doing nothing to help them, and watching them suffer a battle that none of us could ever fight ourselves.
Brian, Anna’s uncle, shared with me what a previous addicted shared with him:
What do you do when you really have to pee? You hold it.
What do you do when you’ve held it for 3 hours and you can’t hold it anymore? You pee yourself.
That’s what a heroin addiction is. It becomes an involuntary bodily function. They hold back from using as long as possible, but there comes a point when they can’t hold it anymore. The addiction takes over their brain and it is no longer their choice, they can’t fight it any longer.
I truly believe that is why God gave me Anna. I was a very judgmental person to drugs and addicts before Anna’s death. Anna never told me about her addiction because she knew I would freak out and start running in circles like a chicken with it’s head cut off without a clue on what I was supposed to do. I would have probably laughed and prayed that she was joking.. and then poop myself because of the fact that my best friend is driving me around in her jeep high on heroin. I don’t associate with heroin- how could this happen to me? Anna’s two best friends are criminology majors in college- how is she addicted to heroin, doesn’t she know better? I was just like everyone else who has never known what an addict goes through. I believe part of the reason God gave me Anna, the most beautiful person I have ever known, was to show me the truth- and so I can share that truth with the rest of the world, to give a bigger inspiration to follow my criminology track and fight back against the jerks selling this crap. People can be so ignorant and heartless. Until you walk a mile in their shoes, shut your mouth- shame on you. You don’t know. You don’t want to know.
What is heroin? I don’t know.
Who does heroin? I don’t know.
When did heroin come to Iowa? I don’t know.
What does heroin look like? I don’t know.
Where do you get heroin? I don’t know.
How much is heroin? I don’t know.
What do you do with heroin? I don’t know.
What does heroin do to you? I don’t know.
Why was my best friend addicted to heroin? I don’t know.
Being a senior at the number one party University in the Nation, I have seen my fair share of drugs. From people snorting lines at parties, kids throwing around ecstasy and “raging” all night, people hitting acid at concerts, to putting ‘magic mushrooms’ on pizzas at 3am. I can say, proudly, that I have not tried these drugs for fear of jeopardizing my future in the justice system or the government, so I don’t know how these drugs effect the body or brain. I do know, however, how people act and what they look like on multiple drugs. Heroin though? No clue. In my little pea sized world, heroin didn’t exist. Until I found out my best friend was an addict for over a year without me knowing and later died from a heroin overdose.
Since her death, I have done plenty of research trying to figure out what this drug is all about, how it works, who does it, and why my best friend was taken from me because of heroin. Although I am still learning, the information I have found is unbelievable.
Our state neighbor, Illinois, has seen a sharp increase in heroin use in the Chicago suburbs. The number of heroin overdoses doubled from 2011 to 2012, and increased AGAIN from 2012 to 2013. The youngest heroin overdose death was 15 years old. Heroin is easier for kids to buy than beer- and it’s just as available on the streets. Heroin is simple to hide, and no- heroin users do not always have track marks. There is plenty of places you will never see. (Between fingers, between toes- when was the last time you looked in between your 21-year-old child’s fingers and toes?) Pharmaceuticals still remain to be the drug causing the most overdoses in the United States. However, prescription drugs are expensive. Heroin is the same high, for 1/8 of the the price. One ‘balloon’ of heroin (essentially 3 ‘hits,’ which is enough for a decent high for most of the day), usually costs $5-6. Give your kid $10 to go to the mall and hang out with his friends, he buys 5 chicken nuggets for $1, even gets a medium soda- and still has enough to walk outside, sit on the bench and be offered this stuff that you sniff, the big guy was doing it and he looked like a boss- who wouldn’t want to be like this dude? Drug overdose rates in the United States have increased 102% from 1999 to 2010. The government has now called the drug overdose situation an epidemic. Overdose caused more deaths than motor vehicle accidents in 29 states in the US just last year.
Still think it’s not your neighbor?
51,045 people were admitted for drug abuse treatment in Iowa in 2013. In 2011 1 case with 112 grams of heroin was seized by police, in 2013 14 cases with 290 grams were seized. The heroin overdose death rate increased by 700% in Iowa from 2003 to 2012. Iowa is one of the top 3 states in the fight against drug abuse. THESE ARE THE SOME OF THE LOWEST NUMBERS IN THE NATION.
IT IS YOUR NEIGHBOR. IT IS YOUR BEST FRIEND. IT IS THE KID CHECKING OUT YOUR GROCERIES. STOP DENYING IT. Do something about it.
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