I needlessly lost a good friend Monday to a decade’s long stream of vodka.
It’s hard to process.
I saw this person go from a respected tradesman with a thriving business and a gorgeous house to a man dying for a drink and dying from drinking.
This once hulk of a man who skied with me, played hoops and softball with me and laughed with me — a lot — became a shriveled-up guy looking years older than he was.
I feel guilty about his death a little.
I wasn’t a great friend at the end.
A handful of years back, he said he was seeking treatment, and when he called me to give me the news as I drove home from work, I literally cried in my truck.
I couldn’t believe he was going to do it.
I was so psyched for him. Those were happy tears.
I admittedly had kind of given up on him before that, especially after seeing the once strong skier and snowboarder tumble multiple times at West Mountain on trails we always slayed — because he was drunk before noon when I picked him up to go.
And then there was the time he was doing work at my house and for whatever reason, I watched as he went to his car “for a part.” Through my dining room window — at about 11 a.m., I saw him pull a fifth of vodka from a cooler on the back seat and chug it.
Maybe those instances help explain the tears when he told me of his rehab plans.
I had just bought a rental property and he was going stir crazy to avoid drinking, so he’d come help me with odd jobs. I’d also drive him to get groceries and bid on jobs — because his license was long suspended.
But the license issue was going to get taken care of really soon, too, he said. He had a plan to get it back.
I was so happy for him.
I wanted that guy back, the guy who could make anyone laugh with his intellect and wit and infectious laugh. I wanted to see him thrive again.
But as the weeks went on, talk of getting the license back to resume a productive life seemed to always be a next week or next month thing. There was always a reason why it hadn’t happened yet.
But he wasn’t drinking, he told me. Which was great.
But he was drinking.
Other friends were telling me they’d seem him drunk in local pubs.
Like most of his friends from the past, I, too, kind of went by the wayside, occasionally seeing him at gatherings and reading Facebook posts, but we drifted apart.
Maybe he was ashamed at his inability to kick it. Maybe I was too bummed at the failed attempt and his fibbing to hide it.
In recent years, it was clear by his appearance that he was drinking heavier than ever. Relatives recently told me his kidneys were failing.
I think I half expected the news I got Monday, but it still shocked me and our friend group.
We all have the same feeling: what a sad waste.
But I know it’s a disease. I know he was obviously powerless over it. And his intelligence must have made it that much harder to deal with every day.
I was recently thinking a lot about him and thinking I should be a better friend and reach out to at least let him know I’m thinking about him.
I didn’t do it in time and I’ll live with that.
Godspeed old friend. Hope there’s lots of laughter for you again now.
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