Jim had a funny way of making everyone around him feel cared for and loved. Jim was bright, intuitive, wise and insightful beyond his years and I admired these qualities about him. He made others laugh and comfortable being around. This kid didn’t do anything in his life half ass. Like most young adults I’ve worked with, despite struggles with mental health and addiction, no doors had been slammed shut and the future remained full of promise and hope.
Jim’s passing was particularly devastating. Despite losing a dozen or so young men over the years he’s the first one I’ve lost that was a client while in the program I was working in. The day I’m speaking of was easily the most challenging day in my 15 plus year career as a therapist. I found myself in a state of shock and numbness. Five hours after learning of his death I broke down. I had to get away and take some time to process what happened. I found myself in my car in tears. Had this really happened? Was he truly gone? How could this be? Why am I doing this work? Can I go on? I knew I had to be the one to reach out and let Jim’s parents know the devastating news of their son’s passing. I just couldn’t allow some stranger, a police officer, to make that call. That was the hardest thing I’ve ever done as a professional. Jim’s mom’s reaction is one that will haunt me for a long time. It was what I expected but so difficult nonetheless and I’ll never forget what I heard and felt that day.
I’ve been working with young adults in recovery now for over many years. Jim’s death wasn’t the first loss I’ve had to deal with and unfortunately probably won’t be the last. I don’t take my job lightly. I see it is as a gift, a calling of sorts, and with the highs and lows that come with this line of work I’m mostly grateful for the experience. Some lives I’d like to think I’ve been a part of saving while others just don’t make it and each one is a devastating blow of grief, sadness and contemplating what I could have done more to help save that life.
I will use Jim’s memory however to continue pushing forward because I know that’s what he would have wanted. We’re in a war against addiction. I’m on the front lines of that war. We lost a warrior in Jim. Jim is now the latest casualty of this war. My hope is that in remembering him we do not see his loss as weakness on his part, or try to hide or cover it up but rather allow ourselves to be open. He was simply fighting a power greater then himself and on that fateful Thursday morning Jim lost the battle. He can however be a symbol to those still on the front lines that are fighting this war. May we all go forward with renewed hearts and minds to continue fighting and never giving up.
I thank Jim for the rather brief memories I had with him and reminding me of how precious life is and never to take for granted each day we have on this Earth. I gave each of my kids a big hug that night. Jim helped me feel more gratitude for the most important job I have which is a father and remembering that each day with them is a gift. To Jim’s friends and family, I express my deepest condolences. I’m deeply sorry that many of you could not be with him during his last days but I was there and Jim was working hard and a happy young man that left us on a positive note; he just made a tragic and impulsive decision that cost him his life. Let’s remember those struggling to take it one day at a time because this disease is a killer and choosing to fight this war means having to accept the fact that there will also be death because no war is won without casualties. We just have to pick ourselves up and keep fighting because every addict deserves to feel loved and supported and I’m grateful in some small way to be a part of it, as gut wrenching and painful as it can sometimes be.