I wrote this around 4am:
It’s been one of those sleepless nights. Instead of forcing my eyes to stay closed, I did what anyone would do–logged onto Facebook. (Hah.) Through the social grape vine I was sad to be informed that a friend from the past died a few days ago. He overdosed.
When I failed out of college freshman year, my punishment was a little backwards—I got to enroll in the National Outdoor Leadership School, (NOLS). My Dad was a NOLSee back in the 70’s when the program was just taking flight. Back then, the expeditions were limited to its base, in Lander, Wyoming. Dad said his old-school instructor hiked the bouldery mountains in cowboy boots. By the time I got there, NOLS had expanded its courses worldwide. I chose destination Mexico.
In 2006 NOLS was a perfect place for a kid like me…it was sort of a rehab…but freer, masked as a very expensive camping trip. Nothing about NOLS suggests it as a rehabilitation program, but 11 out of my 12 classmates were coming off some form of substance. (I’d been smoking weed almost every single day from 2003-2007; that’s over 1,000 days of being high, ew.)
Unbeknownst to me, the process of abruptly abstaining from drugs and alcohol the body goes through what is called “detox.” Imagine 11 troubled nineteen-year-olds detoxing in the wilderness. Crazy town.
Over the course of 78 days my classmates and I came to know each other in every heartwarmingly good and infuriatingly bad way possible. Anyway…For what would have been my sophomore year, I went to Baja, Mexico.
My friend who passed away was a member of FSB. (Fall Semester Baja). I was in “Group 1” and he was in “Group 2.” We saw each other in passing, at re-rations, and at breaks on the beach, where we’d swap stories of whale sharks, Mexican federales, and a new found love for banana chips.
My friend had that light that you hope to see in everyone, and he didn’t have to dig deep to find it. He made every moment feel like the best moment. He was compassionate, talented, and had no business dying.
When I saw the RIP’s and tributes on Facebook, I started to cry. It’s been years since we last spoke, but its impossible to forget someone with such infectious positivity. He almost literally glowed. He was a true-blue surfer and I thought perhaps he died doing what he loved. After reading his obituary it was revealed that he OD’d on heroin, and had been struggling with dope addiction for years. It makes me feel like I know him even better, even though now he’s gone. I wrote to him through the words of Einstein — ‘Energy cannot be created or destroyed, it can only be changed from one form to another.’
Friends wrote, “You’re finally free.”