“Miss Sunshine Takes Another Bow” really hit home [“Letters at 3am
,” March 22]. On Sunday, my friend of 24 years, Debbie, died in St. David's South Austin Medical Center from a cocaine-related heart attack. She was 53 years old. Thirty-eight years of heroin, cocaine, and pills had taken their toll. She always thought it was OK to do those things as long as she was honest about it. She never denied being an addict, even to her family, and in her mind somehow that made it OK.
For a while I used those same drugs myself. I was lucky. A sense of self-worth, a dose of shame for the pain it was causing my family, and disgust mixed with anger with who I had become all combined to give me the strength to walk away. I tried to bring Debbie with me but she always slipped back. In spite of this, I always tried to stay a friend to her.
As I helped her daughter go through her things and empty out her tiny apartment, Carla kept saying, "How can one person's life come down to this?" A few boxes and bags of things to drop off at Goodwill, and six trash bags full of things few people would want?
Friday evening we held a memorial for her at Fiesta Beach. Of the dozen or so of her friends who showed up, all but a couple of them had hollow faces, sunken in and wrinkled beyond their years, reflecting the pain of their choices. Most of these people had skeletal bodies beneath their sagging clothes.
Carla told me afterward that it was all she could do not to scream out at them, "Wake up! Look at what you're doing! How can you put your family through such pain? Can't you see what Debbie did to herself? To her family? To me? I'm too young to have to deal with this! "
She said she felt like, in their current mental state, none of them would have understood what she was trying to say. As someone who had been there, I knew she was right.
Some say drugs are a personal choice. Maybe on some desert island to someone with no family and no friends, but for everyone else? The effects of heroin and cocaine impact so many more people than just the person using them.