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I Feel Like I Killed My Best Friend

Brian McCollom addiction cancer cigarettes Confessions death Drinking grandma grandpa heroin hospice killed my best friend nicotine nurse

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I feel like I killed my best friend.  I know it wasn’t my fault, it was the damn cancer. But my actions at the time of her passing could have been better behaved. I loved my grandmother and I would’ve done anything for her!

I was only 9 months clean from heroin at the time of my grandmother’s passing. She and I had both been fighting addictions for a long time. She was a chronic nicotine abuser and had been smoking for 65 years by the time she died. Me? I was a disappointment and a mess.

I waited in the outside room of the hospice. It felt like that was all I was doing…waiting. I was sobbing like a little baby without his baba. My mom gripped me into her bosoms while I drenched her shirt. I quivered from the fact that I was losing my best friend. I didn’t know whether to blame myself, blame God, or blame cigarettes. Cursed cigarettes!

Every time I’d walk back into the hospice room she had her eyes half shut/half open and was  wheezing profusely.  You would hear the wheezing like it was coming from a Stephen King horror movie. One of the worst things to ever witness on this Earth is someone passing from cancer. It feels like cancer takes them from you slowly but quickly at the same time. Granted this it only took 1.5 weeks from diagnosis for her to pass.

My entire family (besides me) in the hospice room were drinking to pass the time and thought it would be funny to give my grandma some wine. Although it was funny to them, they must have thought she was really asking for the wine with her grunts. We all hoped that she was responding to us, but it was far too gone at that point.

She had asked me when she was conscious to sit with her and hold her hand while she faded. I felt weak and hopeless.  It scared me to get close to her with all of the hospital wires around. All I could think about when approaching my dying best friend was how much I had let her down. I looked into her eyes and gripped her hand one last time and said I was sorry. Everyone told me it wasn’t my fault although they didn’t know what I was apologizing about.

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I was sorry for being “this.” I was sorry for being me the last years of her life. When I grew up she gave me such a good childhood.  All I did was betray her goodwill and Mother Theresa lifestyle by sticking those dirty needles in my arms!

I was sorry for being a disgrace and pitiful human being to someone who had always slipped a hundred-dollar bill in my stocking on Christmas. I was horrified to have her look at me nine months clean, before her passing, and not know if her grandson would be joining her in a few months.

I was sorry for losing to this wretched disease so many times. All she ever told me was that we didn’t lose. She just wanted the best for me and I gave her nothing but shit!

I couldn’t bare it and I had snot coming from my nose most of the time as I cried and whimpered like a little baby. Then the night came.

She was nearing the end and I asked my family if I could stay with her one last night. They all had their turn so I asked for mine. The clock struck 1:49 A.M. and she was suddenly turning cold and blue. The nurse comes in and tried turning my grandmother on her side, but no attempt worked. By 1:51 A.M. the nurse took her ear off of my grandmother’s heart and hand off of her mouth and said, “Goodbye Marie. You will be missed but not forgotten.”

I’ve had a hard time coming to terms that I had lost my best friend. I contemplated drinking and wanting to abuse. As the urge for that grew stronger, my grandmother’s faded body now rightfully turned into a strong spirit. “That isn’t what she’d want,” I told the nurse.

It was truly hard knowing that she left me at my worst. The truth of it was that it wasn’t about me at that point. She would be with me forever now, although I didn’t know it at that point. Once unfaithful and unwilling, I now turned to the love of an afterlife. She had to be there. There had to be a God, no more blaming, “she will rest in peace now!”

I feel like I’m the one who left her, and him (God), when I gave into heroin and mental illness. “No more!” I said.

Dealing with death in early addiction recovery can be—and was—one of the hardest things one goes through. It’s a true test of your placement in recovery. When I’m asked how I deal with these types of situations my answer is, “I pray.”

This was one of the only things I didn’t want to do that my grandmother asked of me before her death. As soon as she passed this was the first thing I started doing. I had to believe. I just had to know she was going to be okay now.

I’m always asked why I pray? I’m asked this because many addicts feel as if God has failed them through their addictions. This is the farthest from the truth. The answer to why I started praying after this is because she simply isn’t on this Earth anymore. I believe that if anyone deserved a heaven it was her. It took seeing death to bring me back around. God didn’t fail me in my addiction, and I didn’t fail him. I was tested for a reason. My grandmother gave me that reason.

When I pray I ask God one thing: “Please tell her that I’m finally doing okay. Please? Amen.” Upon finishing my prayer, I feel God pat me on the back with her hand while she whispers in my ear, “I’m doing just fine too grandson.”

For fighting a constant struggle—my addiction to heroin and hers to nicotine—it started with cancer. But what it ended with was glorious.  It was a final breath of reprieve. This faith continues through a firm connection of my recovery, her not struggling anymore, and constant affirmation through God with his relief to this burden.

She loves me and I know it all because He loves me and I’ll never forget it.

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