Today I received a text message from my mom. She said she wanted to call me, that she had something to tell me. Seems weird right? Why wouldn’t she just call? The second I read the message I knew what was coming, I knew what she wanted to tell me. She was going to tell me that my cousin had finally passed away. It was a call I had been expecting for several years now because, like so many others, my cousin was a heroin addict, so in my mind it stood to reason that eventually, one of these overdoses would be his last.
I was right, my cousin had passed away, but it wasn’t at all what I expected. After a long battle with addiction, having suffered numerous medical afflictions, his body finally gave in to years of harsh treatment at the hands of dugs abuse. My cousin, Nicholas Blackwell, was sober when passed away peacefully in his sleep in the early morning hours of Thursday August,5, 2021. He was 41 years old, 19 days shy of his 42nd birthday.
When I learned of this news, I wrestled with how I felt. Like most people do when they lose someone close to them, I cried. Then I struggled with whether I had a right to be crying. Nick and I hadn’t been close in a very long time. Like most people do when their loved ones succumb to addiction, I’d pretty much cut ties with him. After watching him lie, cheat, and steal from family and friends I wasn’t going to give him the opportunity to do that to me. When he sent me a friend request on Facebook, I didn’t accept it because I didn’t want to give him the chance to take advantage of me the way he had done so many others. I’m ashamed to say that now, but that is the reality.
For a short time in our youth, he lived with us, and I’m told that my mom was working toward getting custody of him. His mother lured him home with false promises and moved him to Tennessee which made getting him back almost impossible for my mom. I feel like she still blames herself a little for how his life turned out, but I think she did the best she could, given the circumstances. Being ripped from our family meant he was torn away from the only people close to him who could help improve his quality of life.
Looking back, I realize that Nick was a product of his condition. A son, born to two drug users, who could barely take care of themselves let alone someone else. In situations like these the argument of nurture versus nature is irrelevant because for people like Nick, nature and nurture were one and the same. His predilection to drug abuse was inherent since birth. It was genetic. And the environment in which he developed amplified that predisposition.
On Wednesday, August 24, 2021, a few hours before his death, my cousin took to Facebook to share his thoughts with the world. It was originally written in text shorthand, and I’ve cleaned it up a bit for the purpose of this post. Basically, the post said:
“Well, I don’t care to share with everyone that I know. Friends, fam, or acquaintances. That yes, I’m in a nursing home because I’m a 2-time loser by my own Hand. I can say that cause it’s the truth as I see it through my eyes. Free will is a gift from God. It can open many pathways in a person’s life for good things and not so good things. Different outcomes in one’s life depending on the path u take. I chose the not so good life because it’s shaved about 20 years of my end game, but I did it. No one else. Did I think it would be this way? No, I thought I would have died by NOW … I USED TO WANNA LEAVE cause growing up I always felt that no one was there for me, because everyone’s lives are and unfair that’s what I used to tell myself up into my late 20’s… But the sad thing is that the one I hated the most my mom changed the most between not being able to see the change in her until after she passed. I did what I’ve been doing most of my life but way harder, I went dark inside and autopilot on the outside, my failure to one thing in these word that I help make was my beautiful boy Dalton Blackwell Hobbs. I should’ve tried harder. I wish I would have been stronger in smarter and way less emotional, life might have been different. Freewill right? love u Son, if u ever read this, I did and do love u and wish I made you my pathway, my choice, u deserved better and I hope your mom married a good man and he’s good to u and I loves u as his own … God forgive me for the poor choices I have made and the people I’ve hurt stolen from, used … I ask for your forgives owe lord for this man stripped of everything let all my sins lay bare before u FORGIVE ME oh Lord the alpha and Omega I cannot pass on thro u and the truth in the end will set me free Jesus name I pray AMEN. SORRY I GOT OFF POINT TO THOSE WHO MAY READ IT.”
I used to be one of those people who questioned why Narcan was available free of charge to save an addict’s life and necessities like Insulin and EpiPens were not. It just seemed reasonable that people who choose not to protect their own lives and make choices that are guaranteed to destroy not only their own lives, but the lives of others, shouldn’t be afforded that convenience when there are people all over the world struggling to afford medications that can save their lives. Lives they want.
Today I see it differently.
This week a recovering addict and friend of mine shared a post on social media that explained the rationale behind it, that made me see the argument in a new light and the post explained it better than I ever could, it explained that EMT’s have an obligation to revive a person in an emergency, not treat them. It went on to explain that Narcan is not a treatment for addiction, it is a tool used to save lives. Today I’m grateful for that tool, because it provided my cousin with a chance to come to terms with the choices he made in his life and to try, if only momentarily, to make amends for them.
Going forward I choose to remember Nick as he was before drug addiction took control of him. I’m going to remember the times we spent at our grandma’s in the summer, fishing, riding four wheelers, and driving our uncles crazy. I’m going to remember how Grandma use to baby him, except of course when she made him sit on the front porch and watch the Tennessee vs. Kentucky games through the front window because he had the audacity to root against the Wildcats in her home. I’m going to remember the person who, along with my older sister, carried me upside down for three blocks when I cracked my head open on a patch of ice because he didn’t want to get blood on his clothes. Looking back now its one of my favorite memories from our childhood.
You may not have realized it, but you were loved. Wherever you are now, I hope you are at peace.
Rest in Peace.
Nicholas Andrew Blackwell
August 24, 1979- August 5, 2021