4 Years Ago: Why Did You Die? Guilt, Regret and Sadness.

I’m not sure what I’m doing with this blog post, I want to just avoid the horrible thoughts that this date brings, I want to pretend I don’t feel a weighty guilt, that I’ve made my peace and no longer feel responsible, as much as my head knows it wasn’t my fault, my heart feels otherwise and no amount of rationale seems to quiet those voices. Over the last few years I’ve just busied myself with work, trying to help other addicts recover but last year I started to realise it was a way of distracting myself, or perhaps making amends for what I’d done. I let someone down, someone I loved, he wanted my help and I said no, and I never saw him alive again. Today is the fourth anniversary of his death, he was only 29. Today would’ve been Monkey’s birthday too but he died from an overdose of heroin, slumped on a toilet floor in Bideford Pannier Market, abandoned by the person who injected him and left for dead. Monkey was new to the heroin world and Marcel and I tried to stop him, we always refused to get him heroin when he started dabbling but he found someone willing to help him out. He’d always been a drinker, he was a fisherman like Marcel and had such a lively character, they were close friends and loved each other dearly. His death was a massive shock and a massive waste, he was a good person, had lovely parents and lots of friends, he could be a handful when drunk and mainly wanted to have fun.

I’m not sure how to let my guilt go, feeling guilty and responsible is an ongoing theme in my life and I do try to get some perspective and balance but sometimes I just need to go with it. Writing my memoir, my poetry and this blog has been an attempt to try and work through some of this guilt as I know I need to process it and find some resolution, it’s holding me back from having close relationships, I have an inability to fully attach to others, I keep my feelings shackled and try to not let people get too close, I worry I’ll end up hurting others like I did Marcel, I try to live as an island but the dead keep washing up on my shore!

When we were together Marcel and I chatted about death, the conversation came after some friends had died from drug related issues and we agreed that we were both individually responsible for our choices and if anything should happen to either of us then the other mustn’t feel guilty or responsible, we both knew the risks and knew what we were doing, we promised each other we wouldn’t waste life by getting eaten up by guilt or regrets. I remind myself of that conversation often, and I speak to Marcel and imagine what he’d say back, he’d probably say ‘It’s not your fault silly, you didn’t hold me down and force the needle in, I wanted to do, and at least I went out on a high’, he would say ‘you know I never wanted to grow up, I couldn’t stand turning thirty, live fast, die young’. I’m also aware though that he was vulnerable, he’d been detoxed in prison and left without any methadone prescription or opiate blocker in place, he should have been retoxed really or at least given a blocker as the chances of him using were very high, especially as he enjoys drinking, and once intoxicated all his best plans and ideas could easily go awry.

Marcel had got out of prison a little earlier than expected, he served a year inside and his tolerance had decreased significantly. He moved back to our old flat when he left prison, he knew that I’d withdrawn from my methadone and was trying to maintain recovery, we’d written to each other whilst he was inside and spoke of the phone. His release from prison made me anxious, I wanted to see him but I also knew seeing him may be a bit foolish, we always ended up using and I was worried we’d be a trigger for each other, we’d see that familiar look, we’d share the same knowing, permissive smile, we’d convince ourselves it would only be the once for old times sake. I knew all this and kept rehearsing it in my head as his release date grew closer, trying to remind myself of the struggle to get opiate free and how much I progressed, and the risk to us both. When I got his text stating he was on his way home my heart started racing, I was excited but worried in equal measure, I was curious about what he’d look like after getting healthy and fit in jail, I wanted to give him a hug and encourage him to stay off the drugs and drink but I could feel myself softening, I knew I couldn’t see him, I knew it would trigger off a part of me I’d worked hard to change. So when he asked to meet up I said no, I told him I wasn’t strong enough yet, that I couldn’t risk my recovery, I was blunt and firm, and remember feeling distinctly cold and selfish about it. He said how he’d missed me, and Charlie too, that he wanted to catch up and see me all healthy and drug free, he wanted to show me how well he looked, he was so enthusiastic about meeting up and all I could say was no, not yet, please be safe, I’ll call you soon.

Marcel was found dead in the flat from a heroin overdose, he died on our anniversary, and they questioned if it was suicide, I questioned that too and still do each day. His mum found him, he was her only child and she was devoted to him, he was her boy and she did so much for him, despite his issues she was always there for him. I supported his folks over the coming weeks, took them to visit him at hospital mortuary and helped them to arrange the funeral. Seeing him lying on the table was surreal, he was such a larger than life person, even when asleep he would make noise, his snoring was quite the riot. I held his hand and felt the coolness of his skin on my palm, I hated that he had blood in his ear, he’d hit his head on the sink when he went over and I was cross that the hospital had not made him all clean and tidy. I wanted to shake him and wake him up, I was angry at him for dying and when I would walk Charlie I’d talk to Marcel as I walked, I’d ask him how he could be so stupid, I’d ask if he meant to do this, I’d tell him how sorry I was that I didn’t come to see him, and told him I loved him.

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