“How a flower in the rain only grows more when it’s grey, you just shined on brighter,
making gold out of the pain.” – Oliver Sykes
Before my cousin Jefrey died, he spent his last few weeks in rehab sharing his story with others to let them know they were not alone in this process of recovery. Although he was going through is own internal battle with his addiction, he took time out of his day to counsel others who faced the same issues.
Jefrey’s path towards addiction started the beginning of his sophomore year of college. His parents discovered that he identified as a homosexual and stopped paying for his college because of who he was. He couldn’t afford college on his own, so he decided to enter the workforce and became a waiter at Logan Airport. And when his parents found out he was doing drugs, they kicked him out of the house, rendering him homeless and more vulnerable.
He successfully completed his first rehab session and was able to come to my graduation in 2018. My graduation was over three hours long, I imagine he was going through withdrawal symptoms and had anxiety being out in public for so long. He endured all of this just to see me walking across that stage for two minutes at most, and that means a lot to me. Then, terribly, in fall of 2018, his boyfriend died of an overdose in his home, leaving my cousin in shock, not knowing what to do without him.
A little after that happened, Jefrey started to do heroin again and he overdosed. Luckily, the police who arrived at the scene were able to revive him with Narcan and he went back into rehab for a year. He was doing so well in his program they let him have a job at a Chick-Fil-A to make his own money and counsel others in the program. They eventually granted him permission to come visit us.
Three days before he died, my sister came into my room and said he was in my backyard and wanted to see me. I went in the back and sure
enough, he was sitting in one of the chairs we have out back. He was elated to see me and hugged me three times. He said that we should
spend more time together. I agreed, and I was so happy to have my cousin back. He told me he loved me, took down my number, and said he would call me so we could hang out.
This was the last time I ever saw Jefrey alive again.
I got a call at about 1pm from one of my other cousins asking me to pick up the phone, because it was a family emergency. When I asked what was going on, I was told that he had overdosed and that he was in a coma. I remember that my face became flushed and my co-workers rushed to my aid to prevent me from passing out. I was in tears.
He was pronounced legally dead on July 31st, 2019, less than a month away from his birthday. When I looked him up online, I only saw his obituary and one article about his participation in the Key Club at Everett High School, posted ten years ago. But that wasn’t enough for me. It didn’t tell his story. It didn’t tell you who he was.
Jefrey taught me that addiction does not discriminate; it can happen to anyone. He challenged me to think differently and challenge the norms and stereotypes our family set in place. I wish I could have been there for him more frequently so that I could make him feel more supported, but his rehabilitation center was too strict about who knew the location of the site, their phone number to contact him, and who he could call on his own. I understand that these centers need rules to keep the area in good condition, and give people the structure that could help them, but I wish they had been less strict, so that I could have talked to him more often.
Jefrey had other loved ones who wanted to know how he was doing as well, but they had no means of getting a hold of him. Jefrey had been an Honor student in high school, and he participated a lot in our local church. He loved to dance and take people out of their comfort zones, to explore new experiences through teaching them how to dance. He attended Salem State for almost two years to work towards becoming a therapist. He put others before him all the time, because that’s how much he cared.
He is remembered by everyone who loved him, and I wanted to share his story to honor him, to give him the acknowledgement he deserves in hopes that his story will inspire people to fight their addiction and to seek alternative support systems. I write this because if the roles were reversed, he would have gone above and beyond for me too. And I write this because I miss him, and I wish I could tell him that.