Remember the Fallen

by Mark H.

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I had two best friends in high school here in Minnesota in the early 1970s. One of them was Randy. Like most high school friends, we spent a lot of time together, we double dated, fished, hunted, had parties, pig roasts, listened to music, debated the issues of the day, attended wildlife conservation banquets, you name it. We also used a lot of drugs and alcohol. We were partners in addiction.

After high school, I moved west, Randy stayed in Minnesota. Seven years later I hit my bottom, sobered up and moved back to Minnesota 1.5 years sober. I heard Randy was having a hard time at life, so I gave him a call.

Randy was glad to hear from me, but mad I waited so long to contact him. I explained that to protect my sobriety I had to stay away from old using friends. He sounded intoxicated as he cursed me out for keeping my distance. Then, Randy started to talk about the problems in his life such as the inability to have children, dissatisfaction with his job and comparing himself unfavorably to others who had achieved more. He was being real hard on himself and then confessed he was drinking too much.

“It doesn’t have to be that way, Randy,” I said, hoping he’d consider starting down the road to sobriety.

Alas, Randy would have no part of such a conversation, he changed the subject and soon our chat was over. It would be our last. A few years later he collapsed into a coma as his liver and pancreas shut down. Three days later he was dead. I went to his funeral, looked at the photos of his life displayed on bulletin boards, talked to old friends and wept when a mutual friend and I embraced.

Another old friend shoved a photo in my face of me with a joint in one hand and a beer in the other, threatening to use it against me in case I ratted him out. He snapped the photo out of my hand and walked away. I remember being that afraid, paranoid and angry and was grateful I wasn’t in that world anymore.

We went back to Randy’s house after the funeral to relive old, fonder memories of our dead friend. There, I pulled his grieving mother aside and told her I had extended the hand of sobriety to Randy, but that he would not take it. She thanked me for trying. I later made a donation to a wildlife conservation group in Randy’s name. They gave me a certificate in his name, which I sent to his mother.

Randy has been gone some 20 years now. I think of him and the fun times we had those many years ago. We had a lot of laughs and adventures. I learned some things from Randy too, he was a smart guy. Many other Americans have been killed by addiction since Randy, but thanks to AA, I have not been one of them.