After I finished undergrad at UNC, I moved into a house with 2 guys and 3 dogs. I lived in my sorority house my senior year sharing a room with 3 other girls and a bathroom with everyone in the house. There were too many of us crammed together. Lots of crying in the upstairs bathroom over boy drama and vomiting in the downstairs bathroom if too many carbs were consumed (it was the only bathroom that locked). So guys and dogs seemed like a good alternative. The problem with trying to rent in Chapel Hill with 3 dogs was that there were not a lot of options. We literally lived in a log cabin in the sketchy part of town. For locals, think past Church Street.
My relationship with D was totally platonic, but I always knew that he would be a great boyfriend/husband for some lucky girl. And his dog was this amazing gentle giant… so well behaved that it made my dogs look super naughty.
We would stay up late and watch the Olympics together. Our favorite sport? Gymnastics. How many guys do you know who would stay up late watching gymnastics? D did.
The only argument we ever had was when my lab Flash ate one of his Teva sandals. Those old school sandals were super expensive, and my first job out of undergrad paid a whopping $6.92/hour so I could not afford to replace them.
He and our other roommate were big mountain bikers. I remember one time he came home with a hurt hand and asked if he should go to the ER. I said “nah, you will just wait there all night.” He ended up having to have 2 surgeries to fix his hand, which is why anytime someone asks me if they should go to the ER, my immediate response is YES.
Living with 2 guys presented unique challenges, but better ones than living with a bunch of girls. I came home once to find fire trucks outside the log cabin. One of the guys had tossed the newspaper on the stove at lunch and left the dogs inside. One (I am sure one of mine) jumped up and turned the burner on (there were no safety locks in 1996, y’all) and caught the newspaper on fire. Of course I was the one that had to take the fire department scolding. I kept repeating “I live with 2 guys. They don’t always think things through.”
We kept in touch after we all moved out of the sketchy log cabin. We actually wrote letters back and forth for a while. Then I heard that he was not doing well through mutual friends. He tried rehab a few times before it stuck. But it did. He got clean, got married and had kids, and stayed that way for 20 years. My husband plays tennis with one of D’s long time friends, so I would hear how well D was doing through him. It made my heart so happy to know he conquered his demons and had a happy life.
D relapsed this spring and overdosed this week. He is currently on life support with no brain function.
I kept asking myself why, after all these years, would he relapse. Was it because of the pandemic? Job insecurity? Then I reminded myself that addiction is like depression. It is sneaky, it tells you lies, it makes you feel like you are alone. No one choses to be depressed or an addict. It is a chemical imbalance in your brain. So instead of trying to understand the why, I am choosing to remember that my friend fought the hard fight for 20 years to stay clean and have a happy life. I can’t run as fast or as long as D did over the years, but the next time I go for a run it will be to remember the awesome guy he became for 20 years.