On April 27, 2009,
a Monday 11 years ago, my cousin Jack passed away from an accidental drug overdose. He was 18.
I didn’t understand then, and I still don’t now, but the weight his passing holds in the way I live my life has never left me. I do my best to honor his life with the choices I make.
My choices include
an extreme wariness of any mind-altering substance. I didn’t take a sip of alcohol until I turned 21, and I still rarely drink at all. I will never touch a drug for recreation or that was not prescribed to me. I will never take more than the prescribed amount.
My choices include showing compassion to people who struggle with addiction. Educating people on the dangers of said substances. Lowering the burden of peer pressure for others. Doing my best to be a safe place for those who need one.
My choices include following a calling to work in nonprofit. Right now I’m an intern for Safe and Sober, a nonprofit organization that educates students about the dangers of misusing substances, encouraging them to make safe choices.
So, on this anniversary of Jack’s passing, I want to emphasize the gravity of the choices we make.
Our choices ricochet. They encourage, they damage, they reverberate. They don’t just affect us. I’m sure we can all think of a time a choice we made hurt or lifted up someone else.
So, I’m pleading with you today. When faced with a choice, think about the people who love you.
Before you get in the driver’s seat when you’re just a little too buzzed.
Before you smoke the joint.
Before you take the pills.
All it takes is one time. One Mistake. Think about the people around you who would be forced to go on living without you if you died.
They would be heartbroken. They would be forever changed. They would still be thinking about you and missing you every single day, even 11 years later.
Jack’s life is so much more than the influence it has over me.
He was goofy and strong and bright and kind. He clearly wasn’t into our photo session this particular Christmas, but he always made time to play with the younger cousins. That’s what I remember most about him.
We were an inseparable group of kids, touched by a tragedy so early in life. I am grateful to still have that close relationship with my cousins. It is something I hold most dear.
It’s been 11 years, and a day doesn’t pass without a thought of him.
I miss you, Jack. And I love you all the more.