I met Brad (not his real name) in 2007, when I began dating his friend. This sweet goofy guy greeted us at the door of his mom’s house in Metamora, with an absolutely stupid tattoo on his leg and a baseball cap on backwards…and upside down. I immediately thought Well, here’s a guy I’m not going to be able to stand. He invited us in, gave us a brief tour of the house, introduced us to his dogs, and then suggested we go outside and start a bonfire. We went outside to the fire pit, and Brad started tossing me larger sticks and small logs while I formed the base of the fire – hooray, he wasn’t treating me like a helpless girl! While he and I built the fire, my ex stood nearby, talking to Brad’s sister, something that would normally leave me feeling a little abandoned. But I clicked with this guy and we became instant friends. This wasn’t a romantic attraction, just the joy of having a nice, immediately comfortable buddy. We laughed a lot and talked about obscure third-wave ska music while playing with the dogs.

Trying to Be There

One night, while we sat by the bonfire playing some Smash Brothers game by the virtue of extension cords, Brad told me about the drugs he used to do. It was a long list, complete with stories of moronic, dangerous things that “seemed like a great idea at the time!” I knew he still smoked marjuana, but he told me he had stopped doing hard drugs when his dad died suddenly. I told him I was proud of him and would always be there if he needed somebody to remind him he was cared about and that I would cheer for him every day that he made good decisions.

He stopped making good decisions.

Brad’s friend and I broke up around the time Brad started becoming serious with a woman, a single mother. Without my ex to keep us together, and Brad’s newfound love and taking on a father role, we naturally began to drift apart. I don’t know why Brad made the decision to pick up a needle again. I don’t know if he had been doing it routinely for a few months, or if he just made one stupid decision one horrible night. What I do know is that I received a call in the late summer of 2012 that Brad had died of a heroin overdose.

Brad was heavy on my mind Sunday, August 18, when ELGA participated in Lapeer’s Run Drugs Out of Town. This race took participants through Lapeer’s Rowden Park and nearby neighborhood. The course was lovely and the weather near perfect. The race was a fundraiser for the Lapeer County branch of Families Against Narcotics, coincidentally founded around the time Brad died. The group is composed of professionals and community members who are united in the task of addressing and decreasing the opioid crisis in Lapeer County. The organization focuses on educating people in the community about the dangers of opioid abuse and addiction. Families Against Narcotics also provides support to recovering addicts and people who have lost loved ones.

Remembering A Friend

It’s been 7 years and I still miss Brad. I’ve come to accept that I’m never going to completely heal from this; that there will always be a Brad-shaped hole in my life. I’m still furious with him. I’m still furious with myself.  There’s no guarantee I could have changed his mind that night if we hadn’t lost touch, but the “what if?” is very loud and pervasive. I’m furious with whoever supplied him the drugs, furious that there were drugs to be had – furious and heart-broken that my friend is gone.

Families Against Narcotics advocates for treatment and rehabilitation instead of arrest and imprisonment for people struggling with addiction in their “Hope, Not Handcuffs” programs, which works by allowing individuals struggling with addiction to receive affordable, effective help before their situation get out of control. A person can walk into any participating police station to request help and be greeted with support and understanding. The individual will receive an assessment to determine if they are a candidate for a specialized program. If they are not a candidate, they are assisted in finding another means of affordable treatment. With the help of fundraising events like Run Drugs out of Town, “Hope, Not Handcuffs” has been able to assist 3,130 people since February 1, 2017. If you or somebody you love needs help, or if you’d just like to learn more about this inspiring group, please visit https://www.familiesagainstnarcotics.org/.

Author: Jenni Zintel

Teller, Burton Branch

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