Guest post by Carissa Serino
Burt started using drugs at fifteen; at thirty-four they took his life. 34, the prime of his life. He had so much to look forward to and, in the blink of an eye, he was gone. The years of drug abuse caught up to him, and his body finally gave up.
In his teen years, Burt experimented with cocaine, marijuana, LSD, ‘shrooms, and ecstasy. He was never taught proper coping mechanisms growing up, so he used drugs to deal with the problems everyone faces daily — and for the ones he created himself due to his use. In his early twenties, a car crash injury opened the door to painkillers and then heroin. He referred to the opioid high as floating on a cloud — as a beautiful escape from reality. He spent his life chasing the next best high knowing deep down his addiction would be the death of him. He was constantly at war with his demons. It was a war he would eventually lose.
Despite several overdoses and a couple of rehab stays, he continued to seek out people and places that enabled his addiction to prosper. No matter where he lived, he always managed to make connections. I never fully grasped the internal turmoil he dealt with — the fight between staying sober and craving the high his brain so desperately desired — until I found him OVERDOSED. I always tried to be strong for Burt, but that day I had never felt so scared and helpless. The one person I truly loved and shared a son with was unconscious on our apartment floor. This near-fatal overdose landed him in the hospital for two days. Five days later, I found him dead on our couch.
I wish I could erase his final week with us from my memory. He had so much self-loathing, shame, and sadness. His spirit was broken. He said we were better off without him and that he was only going to bring us down. I still remember those words he spoke to me — “There is no more drug shit. I know if I ever put anything else up my nose again it could possibly kill me.” In the four years of dating him, I witnessed him in every possible condition, and not once did he ever admit he thought his drug use would kill him. He knew his time was coming to an end, yet he couldn’t control the urge. Denial, fear, and embarrassment prevented him from seeking the help he needed.
No matter how much I begged him to get help, he wouldn’t budge. I stood by and watched him slowly deteriorate those last few months of his life. There was nothing I could do. This was a tough lesson to learn — accepting that you can’t help someone who doesn’t want it. Family and friends repeated that phrase to me, but I refused to listen. I couldn’t abandon him. I needed him just as much as he needed us. He had to want to fight for us, for his son, for himself. It was HIS battle to fight, not mine.
Even after everything that happened, he refused to go to rehab or see a therapist, but he agreed to attend NA meetings only here and there. He believed the road to recovery would be too difficult and require too much effort. He didn’t have it in him. According to the American Addiction Centers, “recent drug relapse statistics show that more than 85% of individuals relapse and return to drug use within the year following treatment. Researchers estimate that more than two-thirds of individuals in recovery relapse within weeks to months of beginning addiction treatment.” The statistics are not reassuring but people have overcome their disorder. It can be done with the proper treatment and support.
If you are currently suffering from substance abuse disorder, please consider getting help. Detox, get clean, go to meetings, cut toxic people and places out of your life, and follow the necessary steps to recover. You’re not the only one in pain. Your family and friends suffer too.
Because of Burt’s unwillingness to get help, our three-year-old son has to grow up without his dad. Burt couldn’t wait to teach his son how to snowboard, rock climb, and camp. He loved plopping our toddler in the Osprey backpack and hiking with him on nature trails. Our loyal pup, Sunny, was always right by his side. During those two years and three months, Burt was a loving and devoted father. I believe our son encouraged him to be a better version of himself. I know Burt tried, but I wish he would have tried harder. I wish he would have loved himself as much as we loved him.
Burt was so exciting and adventurous but also rebellious. He showed me how to live in the moment. I fell in love with his charming personality, his witty sense of humor, his intelligence, his passion for music, and his beautiful soul. He had a warm heart and a kind face.
He was an inspired carpenter and in 2020, he started a successful woodworking business, Silent Trees. His stunning and unique furniture, specifically river tables and wall art, was admired by all. You would have never known this happy, cheerful, and talented guy suffered from addiction, depression, and anxiety. He hid it so well.
Please don’t choose the path Burt did. Find the strength to admit you have a problem. You can’t do this alone. If you have a support system, utilize it. You need to learn how to love yourself. Self-love is crucial in the healing process. I’m still learning how to do it. It requires hard work and constant effort. Believe you deserve love and fight like hell on the road to recovery. Your life is worth living. Believe you can do it, and you will.
Wesley Cullen Davidson
Wesley Cullen Davidson is an award-winning freelance writer and journalist specializing in parenting. Currently, she is targeting her writing about recovery to parents whose children have substance abuse disorders.