Two years ago today. After two years, I still do not believe he is gone and after two years I have no idea if I will have the words. Two years ago today the devil won but Jesus took him home.
Ryan was a light. He was always smiling, laughing, hugging and making you feel good to be in his presence. He was a jokester and a big ole teddy bear. Huge in stature and even bigger in heart. He loved his family and friends and rap music and making people smile. The world was a better place with him in it and people just gravitated towards him. You wanted to hang out with him because you laughed until you cried. You wanted a hug from him because it made you feel better somehow. I had lunch with Ryan’s big brother, who was my first and longest friend at Amarillo High School, and we both admit we feel like we just haven’t talked to Ryan in a while….as if he’s gone on a long vacation or joined the military or something. As if he will be back any minute and we can all go have a beer together. Ryan left a hole in our hearts that won’t ever quite be filled, a secret chamber that will always be empty because when you know someone like him, when you love someone like him, your world becomes bigger and better and changed for the good. Your heart grows and expands and knows a new light and when that person is gone, the space is still there but smaller and emptier somehow.
Two years ago today Ryan was found in his apartment in Houston by his momma who he loved more than life itself. He had overdosed sometime before and his light had burned out.
“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven." Matthew 5:14-16
Addiction is a deep, dark, sad, pit of a disease….a disease with no cure. No surgery or chemo or pill to take to stop a person from destroying their life and their family’s lives. No answer. No saving. No winning. So many people think it is a choice. It is not. I assure you. People do not choose to live in the deep dark pit, alone, scratching and clawing their way out of the clutches of the devil himself. No one chooses it and often times it cannot be escaped. In my life I have found that most of the time, people suffering from addiction or mental illness also have the biggest hearts. So many people I know, just like Ryan, seem like the happiest folks on the outside but are struggling so badly on the inside. Ryan was the nicest guy. He had a good job. He was handsome and his smile lit up a room. He was my friend. He was a great man who was addicted to heroin. I have often asked myself why God would ever create a person with those tendencies. I think of Jesus up there on the cross saying where are you God? Why have you forsaken me?? Because I think that is what it feels like. When you are at the bottom of the pit....forsaken and suffering. I think I understand what God must have felt as he watched his son suffer that day.
We despised him and rejected him;
he endured suffering and pain.
No one would even look at him—
we ignored him as if he were nothing.
“But he endured the suffering that should have been ours,
the pain that we should have borne.
All the while we thought that his suffering
was punishment sent by God.
But because of our sins he was wounded,
beaten because of the evil we did.
We are healed by the punishment he suffered,
made whole by the blows he received.
In my life I have been blindsided by this disease. People I know and love with lives destroyed. It has broken me and crushed my spirit at times. As I remember Ryan, like so many others, I want to shake him and bring him out of the pit. But I cannot, no one can. That hole that we feel without him, that hole than only God can restore was too big for Ryan to bear. That hole, if not filled with the Grace and mercy of God, consumes you and sends you to the fire.
Watching people spiral down is inconceivable. You can only understand it if you have been there alongside someone you love destroying pill by pill, drink by drink, drug by drug. It is a painful process that has no words. Gut wrenching. Absolutely gut wrenching. It is as if you are standing at the edge of a pool watching the person you love the most drowning. You cannot jump in and save them. You cannot throw out a life vest. You are screaming at them to SWIM. SWIM. SWIM. But they do not. Or they might swim, even if just for a minute. They might swim and even walk right out of that pool but the very next time you turn around they are there again, diving right back in, forgetting how to swim, drowning.
Today, after searching for the words for at least two years, I heard a quiet voice say: Go, God will help you find the words, go write. If you know someone who is suffering from addiction, if you are suffering from addiction DO NOT BE QUIET. DO NOT STAND ALONE. GO GET HELP. Just as satan sneaks around at night in the quiet darkness seeking to steal, kill and destroy, so does addiction. For far too long, we have treated this ailment as a secret, as something people should not talk about, as something shameful and self-inflicted. That cannot be further from the truth. It is not your fault. Seek help. Call a friend. Talk to your pastor. Call me. Do not listen to the whispers that you are to blame, that you can conquer this alone or that you are less of a person because you are an addict, you are not. Do not let the devil win.
"But the Lord is faithful. He will establish you and guard you against the evil one.”
- 2 Thessalonians 3:3
Today and every day, but today more than ever, I have looked at my own tiny sons and wondered how a mother could ever survive such heartache and loss. I have seen the toddler pictures of Ryan and the smile that melted your heart. He was a tiny son unscathed and strong. He was someone’s brother and son and friend and his memory will forever live on but he lost his battle. I believe the battle can be won. I believe if light can be shed on this disease, if the whispering can stop, if we beging to talk openly about it....We must start with recognition and compassion and understanding that addiction is not a choice. It is a disease. I pray over my own children EVERY.SINGLE.DAY. that they will never suffer in this way. It is a suffering like none other. I pray they will live many many years of happiness after I am gone. I pray that no matter what, no matter what that I know Jesus will be taking them home after they have been old and gray.
Two years ago today my life was forever changed. Two years ago today we lost a great man. Two years ago today the devil won but Jesus took him home.