I am so overwhelmed by this loss, I don't even know where to begin. My heart is broken, and my soul aches. A million memories play over and over in my mind. I smile when I think of my favorite cousin, I laugh at our many, many crazy shenanigans, and I cry so hard because I know there will be no more. This is a pain I could never fathom. I'm so very, very angry. I truly loved my cousin so much. I can only hope that she knew.
Nicole was such a beautiful, vibrant soul. She had a really big heart, and absolutely loved all the kids in her life. She was a big kid. She was fun, silly, loving, and so brave. Everything she had endured throughout her life only made her stronger. She, like myself, was the outcast. The black sheep. I remember being about 12 years old, hanging out in her room in the basement. We were watching How High, smoking Newports, and drinking this awful concoction we blended with vodka that we looted from her nana's liquor cabinet. She was a couple years older than me, so I looked up to her. I remember this was shortly after the death of Tupac, and she still cried. My love of hip-hop is because of her. She introduced me to the greats; Tupac, Biggie, DMX, the Lox, Wu Tang, among others. We were close. Always. No matter how much time passed, we never missed a beat when we were together. She was there for me. Through a lot of really bad times. When I needed a place to stay, she gave me a home. When I needed somebody to listen, she sat down with open ears. When I needed love, she gave it to me so freely. Many people only saw her for her mistakes, her shortcomings. They had no idea how magnificent her soul really was. Nothing she ever did was meant to hurt anyone. She did what she had to do to survive.
It hurts so bad that the last time we had a conversation we spoke about having dinner together, but we never did. That was September 18th, 2019. She reached out to me because of a Facebook post I made after going through something really tough. She was checking on me. She was caring for me, as she always has. That is the Nicole I want everyone to know. The Nicole I want everyone to remember.
I wish, more than anything, I had made more of an effort to spend time together. I regret so painfully that I didn't, because I didn't want to deal with any drama. I was afraid I would end up getting into trouble, because that is what we did. Now, I would give my right arm to get into trouble with her.
The last time I saw her, she was working at Family Dollar near my house. I stopped in for a few things, and she saw me. I was shopping and heard, "Supe?" I turned around, and there she was. I was her "Super". She gave me that nickname many years ago. I really feel like I let her down. I feel like I should've, could've done more. Maybe that's just the grief talking. No matter, I want my favorite cousin back. And the horrible nightmare of reality is, I will never get her back.
As long as I have known her, which is my whole life, she suffered. She was always trying to numb the pain. Eradicate the feelings she couldn't bear to feel. The losses she lived with were great. Yet, she was so bubbly and exuberant on the outside. I wish she would've shared her burdens with me. Allowed me to carry some of her pain. Her strength is something to be envied. She was a good person. A really amazing human being. I am so sorry she was all alone, and suffering.
I will miss her tremendously as long as I live. Not a day will go by that I won't be reminded of her, and desperately want her here.
Now, the truly awful part of her story, the path which led to her untimely death. I have to talk about it. It needs to be known. The very first time I know my cousin used opiates was in 2006. She acquired fentanyl pops. I'm sure it began prior to that, but that's the first I know of. She tended to be secretive, and didn't divulge how deep she was into something. I don't know if it was shame, or her attempt to protect me. After that, I know she also dabbled in other drugs. Cocaine, meth, pills, anything to escape her reality. In 2009 she really got herself together. She landed a really good job, was paying her rent and bills on time. Then, she was diagnosed with psuedotumor cerebri, a rare medical condition. She was hospitalized and started on dilaudid for pain. The gradual spiral into addiction happened immediately. See, addicts are fantastic liars, and actors. Even with legitimate medical conditions that cause significant pain, they gain such sympathy beyond what their pain demands. It is that euphoria derived from the very first milligram of painkiller that spirals completely out of control into complete opioid dependence.
Long story short, it wasn't long after that she lost her job, housing, family, etc. From that point on, she battled on and off with opioids. Shot heroin for awhile, popped pills. The last couple of years, I distanced myself. It pains me so bad to say that. I had to, to protect my children and myself. That's what this disease does. It alienates you from everyone who loves you, and everyone you love. It isolates you. It backs you into the darkest corner by yourself. You feel completely alone. You're so afraid to burden your family, you don't wanna disappoint anyone. Yet, it's absolutely impossible to face it on your own. That is exactly how it kills you. It thrives on desperation, and solitude. You avoid those who would never judge, nor abandon you, simply because it makes you believe they will. And for that, I will never forgive myself. I should've known better. I've faced addiction head on, alone, and triumphed. However, she's gone, and it doesn't matter what I should've or could've done, cuz she's defeated. Dead. A beautiful life lost.
For those of us left behind, it is not our fault. All we can do is love unconditionally. All we can do is be there. In the most loving memory of my dear cousin Nicole Marie, until I see you again.
Always, and Forever,