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“I saw your rise, and missed your fall. I couldn’t have caught you if I tried…”
This poem was written a couple of months after learning that one of my patients died of an overdose. In his recovery of many years, he experienced feelings of pride, joy, and human connection while dealing with the wounds of his childhood and adult life. I admired him for what he accomplished. He did several educational talks with me to teach the audience that recovery is a reality for many people. While he lost his life to his disease, I was comforted to know that he accomplished recovery, a goal he never thought possible. This poem is an ode to the core of who he really was, to his recovery.
I saw your rise, and missed your fall.
I couldn’t have caught you if I tried.
It had been years since your eyes had the shame
Your words the uncertainty
And your actions the frailty that came with your fall
Narcan gave you a couple more months. Two or three times.
I saw you disconnect, reconnect, and disconnect again.
Until your light was turned off
And there was not another chance for connection.
It was hard to see you go.
When I think of you, still, I don’t think of your fall
I remember your rise
I witnessed you standing proud
Chest out like a strong, Puerto Rican rooster
Bold, still healing from your wounds, but
Ready for the next battle.
I heard your story when you told it to crowds of people –
You stood honored and taught doctors, students, peers, and me.
You added details to your story every time that shocked me.
I knew you for years and every time I listened, I learned something new
About your trauma,
Your past, present, and what you envisioned in your future.
I appreciated that recovery was as unfamiliar to you
As speaking a different language is to me.
And yet, you lived your recovery.
I witnessed it.
I promise to not forget it.
I hope you are in a place where you are free of
Cravings and trauma -
Where you are surrounded by angels
Where someday your parents will join you and
Where you have found peace and happiness.
Where your wounds have fully healed and your battles no longer need to be fought.
It was hard to see your fall – to see you go
Yet it was amazing to see you rise.
It lives in me as my memory of you.
Dr Rodriguez is an instructor at Harvard Medical School, Director of the Outpatient Addiction Recovery Program at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, MA, and Assistant Medical Director of Substance Use Disorders for Massachusetts General Brigham.