Just before bed I got an email from my father with Richie in the subject line. I already knew and let out something about God…but I wasn’t shocked to hear of the family friend overdosing on drugs. I lay in bed thinking of his life, and how I met him, and what his last moments must have looked like…
We all have a path to walk in life. We all have different stories about where we come from, where we have been, and how we got to be where we are now, today. Well today I want to tell a story about a man who walked a path that not many will ever see in their lifetime, nor would they ever want to see…the life of a famous junkie.
But he was so much more than just a junkie. Society labels them as sub human and writes them off because of the bad behaviors associated with being a junkie. A junkie is someone who is in so much pain that they are willing to do ANYTHING just to feel some release, some relief, anything but the pain inside that exists like a parasite in the heart. If you have not walked in the shoes of a junkie, please do not have anything but compassion in your mind.
The story of Richard Abrazinski, aka Abrakadabra, starts in Worcester in the 60’s. I don’t exactly when or where he was born, but those are minor details. Richie was a special kid, I never met him when he was a kid but judging by the way he acted in his 30’s and 40’s, I can only guess how crazy he was as a youngster.
When I met Richie I was a teenager living on Martha’s Vineyard. How Richie and I met was through my father’s connection with him. My father is a great man and he tried to help Richie when he could through the 12th step of Alcoholic’s Anonymous. I would see him working, and at that age I was just realizing that this man was out on work-release from jail. I remember working alongside him while he and another family friend Jimmy (he was the one who picked him up from jail). The energy Richie had was boundless, and he never failed to make you smile simply because his voice and his laugh sounded so…likeable. He could charm the pants off a panther he was that good. I liked him immediately, and almost looked up to him because at least he didn’t care about acting normal or afraid, Richie was confident in his ability to work hard and have fun.
Richie’s problem was having too much fun. I found that out one day after running into him at Cumberland Farms, which on the island of Martha’s Vineyard is a place where all walks of life co-mingle, and this walk of life was walking tall that day. I saw him about a quarter mile away walking towards the store from the ferry docks. He had a distinct way of walking, a distinct look, that gave him away every time. Richie got closer and noticed me, and this big fucking smile splattered his face and I knew we were in for a good time.
That good time lasted a week, and involved many drugs and a lot of booze, and also a car chase with my father and mother in separate vehicles trying to make me pull over and hand over the keys. I was not in a good state of anything to even be behind the wheel of a car. I couldn’t believe how controlling and oppressive they were, and why they would not just leave me alone to do what I wanted. It was a classic case of denial mixed with fear and dishonesty. I denied the fact that I was sick and running with another sick person who like me did not care that we were driving around high on cocaine, coming off of being drunk, with a loaded shotgun in the back seat going on a mission from god to who knows where.
Luckily that little story ended well without anyone getting hurt. I ended up back in jail and so did Richie. That was one of the many negative things we had in common: drug addiction, jail, and rehab. When Richie was in Jail, I would be in a detox or a rehab, and when I was in jail he would be out in about or in a program trying to work and save money like the rest of us. When we saw each other at an AA meeting it was like dynamite and fire getting together again for one more explosive show.
Until I changed. I saw the truth and I recognized the path I was on was leading to destruction. It had already destroyed my body, my relationships with lovers and family, and now it was threatening to destroy my life completely. I was 26 years old and a mess from doing too many drugs, and they were really powerful ones like crystal meth. One of the last times I saw Richie he was just getting out of Cambridge jail where he was locked up for getting high in an MIT bathroom in Boston. He was using crystal meth, and judging by how powerful that drug is I can only imagine what kind of horror show was on display in that bathroom. God bless him for trying to beat this addiction.
That is the message I want to give to everyone who knew Richie. He was so much more than an overdose, he was more than a junkie, he was more than a crazy sonofabitch who always got in trouble. Did anyone stop to think why he always got in trouble? Sure he needed a place to stay, so he got arrested. Not many know of that level of desperation. No, he wanted love. He wanted to be touched, he wanted attention, and that was the only way he knew how: acting out and getting caught.
He was not a brilliant criminal, in fact he was kinda dumb the way he would do crimes in broad daylight in downtown areas. I heard stories of his Maine life where he was a real bad cat. I heard about how he ran the Maine state prison system, but they were just good stories to me. When we were together, it was usually a crime. We shared mostly intoxicants together, and the times we had were spaced between jail and rehabs. So my memories of him are cloudy and hazy. But I hold onto them and I will never forget that big huge kid named Richie.
The last time I saw him alive was in November right around Thanksgiving time. My parents were away from the Vineyard and I was living on Cape Cod, I came over for the week to watch the dog and to meet my sister with whom I shared turkey day with. I was picking up some antibiotics at the pharmacy when I pull in and who do I see walking my way from the liquor store, as if he knew I would be there, smiling all the way. He was moving slow, and rocking from side to side the way he usually did, but something was different. He looked older. All my life I always saw him as young, and full of life, even if he was so filled up with drugs it was pouring out of his pores! I gave him the keys to my dad’s truck and told him to get in I will give him a ride somewhere.
I walked into the pharmacy and immediately I picture Richie driving away in my father’s truck with my dog in the back seat wondering why this crazy pollack is driving, not me. I wondered the same thing as I went back out to make sure this did not happen. He was still trying to unlock the door when I got out there, and I told him to get in the passenger seat. He obliged. I got the keys and proceeded to get my stuff.
At this point in my life I was moving to Florida and trying to be healthy as over the past year and a half I had been through a couple surgeries and overcome a massive addiction to crystal meth. My body was tired but recovering slowly but surely. I was running and beginning to work out. I began eating healthy and meditating so my mind would calm down. Ever since using crystal meth I have never been the same…it changed me, some ways bad but mostly good. It made me super spiritual and unafraid to face the future, as well as the past. Life was taking on new meaning and for the first time I felt ready to accept it and to practice the principles which would ensure I would live a better life.
In comes Richie, my old running partner who I never said no to and who I would have done anything for at one point. I loved the freakin guy! So many people did, and that is what is so sad about Richie’s story. So many people tried to help Richie get on his feet and back on track. When he was sober he was the most stand up guy one could ever possibly meet on the street. Richie had a heart of pure gold and was not bashful or shy about giving it to complete strangers. They would stare at his huge 6 foot something figure which was intimidating when he got out of jail all buffed up, and he was covered in tattoos so you know people kind of glanced at him a couple times to make sure he wasn’t going to hurt them. Richie was gentle giant who mellowed out in his later years. He wasn’t the hardened felon living in Maine state pens, he was just another guy struggling to overcome the darkness that was inside of him.
I get in the truck and he already has a baggie of a white powder ready to go. He offers some to me, so kind. I refuse. I tell him I am all about being healthy now, and that I don’t feel like getting high anymore. I try to talk to him about getting something to eat and talking but who the hell wants to do that when you are getting high? No one I know, and especially not this guy. He already saw someone else he knew, and he knew everybody, so we say a quick good bye and he gets out of the truck. Looking back I wish I grabbed his arm with the might of God and held him close, and told him what was going to happen to him if he kept using drugs. I now see what it was like to be in my father’s shoes, to love someone but not able to help them or reach them as they slowly committed suicide right in front of you. Powerless is a good word. Never has a word become more than just letters and a meaning, powerless becomes a part of you in those situations when a drug addict chooses to kill himself rather than ask for help and choose another way of to live.
I wonder if Richie ever truly lived?
What is his legacy that he left behind for us?
Prison, crime, felony, rehab, detox…I remember he came into detox on Cape Cod right after I did. We had been on a bad run and we both knew it would end with some sort of hospital stay. Actually we were lucky to make it out alive and free from prison. The chances an addict takes with his life is insane, and that is why people love to judge them! There I am, playing cards with some fellow addicts and alcoholics who I had become fast friends with in a few days since I was able to walk.
A woman named Beth spoke up about this crazy giant who came in the night before with one leg in a cast and who woke up half the hallway when he came in. He was quite intoxicated and even picked up this little counselor who Richie just loved because the counselor worked out and I guess he thought that it would be fun to pick him up and carry him around. Anyways, I wondered if it was Richie. So I asked what he looked like.
She described a tall, built guy with light blonde hair and sleeves of tattoos. I asked her if he sounded like this: “Hey, BRO!” I made an impression of someone who drank whiskey and smoked cigarettes their whole life, and she nodded her head yes! She was amazed to find out we were friends. I was out when he came in, but the story goes he was out in the courtyard jumping around with a cast on drunk, and using his belt to show off his moves by whipping it against a wooden post while hitting on the local lady patients.
I told her all about our adventures, and we became lifelong friends based on just knowing Richie. That was the legacy he left behind for us to remember and to never forget how he touched our lives. We should all thank Richie for the sacrifice he made for us. Perhaps the reason he overdosed was to save someone who might have ended up with the same fate. I know Richie helped me more than I realize by the way he lived. His life is a lesson to me that teaches me that it isn’t something to waste and it isn’t something to take for granted.
Everyday I wake up and I find something to be grateful for, even if it takes a while or I feel depressed or sad or out of it. I find something to thank God for being alive today. Today I woke up and I thanked Richie for the memories and the moments that I will never forget as being times when I was truly myself, and it was because of Richie that I was able to be myself. He had a power inside of him that I regret had to wither away and die. He was in his 50’s, and I can’t believe he survived so long that way he lived.
Today, let’s take a moment to be silent in our minds and hold someone we love in thought. Breathe in love and breathe out any sickness which might have taken them or us…breathe it out and let the healing power of the universe respond by the opposite reaction which is health and positive vibrations return to your body and uplift your soul to a higher level. A level beyond the suffering hurt or pain that might exist between you and another…and transcend the pain to a certain kind of peace: serenity…God grant me the serenity…do you really believe he grants it to you, or are you just saying it because everyone else is?
Today, let’s remember our good friend and family member Richie Abrazinski. I will miss his laugh, and I will miss his stupid voice, and his love. May you finally be in a place where you don’t have to run anymore.