“I am a 26-year-old widow.
On June 27th, 2019 I lost the love of my life. I am the person who found him in our home, and the person that held his hand as help arrived. If only I had known that morning when I told him ‘I love you’ before leaving the home we had built together that it would be the last time, I would never have left. It is indescribable the way that your life can change in a single moment, and the helplessness that surrounds you.
My husband died of a drug overdose. In the moments following his death, every part of me wanted to hide the fact of how he lost his life. I was completely blindsided. I had no idea that he had been using drugs, nor did I recognize that he was struggling. Looking back, I recognize the signs. But at the time, I chose to believe that my life and my sweet husband were flawless.
I have known countless people in my life that have struggled with addiction. Before experiencing the loss of my husband, I would have sworn to you that there’s no way a wife could not know. I knew this man better than I knew myself and believed that I would certainly know if something was wrong. But I didn’t. In my time of loss, there are others who have privately reached out to me and shared their stories of loved ones and friends who have lost their lives to this disease. Stories of shame, of confusion, of anger, and regret. I never would have known.
It is easy to believe that addiction is a choice. That the person you love most would never choose to use drugs or make a choice that would threaten their lives. How could they? They have so much to live for, so many lives that would be affected by their sudden loss. Those that make such a choice are selfish. Self-destructive. Irresponsible. Reckless.
Tyler Lawrence was kind. He was smart. He was responsible, hard-working, reliable, confident, and selfless. Tyler improved my life in every way. He built a life for us and loved me as Jesus does. Tyler also came to know the Lord in ways that have brought countless others to question what he found that brought him so much joy and peace.
Tyler was fun. We slow-danced in our kitchen days before his death. He made me laugh, he made me smile. He made me feel whole. One of the last texts he sent to me read, ‘you are an absolutely wonderful wife.’
But Tyler also struggled. Tyler had seen heartache in his short 29 years that most do not experience in a lifetime. Tyler did not look to others for help, he did not lean on others to fix his problems. He carried the weight on his shoulders and did the best he could.
Addiction does not discriminate. Addiction does not settle for the weak, for the selfish, nor for the heartless. Addiction comes too for the strong, the selfless, the ones who carry everyone’s weight for them.
We have spent far too long pretending it is a choice. Pretending we are immune. Pretending that if we do not face it, it will go away. But it won’t.
As for me, I choose honesty and openness. I choose to reach out and ask the difficult questions. To be honest about my struggles, and to lean on those that God has placed in my life.
I am a 26-year-old widow. My husband died as a result of substance abuse. I refuse to lie. I refuse to insult my husband’s legacy by hiding the raw truth of an incredible man and an amazing marriage that had its worldly flaws. The life I knew before has been ruined, stripped down to its core. But, by the grace of Jesus, we have new life in Him. My husband came to know the Lord in the months leading to his death, and this brings me great comfort and immeasurable joy.
The Lord has placed it upon my heart, from the moment I watched them take Tyler from our home for the last time, to be honest about our experience, and about our great loss. If you see me, ask me about him. Don’t be afraid to approach me, or to say the ‘wrong thing’; grief is universal. Those who have shared their experiences of grief have been my greatest lifeline.
If you are struggling with addiction, know that you can reach out to me. Nothing is too messy, or too raw. If you know someone who is struggling, take action. Speak to them early, often, and with grace. Life is too short to live in fear of judgement. We are called to share the hope of Christ, and the freedom that can be found in Him.
My grief is strong, heavy, and constant. I will carry Tyler with me wherever I go. But with great tragedy can come growth and true joy. My life is not over. Tyler’s memory lives on, carried by each person he loved. The Lord is faithful, that is all I can say. He allows us to make our choice, but incredible peace and understanding comes too, if we only choose to look for it.
If I have learned anything, it is that life is short, and nothing is guaranteed. We must be true to ourselves, and fiercely love those who have been placed in our lives. And above all, never be afraid to reach out.
‘Well, I’ve been afraid of changing, because I built my life around you. But time makes you bolder, children get older. I’m getting older too.’
‘The end of all things is near. Therefore, be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.’
1 Peter 4:7-11”
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