As I mentioned about a week and a half ago, I finally found out the reason Mike Q passed away. When I found out, it was almost like finding out he died all over again. Well, it wasn’t fully as bad, but about half. That’s still bad enough. I had to process almost everything all over again. It made me ponder everything. But I’m glad I know. I feel a lot better and a lot of questions have been answered.

After he died, the most his friends heard was when his aunt posted on his MySpace profile that his father found him next to his computer over Labor Day weekend. She said that was all they knew. People weren’t sure if they really didn’t know more or if they just didn’t want to say. We would understand if they didn’t feel like talking about it yet. They were (and still are) going through something very painful. But we all wanted to know. Most people just assumed it was drugs. It was thought that he probably overdosed, went to sleep, and never awoke.

Let me tell you the abridged version of my friendship with Mike. We met in 1999 at the Brass Monkey. My friend, Andrea Schwager, was in town and so we were hanging out in Fells Point, looking for something to do. I ran into my friend, Tim Kaye who told us that we should walk over to the Brass Monkey to check out this band called Velvasheen. I heard good things about them, so we decided to go. My eye was instantly drawn to Mike from the moment I walked in the room. I didn’t know at that moment who he was. But he just had this magnetic personality that you could feel from across the room, even if you weren’t talking to him. Moments later, I saw his band play and thought they were great. We met, talked, exchanged contact information. After the show, we got to know each other and became close friends very quickly. We hung out often, shared secrets and not so serious tidbits of our lives. We discussed music. We went to shows together. He used to play solo open mic at the 8×10 every week back then. I almost always went with him. There are a lot of good times we had there. We jammed on music together. He remixed one of my songs. He convinced me to go by “CherryTeresa”. We went to Ocean City together for my senior week. (I could write an entry on just the stuff that went happened when we went there. Crazy stuff! Haha). I lived with him temporarily when I was going through some rough times.

Like many other people in this world, Mike had experimented with drugs. But he started doing it more often and dabbling with more dangerous substances. Slowly, there was a change in Mike’s personality. He became harder and harder to reason with. Sometimes I felt like I was not talking to the same person I knew before. He eventually never wanted to go out. It wasn’t a temporary hermit thing. He stayed like that for a while. So for a few years, I barely saw him. If he went a while without talking, he would get back in touch with me eventually. I would hang out with him here and there. Sometimes it was just because we coincidentally ran into each other. Other times, we planned it. But it was always so good to see him and we always enjoyed seeing each other again.

Then, for a couple years, I did not see him or even hear from him. I heard he was addicted to heroin and not going out much because of that. But out of nowhere, he contacted me and asked me if I needed a job because he was working for Apple Tech Support and knew I would love that job. I got the job and even though we worked in different departments and had different schedules, he would make sure to either come visit me or sneak out during my breaks to see me. When I saw him, one of the first things I noticed was that he had gained a lot of weight. But I was happy about that. Why? Because most heroin addicts I know gain weight when they first get clean. He seemed alive again. So enthusiastic. He was that acting more like the magnetic person I had first met that night when I was still in high school.

I lost touch with him and other people at that company. I had to stop working there due to my health issues at the time. And shortly after, they laid off a ton of people. (Apple decided to move their tech support to India for U.S. customers, which didn’t last long. Now they’re back in America).

I saw him a few months later because he came to visit me. I never asked him if he did heroin or confronted him about his past drug problems. But he told me what happened. He told me how he was addicted to heroin and how he realized how it was ruining his life. He was on a methadone program. He said he was determined to turn his life around. The thing that worried me was that he was obviously abusing the methadone and not just taking is as prescribed. He pretty much told me that.

But he eventually did end up turning his life around. Earlier this year, he went to rehab and got off the methadone. He was clean. He was doing well at the job where he started working. He was making music again. He re-connected with a cool girl who he was dating. He had plans and goals and it seemed like he would achieve them. He was planning on moving to New York. He did get into debt because of some issues that happened while he was on drugs. He fell asleep at the wheel because of the methadone, so there were legal bills. He had health/teeth problems caused by his drug abuse. All that stuff was pretty depressing and enough to make someone want to give up on life. It could make someone want to just say “screw it” and do drugs again. But he didn’t. He was fighting the odds and winning.

But then he died. No one knew what happened, but figured the logical explanation was: He must have relapsed. It was Labor Day weekend. He probably wanted to have a good time. His tolerance went down because he stopped using. He took too much. He got sleepy as opiates tend to make people that way. He laid his head down on his desk and never awoke.

He lived in his father’s basement. His father is the one who found him. It turns out that after he called 9-1-1 and the police showed up, they searched the place for about six or seven hours. They found no drugs there at all. His family also searched the place afterwards. Nothing turned up.

The toxicology results showed that there were no drugs in his system. They then ran other tests and eventually the results showed that he had died of acute bronchial pneumonia and that his lungs were filled with fluids. I am guessing that the past drug use didn’t exactly help his overall health or immune system. His basement also flooded a few months earlier, which may have contributed to that.

But the point was that he didn’t directly die because of drugs. When I first found that out, I felt so relieved. But part of me was thinking “What does it matter? He still died.” And I felt like it was almost worse that he didn’t relapse. He went through all that work to better himself and he died anyway. I just kept thinking about all the things that could have been and probably would have been. And I thought about the fact that there are at least two people I know who died after kicking heroin.

What saddens me is that I didn’t see him in the last few months of his life. He would try to get back in touch with me but I pretty much ignored him because I had almost given up on him. I didn’t know that he had went to rehab and I assumed he was still in drugs. The last time I saw him, he was acting like the weird druggie again and not himself. I used to try to save people but it never worked and only caused me frustration. I decided to distance myself from him. I feel awful. I just wish he would have told me he was clean. I wish I would responded to him more. One thing that does make me feel a lot better is that Becky (the girl he was dating before he died) told me that he talked about me often as if we were still in touch and he had nothing but positive things to say about me. She said she had no idea we lost touch by the way he would talk about me. So I’m glad to know he didn’t seem to resent me for that. But I still wish I could have been around him, especially since he probably was the old Mike Q again and acting like that.

Mike, I truly miss you and I am sorry I didn’t believe in you more toward the end. You were such a good friend to me. You did so many wonderful things for me. I never asked, but you did them anyway. I never even came close to repaying you and for that, I am a jerk. Please know that I do think about the real you – the you that the world saw when you were clean. I remember the good times more than the bad. I think about you a lot. I always have. You have influenced me in many ways. I am still somewhat in denial that you passed away. Part of that is because you are still a part of my life.