On September 23, 2017, my boyfriend died of a fentanyl overdose in his sleep. He was set to go on a football trip that weekend to see his favorite team, The Broncos, play in Denver.
I was on the couch watching movies on my iPad that morning, unaware of what had happened. It wasn't until my dog jumped on me and started shaking that I got a terrible sense of dread.
When I walked into the bedroom, the first thing I saw was his bare feet. They were blue. A sickening feeling shot up my throat, and I just knew. I knew he was gone before it fully even registered.
"Hey! Wake up!" I yelled.
I clapped my hands for some reason, louder and louder. Trying to wake him up? I walked around the bed and saw his face.
I shrieked. I jumped up and down and kept screaming. I didn't even recognize the sounds coming up from my throat. My heart wanted to thrash out of my chest. Waves of panic hammered through my body, and I felt like I was vibrating.
I picked up my dog and ran outside, and attempted to dial 911. I don't even know how I got through that phone call.
I felt a million miles away from reality.
As I waited for them to arrive, I paced the backyard frantically, trying to reach his parents, who were out of the country. No answer.
I dialed his sister.
She answered, and I howled into the phone. Loud, incoherent ramblings about how he was gone and that she needed to come to the house now.
The paramedics and fire trucks wailed to a stop in front of my house.
Family and friends came as I paced the driveway, unable to fully absorb what was happening.
And then, as the days passed, the slow realization that he was gone seeped into every corner of my being.
It took a long time for me to stop telling myself: "if I had only been in bed next to him...I could have saved him" (even though he never kept Naloxone—an opioid-specific antidote—in the house, a term I learned much too late). Would I have noticed the trouble he was in if I was sleeping beside him?
It took many therapy sessions to learn to be ok with all the unanswered questions, to let go of the self-blame, and to overcome seeing a dead body, period. Seeing his face, drained of color and bloody from I don't even know what was so horrifying. That image still haunts me to this day.
His family and I have lost touch. His mom sends me Christmas cards every year, but we still haven’t talked on the phone. Do they hate me for not saving him? For not doing more? I miss them—especially his sister and her husband.
I think about him every day. Sometimes I catch myself, lost in thought, shaking my head slowly with my eyebrows raised—still in disbelief that he's actually gone.