An encounter of a lifetime, although it was only fifteen minutes.
|Exhausted after a long day of work and with my heart aching still from the Canadian refusal, I walked into Starbucks on Fourth and South hoping to order a coffee or Frappuccino for Friday the 13th. I needed a pick-me-up from the delicious lamb and rice I had just finished at Cedar's, a delightful family-owned restaurant that was located two blocks down the street. The meal made me tired, and I wanted to be awake for the Lyft ride back home; although I had work the next morning, I didn't quite want to go to bed so early. Starbucks was a must.
I was standing behind a couple, and I overheard them talking about who was in front of them. I tend to be in la-la land when I wait in line, but my attention turned to the front of the line. At the front of the line, a long-haired, tattoo man was ordering a coffee for himself and the woman right next to him. He looked familiar, but between my exhaustion, broken heart, and not following the Margera/Jackass clan since 2006 that I couldn't place him at first. Eventually, after a few minutes of racking my brain for memories of 2003 and 2004, I asked the couple in front of me who it was. They both whispered: "it's Brandon Novak." Yes! It dawned on me; he was a fantastic skateboarder that had a heroin problem. I stopped following the group at the height of his addiction.
Back then I was a judgemental bitch and blamed addiction on people not being strong enough to say no. I didn't stop following the Margera/Jackass clan because of it, even though they live a half-an-hour away from me, but at that time in high school, I felt like I grew out of the whole Jackass thing. I had an enormous crush on Jess Margera, and the running joke in eighth grade was that someday I would marry him and we would be Jess and Jess Margera, but once I found out he was married, I was over Jess Margera. He looked well, and I was so happy to see that he looked well.
Finally, he turns around to wait for his drink and the couple I was standing in front of asks for a selfie. The young man was a recovering addict himself, and he had a few friends that lost their lives to addiction. I wasn't trying to eavesdrop, but he was talking loudly. Brandon agreed to the selfie, and I was surprised that he spent ten minutes listening to this young man's stories and offering empathy for his friends. He congratulated the young man on choosing the sober life, then handed him a card for Banyan Treatment Center, which Brandon is the spokesman. Brandon then told the young man to stay strong and if he ever feels the need to go back to the habit, to call him because his cell phone number was on the card. He would listen. I was amazed by the kindness and gentleness.
After the young couple walked away, I walked up to him. I asked him if I could have a selfie and he gladly agreed. I couldn't share a story of addiction because I have never been addicted, though there were times after my assault that I relied on the bottle a bit too much to sleep or calm down. I can't compare those days of hopelessness to what a drug addict goes through, though. However, I did tell him how proud I was of him and that he was doing a great job of helping others. He thanked me, then handed me a card to Banyan Treatment Center and told me to share with people who might need help. Unfortunately, mom has friends whose children have lost their lives to heroin and other narcotics. It was too late for them, but I hope that if I ever come to a moment where I know someone who needs help, I'll share the card with them because I still have it and I will keep it.
I walked out of Starbucks with a Frappuccino, and on my way home, Brandon's kindness and willingness to help people surprised me. It inspired me and it makes me want to help people in the future. It restored my faith in humanity and that there are still celebrities out there willing to help others.
Last month, ABC aired a special on the opioid epidemic. Brandon Novak was the special guest, and he shared his whole story - how treatment centres failed him, and there was no more hope for him. He shared how one night his mother went to church and prayed for him, but eventually told God: "if you take Brandon away from me, please take me as well." He was crying, and by that point, I was crying too. His mother's desperation is what spurred him to get help and eventually help others. He took his last treatment seriously and had been living life to inspire others. He also gave ABC permission to share his cell phone number so other people could contact him. He wants people to get help and wants people to still have a chance at life.
That encounter with Brandon Novak on Friday, October 13, 2017, truly changed my opinion about addiction and I am grateful for it because I never really knew how complicated it was. I wish the best for Brandon and those who fight this battle daily.