Submitted by Cliff’s girlfriend, Christina Sweet
How Cliff and I met
I met Cliff the summer of 2009, when I moved back home to Vermont. He was the handsome guy stocking shelves at Macy’s, where we both worked. I asked him out to a bar to have drinks and get to know each other. Unbeknownst to me, he was living and breathing the 12 steps.
He agreed to go, but then later that day told me that he had to confess that he was living a sober life in a sober house. I was thrilled to have met a man who didn’t use anything, not even alcohol. So we went out, got to know each other and fell in love. We were together on and off for eight years.
Who was Cliff?
Cliff was a bright light in many ways. He was always very easygoing and easy to talk to. Nonjudgmental and super supportive to all friends and family. There wasn’t anyone who met him who didn’t like him immediately. He was from Boston and so naturally was a huge fan of every sport. He loved everything Boston-related; the Patriots and the Bruins were the ultimate. His love for soccer was also very ingrained in his DNA. Cliff was very proud of his Portuguese heritage. Cliff came from a very tight family, whom he loved more than life itself. He has a sister, mother, father and niece, who was the light of his life ’til his last day. He taught me about family and what it was to love with no restrictions, unconditionally. He was kind, compassionate, silly, helpful and, most of all, loving to anyone, especially those struggling like he had.
How Cliff struggled with opioid-use disorder
A couple months after we met, I experienced the first relapse of our eight years together. He wasn’t the man I knew when he used, but we got through it. He then got sober and stayed sober for five solid years, but somehow it just wouldn’t give. He relapsed and struggled again multiple times, until eventually it took his life.
In Cliff’s early attempts to get sober, he was blessed with the gift of the Plymouth House in New Hampshire. This was a wonderful facility that follows a 12-step program. This is the program that led him to Vermont and to all those years sober. He struggled with this disease since his late teens.
How would Cliff like to be remembered
Cliff would want to be remembered for all the good things that did, in fact, happen in his life. All the love that he’s shared and received. He would want his family to know how much he loved them unconditionally and, no matter what, didn’t want them to ever think it was their fault. That he is still with us every day. He would want people to know this was his battle, and his alone, to overcome. No amount of pushing him could keep him sober.
He would want us to not cry any more over his loss but instead celebrate the love that still remains.
Vivid memories of Cliff
Cliff and I would always go back to his home, Peabody, Mass. It was super important to him to keep that connection to his family, being so far away in Vermont. We would go back to his home at least once a month. He always wanted his niece to know how much he loved and adored her. She was his heart.
Although he and I were separated at the time of his last days here, we remained family and in love — with hopes we could get through this just like we had before many times.
Before he passed away, around 4:25 p.m., Cliff sent me a text. Part of it said, “I gotta take it a day at a time and whatever happens happens. And no matter the outcome of this craziness I put myself thru and obviously u thru, all I know is that I truly and honestly fell in love with you. You are absolutely the most beautiful human being God has created. I’m glad in a way that we were a couple for a short while but better a short while then never at all. I am jealous of the everyday friends, family, acquaintances etc.. I learned that Love is the strongest feeling someone can have and I’m glad to have felt it. You will Always hold a key to my heart.”
That’s who Cliff was: sweet and loving, in touch with the most intimate parts of himself.
I got a call from his sister later that night, one I knew I had to take. He passed away in his home in Peabody that night, alone, of an overdose. I’ll never forget that phone call.
If I could say anything to Cliff, it would be
I’m sorry, and I miss and love you. We all do. This isn’t your fault.