Submitted by Jason’s brother, Mike Chalmers
Jason was easy to like — a smart guy with a great sense of humor. While shy, he still wasn’t afraid to interact with a range of people, and he had literally dozens in his circle. He read books, cared about his family and, oddly enough, extended himself to people struggling.
What Jason was proud of
He was proud of graduating from high school, maintaining certain jobs and being able to get an apartment in his final year. But I know he was most proud of his kids. Even though they were born as a result of “the life,” the phrase he used for the time he spent struggling with opioid-use disorder, he made sure they got off to as good a start as possible — as good a start as he could give them in his circumstances. He was proud to be a father.
How opioid-use disorder changed his life
Jason was an addict by 17. We had to trick him into going to a rehab the summer before his senior year. That was the first of many similar situations — it only got worse. He missed his entire life.
He struggled for 22 years. He fought it but gave in, then fought it and gave in. He wanted badly to be rid of his “demon,” but he also simply couldn’t detach from the town and people/circumstances that served as his triggers. He was also their default leader in a sense, and I’m sure that gave him his sense of worth, value and purpose (and income, since he also often dealt drugs), where he couldn’t find it in “real” life, so that was also addicting in a way.
Jason was intelligent and always figured he was one step ahead of it all — even though his life was a disaster most of the time. He was someone fighting hard to defeat his demons and trying to be as good a father, son, brother and friend as possible, while juggling the many layers of addiction. I remember several camping trips when he was free of “the life” for a weekend, and we were able to just exhale; some long drives when we just talked and laughed; and some boxing matches — backstage prepping him to walk to the ring — or looking through the ropes myself at the crowd and seeing his face, more intense than mine, cheering me on and wanting to get in the ring and fight for me.
How opioid-use disorder changed our relationship
Our relationship got bad, then bad to worse, then some hope, then bad again. It was the proverbial roller coaster, but as the years went by, the anger and resentment seemed to calcify for me, emotionally, as his addiction became a law of diminishing returns and his condition, choices and success rate only trended, inevitably, downward. We struggled with each other in the final years but, fortunately, had a bit of reconciliation in the weeks before his death, and I’m grateful for that.
During moments of calmness, clarity and sobriety, he was his usual self — funny, quick to lend a hand, athletic, up for a good time. He was also a loyal brother and did his best to make me proud, despite his troubles.
My most vivid memories of Jason
I don’t know that there’s one singular moment, but just a collection of moments — when he wasn’t using — when his true self was able to emerge, even if briefly. You got to see him, experience him and what he wanted to be, could have been. And it was lovely.
Jason didn’t want to be what he became. But he gave up too much of his life, at too early an age, to ever know how to escape it as an adult.
If I could say one thing to Jason, it would be
I love you. I forgive you. I miss you.
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