My Story

By Heather Widmer LMHC, CAP

I often get asked “what caused you to want to be a counselor?” or “why addictions?” Often in this field one has either “been through the ringer themselves” or has personally experienced seeing someone they love struggle.  This is my story:

The day I met Kyle (Dec 16,2007) forever changed my life. We met at a bar, shocker! His roommate was the first to approach me and his arrogance immediately turned me off. He must have noticed he was losing my attention because immediately he stated “did you meet my roommates?”. That was when I met Kyle. He seemed shy and was sitting alone in a chair by the bar, often looking down or in deep thought. I hadn’t really noticed him. I took another look at him and realized what I had overlooked due to this bar scene. I decided to talk to him and remember asking what was wrong. He replied that he wasn’t even going to go out and wasn’t really into the bar scene. As we continued talking I began noticing that there was something different about this man. He wasn’t just handsome, he was deep, genuine, sweet and sincere, which was MUCH different than other guys in south Florida. We talked about church, our shared faith, shared love for music and being musicians, family, food etc. 4 hours later, I finally said “so are you going to ask me for my number or what?!” With a shy smile, he asked me. My roommate and I ended up taking him home that night and with gratitude and sweetness he said goodbye and thanked us.  A day later was our first date and after a 9-hour date we were inseparable from there on out.

For the next few months I was able to witness his childlike nature, whether it be at the beach spinning me in circles or at a park pushing me on swings as well as his incredible musical talent. Things seemed perfect, yet there was always something ‘off’ about his friends. He never invited me to go out with him and his friends on the weekend which would turn into unnecessary questioning and arguments. In this course of time, Kyle had disclosed that he had a heart attack at 19, which he expressed was steroid induced. We both opened up to each other and I began noticing more and more his openness and kindness.

Three months into our relationship, march 2008, I was at Kyle’s apartment when his roommate asked if we could help clean in preparation for his father coming to visit. Hours went by and I grew tired, so I went upstairs and some perfectionism kicked into Kyle as he began going above and beyond to clean the house. Hours later I was woken up to Kyle stumbling into his room. He began tearing apart his room in a possessed state while asking where I hid them. Not having a clue what he was talking about I just followed him around stating I didn’t know what he wanted. Noticing he was under the influence of something, I decided to hide his car keys fearing he’d try driving. Sure enough, he wanted to leave the house. I decided to take my car and kill time. While we were driving he began asking me if we were going to the concert, right then I realized something was really up and he was completely out of his mind. We got back to his house and he began ripping apart his room once again. I decided to go to sleep, with my purse and keys under my pillow. I woke up a few hours later, to a sleepless Kyle stating he was having chest pains and needing his keys to go to the doctor. This is the first I recall being manipulated. I didn’t notice him stumbling, and knowing he had heart problems, I gave him his keys reminding him he had work at 11. Hours later he still had not returned home. I waited for hours. Calling his phone there was no answer, I was terrified that something had happened. 5pm rolled around, I decided to go home. Hysterical I began calling local hospitals to see if he had been checked in, then it dawned on me to look online as police websites. Sure enough Kyle had been arrested, 2nd offense DUI.

I called his roommate and he was bailed out that night. The following day I saw him with every intention to never talk to him again. It was that night he confessed that he has been struggling with addiction for 15 years. He was sobbing, but in his eyes I saw the relief that comes from finally being honest and letting go of the secret. I knew nothing about addiction so thought “that was sweet of him to open up to me”. The rest is history…

The next 10 months I witnessed Kyle losing himself to crack cocaine and Xanax. Relapse after relapse he would pawn his music pedals and guitar and isolate himself from me and the world. The countless “I’m sorry” and endless sob stories…not eating for days … I looked into his eyes and saw possession. This was not the man I met, the drugs turned him into this demonic-like creature. After being arrested again, crying out in remorse, professing his love for me, I agreed to let him move in with me.

During that time, I experienced even more of the madness. Lying, stealing from my roommate, relapsing every few weeks then staying sober a few weeks. Extreme depression, extreme feelings of worthlessness, defeat, anxiety, shame, pain, hopelessness. We would go to AA meetings together, sometimes when he was high, but he never had a motivation to get well himself.

In July 2008 Kyle moved back to Tampa with me and my family after I graduated college. After only a month of living there and using every day, I told him he needed to leave. He moved back to south Florida and things seemed to get better, for a while and after some halfway house attempts. He got a new job at city oyster, a new place with a decent roommate, was working with a counselor and going to group therapy, things seemed to be looking up.

After attempting a long distance relationship for 7 months our relationship ended.

But at the end of 2009, I was able to spend time with him again. I had done healing on myself, working on self-worth and codependency allowed me to be ready to forgive, that is where our friendship began. I was able to see the person I originally fell in love with. The caring, sweet, silly, genuine, sincere, loving, talented, funny, thoughtful man. We went to dinner, chatted for hours, laughed. Time was good. He shared his regrets and pain about how our relationship ended and the guilt he still carried from it. He said I was still his best friend and loved me.

There was a pattern that if I didn’t hear from Kyle then I knew something was wrong. In March,2010, I received calls from him that he wasn’t doing well and had been admitted into a mental hospital. I had plans to visit south Florida arranging to spend time together. Once again, it was wonderful. He made me dinner, we shared memories, talked, laughed, cried. The morning I left Kyle broke down crying, sharing frustration about not being able to sleep, he always struggled with insomnia and always thought he was different, this belief stemmed from a young age and he never could let go of it.

As I was leaving, Kyle walked me to my car, gave me a peck/ hugged me, telling me he loved me. As I told him I loved him back I could feel the gentleness of his body and love. Driving away, Kyle ran up to my window and handed me a flower with that goofy smile I’ll always remember.  (He was always picking me flowers.)  That was the last time I saw Kyle, I didn’t hear from him… So I knew something was up. Two weeks later he passed away.

Kyle was a beautiful soul. Kyle held onto a lot of resentment, shame, guilt which contributed to how he viewed himself, his self-doubts, insecurity, false sense of confidence, motivation, depression, anxiety, etc. All these things prevented Kyle from being the caring, loving, passionate, talented, sweet, intelligent, Christian man that everyone knew he was. Kyle was able to show this side at times, especially to people that didn’t know his struggles or his family that he didn’t want to worry. He very often wore a mask which I believe took a lot of work, too much work to hold up.

Knowing Kyle changed my life forever. Kyle will always be in my heart, that’s the kind of man he was, he touched people’s lives. The crab leg eating, monarch butterfly loving, nature obsessed, skilled artist and musician will forever be missed. His laugh, his smile, calling me baby girl in a high pitched goofy voice… All that is missed. But what I appreciate most is how God used him to help me find myself again, despite losing myself.

Addictive relationships are chaotic and painful. At the same time, there were countless good which makes it so hard to “let go”.  As I reflect back, God had a far greater plan than I could have ever imagined in knowing Kyle. Meeting him opened my eyes and heart to see the deep difficulties individuals go through and I have had the honor of helping hundreds of beautiful people on a daily basis because of this.

As we go through trials in life and struggle to wonder “why on earth is this happening”, rest assure that God has a plan greater than our understanding. There is something to be taught, someone to be blessed and something that will make sense somewhere down the road, if not in this lifetime definitely in the next.

Let go and have faith.