Name: Isabella June Lyda
Sunday Night Shifts
Sunday’s were my least favorite day to work my host job. Sure, it never got too busy, there were never any problems, and I was practically paid to do nothing but play hangman with my coworkers for eight hours. However, I hated the thought of waking up early to attend school the next day, being motionless behind the host stand, and trying to work with virtually nothing to be worked on. Nonetheless, my coworkers made working the ever-dreaded Sunday shift tolerable. I placed the wrinkled receipt paper under the container of sliced lemons, anticipating if I had correctly guessed a letter in the words for hangman. The clue he had given me was, “favorite football player.” I received the paper with the answer, “Saquon Barkley,” and the foreseeable stick figure body, indicating that I had lost the game. He always told me, “Sundays are the best day to work!” and I always argued that they were not. Maybe it was because I always anticipated losing in a hangman. I can see why he loved it, meeting people from around the city, talking nonsense while taking their orders, watching Sunday night football, and making money doing the thing he loved. He made working better, despite the number of customers he had or food orders that needed to be put in, he tried to make me love Sundays as much as he did. Sometimes he brought me Twizzlers to snack on during breaks or told a terrible joke to make me laugh. He was a giver, and wanted to brighten everyone’s day. We bickered almost every Sunday, during that four to midnight shift: between games of hangman, throwing wrinkled straw papers at each other, watching a football game, and occasionally actually doing our jobs. Until one Sunday, we weren’t.
I was at work Saturday night when I heard what happened. The hot July air crept through the windows and filled the restaurant, adding heat to the already heavy atmosphere. He was scheduled to work the night shift and never showed, which was unusual for him, he always made it to work or communicated if he would be late. “His phone is off,” said our manager in the server alley. I continued to pour the unfinished drinks into the sink, and returned to my station to accommodate the endless amounts of people in the door of the restaurant. There had never been a time I’d worried about the death of a friend, or family member for that matter, I was lucky in that sense. It was a luxury I didn’t know I had until I heard the words an hour later, “He’s dead.” That was a loss I would have never anticipated.
Over twenty million Americans today struggle with addiction. My coworker and friend is a victim of an overdose, which kills more people than breast cancer, car accidents, and guns. As the number one cause of accidental death in America, overdose proves to be a crisis. Not only is drug overdose a strong indicator of addiction, but addiction spans from things like alcohol, tobacco, caffeine, and even less severe, things like food and exercise. With this, overdose is not the only factor of deaths related to addiction: In 2018 more than 175,000 deaths in the United States were related to alcohol and other drugs, making substance use the third largest cause of death in the nation. Substance abuse is not only a crisis, but an epidemic. The amount of lives that are lost to drugs and addiction is inexcusable with the endless resources we have as a nation, and on a global scale. Only one in ten people who require treatment ever recieve it, despite treatment availability in treatment facilities and other means. By increasing access to addiction treatment, and spreading awareness, regardless of affiliation, the drug crisis could be helped drastically. Countless lives could be saved by bringing attention to the detriment that addition has on the lives of the abuser. This attention, however, can be positive; encouraging addicts to not be ashamed, or weak, but to see it as a medical issue. They do not need to be seen as helpless, defined by their addiction. Addiction is not a character trait, not an identifier, but an obstacle, a devastating one that can be overcome.
He did not define himself as an addict, nor did he ever need to. Everyone around him saw him as he was, a genuine friend. He presented himself full of life, happy and encouraging. Someone who enjoyed making others happy, someone who enjoyed starting stupid little arguments, someone who enjoyed winning hangman once a week, someone who enjoyed life. Someone may not even seem to struggle, someone close to you, who you see everyday, work with, could be struggling behind the scenes. It would be the following Sunday shifts that I found myself with something to work on: helping others. I worked to replicate his enthusiasm, and make at least one person’s day better. I worked on spreading awareness and donations, so that someone could be spared the death or struggle of a loved one. Not only did addiction take his Sunday night football, meeting new people, and playing endless games of hangman, but took him from his family and those who loved him. Him, nor I, would have predicted that our last game of hangman would be so soon, or that I would do anything for one last Sunday night shift.