I met Cali Noel Hall in 2014 while attending school at Life Christian Academy. We instantly clicked and before I knew it we were spending every day together. Whether it was running at Point Defiance, going to Frisko Freeze, cuddling in bed, sitting in the car, or just simply being in each other’s presence we were always happy, laughing, content, and full of life.
Our senior year Cali moved in with my family for a while, and I’m not kidding when I say every night was a party. We blew up a queen size air mattress on my bedroom floor, leaving absolutely no room to walk or even open the closet door. But we didn’t care. We were just happy because now we were officially more than best friends, we were family. My family took Cali in without hesitation. My aunts spoiled her, my grandparents adored her, and my parents made her do chores as if she had been there all along. We were truly soul mates.
I loved every single thing about Cali, but there was one giant piece that she chose to hide from me: addiction. When Cali and I became friends I had no clue about her past. I had no clue that addiction was such a big part of her life. It wasn’t until she was living with my family that I realized that she had a serious problem. In that moment I had two choices: step away from the friendship or love her harder. If you know me at all you know that my heart is big, really big. So suddenly I was thrown into the world of loving an addict, which is no easy task but I’ll talk more about that in a future post.
There’s one question you always have to ask yourself when loving an addict: am I loving them or am I enabling them? Phone call after phone call, long drive after long drive, rescue after rescue. Was I loving or enabling? It was right before graduation that I heard a quote that said, “If an addict is happy with you, you’re probably enabling them. If an addict is mad at you, you’re probably trying to save their life.” After graduation I had to sit my best friend in the world down and say the hardest thing I’ve ever had to say, “Cali, I love you but I can’t keep saving you. You have to learn how to save yourself.” After that conversation I didn’t see Cali for six months. She moved to Hawaii to start a new life and I moved to Bellingham to go to college. We still talked constantly, but it was clear our friendship wasn’t the same. How could it be after a conversation like that?
Fast forward to September of 2017. I was studying abroad in Paris, France and Cali was still in Hawaii. I was sitting on the train to Monet’s Garden, surrounded by a whole bunch of strangers, when I got a text that changed my world forever. It was from a random girl on Facebook and all it said was, “Cali has passed away. I know you were close with her and wanted to let you know.” That was it. No other information. No reason why. Nothing. I texted her mom and asked if it was true and she immediately responded with, “Yes.” In that moment my world fell apart. Being as I was surrounded by strangers and a few classmates I hardly knew, I didn’t say anything. It wasn’t until we were leaving Monet’s Garden nearly six hours later when I finally lost it. I spent the next two weeks in Paris just trying to make it through each day with a fake smile on my face.
By the time I made it back to Washington the sadness had subsided and anger had taken its place. I sat through her funeral without shedding a single tear. I watched my family mourn the loss of our pseudo sister and I felt nothing. I physically couldn’t mourn and it angered me that that’s how I was. They say a single thread of hope is a very powerful thing. For three years I had been holding on to this hope that one day Cali would be okay. That one day she would get clean. That one day she would realize that she had this community around her that loved her more than she knew. That one day I would get my best friend in the world back. And then that thread of hope snapped. It broke. It was gone, vanished. Occasionally I forget that she’s gone. I find myself hoping that she’s doing okay, that maybe she’s clean, and that maybe one day she’ll move back and we’ll continue our friendship as sisters. And then I’m hit with the gut wrenching reality that none of those things will ever happen. Because addiction stole my best friend. And now all I have left are memories. And for a year now that thought has been making me angry. Angry because I will never make another memory with her. Angry because she won’t stand by my side at my wedding. Angry because my future kids will never call her “Auntie Cali.” Angry because she couldn’t find the strength that we all knew she had to get clean. Angry because I couldn’t save her. But even though I am angry I am still grateful. Grateful because I got to call her my best friend. I got to call her my soul mate. I got to call her my sister. And that’s something that can never be taken away from me, no matter how far apart we are. And for that I am forever grateful.
Cali taught me what it’s like to feel loved. She taught me how to genuinely care about people. She taught me how to laugh, how to dance, how to cry. She taught me that life is about so much more than addiction, and I want to recover because she didn’t get the chance to. She showed me just how precious life is. So now I choose to live everyday in honor of her. Living life without your best friend is really damn hard. It’s something I would never wish on anyone. Something funny happens and she’s the first person I want to laugh with. Something sad happens and, again, she is the only person I want to talk to. Sometimes I still find myself typing “soul mate” into my contacts to see if she wants to hangout. And those things all come along with this physical pain in my chest as I remember that she’s not here, and I am. But that’s the point – I AM. I am alive. I am breathing. I am recovering. I am hurting. But I am okay.
Grief is a bizarre thing. Sometimes it is all-consuming. Sometimes it makes it harder to breathe. Sometimes it makes me feel like I’m drowning. It’s been a year and I still cry myself to sleep most nights. I still want to share every memory that pops up on my Facebook. I still want to talk about her constantly. But unless everybody else around you is in the same grief journey, they get to be sad for a minute and then move on. I’m stuck here mourning my best friend while the rest of the world carries on like nothing happened. People don’t like talking about Cali, I know that. Whether it’s because they find her death uncomfortable, they are confused by the way she died, or they just simply don’t want to talk about it I see it and I feel it. Mentioning her name won’t make me sad, it will actually do quite the opposite. So let’s talk about her. Let’s remember her. Let’s raise awareness about addiction and mental health. Let’s fight for her.