After the soul-crushing death of Florida Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez last week, I heard someone smart compare him to Buddy Holly. His death at 24 was to baseball what Buddy Holly’s death at 22 was to rock and roll in 1959.
It wasn’t just that both men died so young. It was that both had demonstrated prodigious talent and unmatched joy in what they were doing. They had performed just long enough to show the world what it would be missing in their absence.
Stitched through many of the remembrances of Fernandez was a reminder of something we all know but often forget: Life is so damn fragile.
That’s one of the themes in my Business London story this month about Adam Rice. At 31, Rice has survived more health scares than most people twice his age, the result of an addiction to pain medication that spiraled completely out of control nearly five years ago.
Sober three years, Rice is running a tech start-up with a high school buddy, matching Fintech lenders with borrowers across the country. But that is secondary to his personal story of addiction, support and recovery that has led him to where he is today.
At the lowest of many, many low points, his drug and alcohol abuse caused seizures that erased memories and left him with a diagnosed brain injury. With the help of family and friends – particularly an anonymous friend who is his 12-step program sponsor – he survived.
Now he’s working hard to rebuild his life and reach the potential he once had before a fateful day in 2011 when he was thrown from his motorcycle in Southern China and began taking Oxycontin for the excruciating pain.
Regardless of whether his business thrives, he is thankful each day simply for being alive. Life, after all, is so damn fragile.
* Update, Oct. 4
The response to Adam's story has been impressive. He and has family have deep roots in the community, and many of those people have reached out to congratulate him on his recovery and willingness to talk about his addictions.
In the story, I mentioned the toddler Adam and his girlfriend, Jessica Theilade, are caring for. I didn't flesh out the degree to which they have been, and continue to be, part of Ryder's life. His birth mother is an addict whom they supported during her pregnancy two years ago. She relapsed after giving birth, and Children's Aid turned to Adam and Jessica to provide kinship support for the little boy.
In February of this year, the birth mother agreed to give the couple full custody of Ryder, and they've been caring for him ever since, with a view to adoption. Spurred on by the experience, they hope to provide foster care for other children in need, of which there is an almost endless supply, quite sadly.
Adam is grateful for everything in his life at the moment, and laments the experience Ryder's birth mother had as a child and teen, in care and out of care -- a vicious cycle of addiction and abuse that is extremely difficult to break. Having fought so hard to wrestle his own addictions, Adam is hoping to break the cycle with Ryder. There's no better way for him to pay back the many people and agencies that helped him during his darkest days of addiction.