On September 7, rapper and producer Mac Miller (whose real name was Malcolm McCormick) died of a suspected overdose. He was only twenty-six years old.

Throughout my addiction, I listened to his music. It was therapeutic. I was lonely, depressed, and couldn’t stop using substances, and his words touched on each of those subjects with a rawness that gave me both comfort and goosebumps. Putting on a Mac Miller track was like talking to a close friend who was dealing with the same issues that I was. After several stays in treatment centres, I am now five years sober.

A few hours after finding out the news, I went on YouTube to listen to my favourite Mac Miller songs. I started crying within 30 seconds of “Best Day Ever.” The music video features home videos of a young Mac—from about two to five years old—dancing, playing, and hanging out with his family. At one point, he’s sitting on what looks to be his grandpa’s lap. At another, he’s staring into his father’s eyes with the kind of deep, innocent love only a child possesses. It reminded me of my childhood. In light of his passing, it’s haunting.

When I hear and read conversations about people who use substances, especially regarding the current overdose and homelessness crisis in BC, I’m startled by the lack of humanity. As a society, we should offer people with substance use disorders the same empathy and attention we provide to people with other deadly, chronic conditions. However, instead of offering a helping hand, we blame “those junkies.”

If only they had a job.

If only they tried harder.

If only they were a good person.

I wonder if we’d look at people with substance use disorders differently if we had a chance to watch home videos from their childhood.

Rest easy, Mac Miller.