International Overdose Awareness Day is a global event held on August 31 each year to raise awareness surrounding overdose and reduce the stigma of a drug-related deaths. The entire month of September is national recovery month.

This Isn’t About The Number Six

6 weeks before you died, we sat together.

You were sad and I was mad,

but we managed to laugh and joke

about our crazy mothers.

We ate sandwiches together.

We hugged and we shared our last words.

Of course, we didn’t know then,

they would be our last.

6 seconds before I knew you were dead,

I wasn’t thinking about you.

I was thinking about the test

I had just sat down to take.

It was on Shakespeare’s Sonnets.

Then my

phone rang.

6 seconds after I knew you were dead,

you were all I could think of;

I flipped through my memory,

tried to recall our last words.

I couldn’t remember and I left class in tears.

6 minutes after I knew you were dead,

my phone rang again.

It was my mother,

frustrated with my father

for telling me about you

before I got home.

I was already driving home.

My parents were nervous

I wouldn’t be able

to concentrate on the road,

but I made it home fine.

6 hours after I knew you were dead,

I went on social media.

I wrote, I will miss eating French fries with you.

I knew you would know what I meant.

66 hours after you died, I saw you for the last time.

Your father screamed my name. I still hear it.

The lipstick you were wearing did not look right.

My mother whispered to someone to change it,

and they did.

I read a prayer at your funeral.

I can’t remember the name.

Your father eulogized you;

his love for you kept his knees from buckling.

Your mother took a nap.

She woke up crying so loud

we heard her from the first floor.

I saw my father cry for the first time.

He clutched your dad,

who bought a suit he has not worn since.

I watched my father kiss your casket.

6 days after you died, my mother turned 50.

She didn’t want to celebrate

her birthday that year,

so we didn’t.

6 weeks after you died, I ate an entire loaf of bread.

I was with your mother and grandmother.

Your grandmother died shortly after,

we believe from a broken heart.

6 months after you died, you turned 20.

I promised myself we would celebrate

your 21st the following year.

We did.

I found my journal;

you know the one.

I turned to the last page

and found I had recorded our last words.

I’ll see you later, Cuz.

6 Christmases after you died,

your parents still hadn’t put up a tree.

I went to church,

wanting to light a candle in your name.

Two times the candle wouldn’t light.

Very funny! I exclaimed to the ceiling. To you.

On the third attempt, the candle sparked.

I smiled.

6 years after you died, I got married

to someone you would have met if

you stayed here 6 months longer.

You appeared in the slideshow and your father

looked at me and mouthed, Thank you.

I still don’t know why he was thanking me,

I wanted to see your face, too.

600 weeks after you died,

I am having dinner with your sister.

We discuss if losing you has made us stronger.

I don’t want to be stronger, she tells me.

I just want my sister back.

This poem was originally published in Cook’s latest poetry collection, I Hope My Voice Doesn’t Skip.


  • Alicia Cook

    Bestselling Author, Award-Winning Activist, Lover of French Fries

    Alicia Cook is a professional writer, speaker, and poet. She is the poet behind 2016’s bestselling book of poetry, Stuff I’ve Been Feeling Lately, 2018’s I Hope My Voice Doesn’t Skip, and 2020’s Sorry I Haven’t Texted You Back.

    Cook dedicates much of her life to shedding light on how drug addiction impacts the mental health of families. She released a collection of essays on the topic entitled Heroin Is the Worst Thing to Ever Happen To Me. An essayist and speaker, her activism to fight the opioid epidemic is far-reaching and has garnered a worldwide readership, and her own episode on the PBS series Here’s the Story.

    In 2016, her debut poetry collection was named a finalist in the Goodreads Choice Awards. Cook was the recipient of 2017’s Everyday Hero award from NJTV and 2018’s Women with Voices award from the Women with Voices Foundation. She was named a 2019 Healthcare Hero finalist by NJBiz. Her writing in higher education earned her three MarCom awards and one Communicator award. Her songwriting has been recognized by American Songwriter Magazine. In 2020, her latest poetry book was named a semi-finalist in the Goodreads Choice Awards. That same year Georgian Court named her as its Distinguished Alumni of the Year (2020) and was their 2021Commencement Speaker.

    Cook received an MBA from Saint Peter’s University and a bachelor’s degree in English Literature from Georgian Court University. She currently lives in Newark, NJ. You can find her on social media.