August 27, 2012
Death in a Bottle: One Man’s Story About the Use & Abuse of Steroids
By Ben Kennedy
During everyone’s lifetime there will arise important decisions that will drastically impact the future course of their life. For young men and women involved in sports that require strength and power a very important decision that must be made is whether or not to use anabolic steroids. Much has been said both pro and con about this issue. It is true that steroids can promote very rapid increases in strength and power in the short term. It is equally true that the majority of users will suffer some pretty dire consequences as a result of their use of anabolic steroids. What follows is a true story about a young man I used to know whose life was fatally altered by his decision to use steroids.
I first met Buddy one day in the weight room while I was doing some lat pulldowns. He came up to me and asked if I was an officer of the weightlifting club. I replied to the affirmative and explained that I had just become an officer because the new President was a friend of mine and I agreed with his goals for the club. Buddy proceeded to tell me how he thought all officers were really just puppets of the faculty advisor and that I was probably just the same. I stepped closer to Buddy, looked him straight in the eye and told him that he was entitled to his opinion but that I was someone that would never be a puppet to anyone. Buddy quickly backed down saying he really had not meant to offend me and that Dave the new president was ok and I was probably ok too if I was a friend of his.
My initial encounter with Buddy came as no real surprise to me. The Gym where I was working out at the time was a University gym run by a student club and there was a lot of negative gossip about Buddy. From what I had heard, Buddy exhibited most of the characteristics of what is commonly known as a bully. The way he reacted during our initial meeting just helped reinforce this conclusion.
The interesting thing about that first meeting was that from then on Buddy seemed to go out of his way to be my friend. As I got to know him better, I could see that he had a lot of positive qualities but seemed to be very insecure despite his outward demeanor. I also noticed that Buddy had a lot of the outward signs that he might be using steroids. He had a fair amount of acne but at 6 feet and 220 pounds he was not overly large. I guess my biggest suspicions arose because he never really seemed to train that much and when he did train it was not very intense. Either Buddy had incredible genetics or he was using something to give him an extra advantage.
In looking back what should have been the biggest warning sign was Buddy’s behavior. He seemed to have a lot of confrontations with other people and most of them did not go as well as ours did. In our club of about 600 students and faculty there were an awful lot of people who really hated Buddy. In being so inwardly insecure about himself, I think Buddy went out of his way to try to impress other people and the way he went about it was very offensive to some.
As I progressed through College I found myself in several classes with Buddy and got to know him pretty well. He was actually a lot of fun to be around when he wasn’t trying to start a fight. He helped me several times with some schoolwork and was always able to make some otherwise boring classes a little more bearable.
As I got to know Buddy better, I learned more about his background. He came from a lower income household and was the first person in his family to attend college. He did not like to talk much about his family or his past but once he did show me some pictures of himself from high school. He joked about how thin he had been but I could tell that it had been something that had really bothered him. He also would occasionally mention how he thought his father was a loser for having a job that required menial labor. He vowed that the system would never screw him over in the same way.
After College, I did not stay in close touch with Buddy but I did talk to him from time to time. I was pursuing a career as a pilot and aviation was always something that had interested him. He would call me and ask for guidance in achieving the certificates and experience necessary to get a good flying job. Buddy was always looking for a shortcut and did not want to spend the same years I had in accumulating time and ratings. I tried to steer him in the right direction but he always wanted a shortcut and in aviation you might be able to fudge some numbers but you still have to be able to fly a plane to be a pilot.
As the years went by I heard less and less from Buddy. He would call me or I would run into him about once a year. It was now about 7 or 8 years since we had graduated from College but he still did not seem to be working a steady job. He had moved to Florida and changed his name but nothing else seemed to have changed much. He was still trying to beat the system and would usually call me long distance on a stolen phone card. He reasoned it was ok to use the card because it was a way to get back at the greed of Corporate America.
The last time I saw Buddy was at a Christmas Eve church service about four years ago. I asked him how he was doing and he said that he had been better. He was going by yet another name and said that he was working out back at the University while he was taking some graduate classes. I later found out the truth that he was only hanging around the school gym in order to deal steroids to young eager customers.
The last information I got on Buddy was a small article in the local newspaper outlining how he had died. According to the article he had been on the run from the police after being charged with sexual assault. He was arrested in another state for trying to cash a bogus check. On the way to jail he apparently faked a seizure and was taken to the hospital. At the hospital, he asked to go to the bathroom and while enroute he managed to get the guard’s gun away from him while wounding him in the process. After barricading himself in the bathroom Buddy took his own life.
How did a young man with so much potential end up committing suicide while in Police custody? I do not think it was any one thing but a combination of factors made fatally worse by Buddy’s steroid abuse. After his death I spoke to a mutual friend who is an attorney and who had tried to help Buddy in his legal problems stemming from his steroid dealing. He told me he felt Buddy was addicted to steroids. He said Buddy had called him late one night begging him to hide some steroids for him because he was about to be raided by the Police. The attorney told me he responded to Buddy by telling him that the only way he would help him was to check him into a substance abuse center because that was the only thing that would help him. Unfortunately, Buddy would not go.
Why was it so hard for Buddy to stop using steroids when they were clearly ruining his life? I think it all goes back to when he was a skinny teenager. He hated his life then and steroids had offered him a fast easy way to at least improve his outward appearance. Unfortunately what he needed to change was his own self-image. Steroids helped make him bigger to other people but they could never make him big enough to himself. He moved on to dealing steroids because it made him feel important when people relied on him and it was also a way to cheat the system that he felt was out to get him. In the end I think my friend Buddy died because he never could understand that true strength and power lie within a person and have little to do with outer appearance.
The really sad thing about this story is that it is not an isolated incident. I am not saying that all steroid users will end up in such a tragic manner but I have seen so many lives destroyed by this drug in other ways. If you think I am exaggerating then go see for yourself because I think the proof can be found in just about any gym. Is it a coincidence that there are so many guys over the age of 30 who are bald, suffer numerous health problems and can not seem to maintain any kind of meaningful relationship with a woman? Just like my friend Buddy, they will try to convince you that all is well but if you look at more than the outward appearance you will really find a burned out shell of what once could have been a great person.
I wrote about this tragic story because I am hoping that it will stop someone somewhere from making a terrible decision that will ruin their life. If you are even contemplating the use of steroids then you need to ask yourself whether gaining a few lousy pounds of muscle is so important that you are willing to sacrifice your health, your lover, your friends, and maybe even your life. As Robert Frost once described in his famous poem The Road Not Taken, there are times in life when you are faced with a crucial decision the outcome of which will shape the rest of your life. Buddy and I had to make a similar decision. He went one way and I went the other and that has made all the difference for both of us.
The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, And sorry I could not travel both And be one traveler, long I stood And looked down one as far as I could To where it bent in the undergrowth. Then took the other, as just as fair, And having perhaps the better claim, Because it was grassy and wanted wear; Though as for that the passing there Had worn them really about the same. And both that morning equally lay In leaves no step had trodden black. Oh, I kept the first for another day! Yet knowing how way leads on to way, I doubted if I should ever come back. I shall be telling this with a sigh Somewhere ages and ages hence: Two roads diverged in a wood, and I– I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.