Losing Eric: Dracut Man Succumbs to Addiction, and a Family Endures
DRACUT -- Michelle Normandin will never forget the call she received on Nov. 30. She was finishing up a glass of wine with a friend at O’Hara’s Tavern in Dracut when she looked at her phone: It was 9:33 p.m.
On the other end was the stepfather of Michelle’s 9-year-old granddaughter, Daelyn Normandin. He asked Michelle if she had heard anything, then passed the phone to Daelyn’s mother who was crying hysterically. Michelle panicked and thought something happened to Dae, as she calls her granddaughter.
It was about Michelle’s son, Eric R. Normandin. The 34-year-old Dracut resident was found unresponsive. He died that night of a suspected heroin overdose following a relapse after a long struggle with addiction.
The news came as a complete shock to Michelle, who said her son had been clean for several years. Until this past summer, Eric had even worked in Malden as a resident addiction support staff with Eastern Middlesex Alcoholism Services, helping clients through recovery.
“I thought I was well aware of what was going on. I thought he was doing great. He went three years being clean and serene and something set him off that one day. What makes that happen?” Michelle, 55, asked aloud on a recent Sunday from her Dracut home. “I don’t want to see anyone else going through what we’re going through. ... I thought he was on the greatest path.”
From Michelle’s cactus-shaped Christmas tree hung ornaments in honor of her only son, gifted to her by friends of his who shared her grief. Michelle and Dae described Eric as hilarious and outgoing -- an aspiring hip-hop artist who went by the moniker “Eric Dae.” Photos of him surrounded the inseparable pair as they grappled with his absence. In another room were dogeared notebooks and loose pages filled with lyrics Eric had penned.
Dae, seated at a table, kept her eyes down. Her voice shook when she spoke of her father.
“I’m sad that he passed away,” Dae said.
Michelle tried to soothe her granddaughter.
“You can let it out,” Michelle said. “I have tissues for you.”
Recently, Dae had confessed to her grandmother that she felt bad for her because “it’s the saddest thing for your child dying before you.” Michelle said having Dae’s company has helped her cope.
“Her and I have been best buddies since she was born,” Michelle said. “When he was using and everything, a lot of times it was just her and I, her mom, so I would take her like every weekend. I would take her on school vacations, take her for a week in the summer.”
Dae didn’t know about her father’s addiction to heroin, nor that he had been in rehab before. The family protected Dae from all that, Michelle said.
A scroll through “Remembering Eric Normandin,” a Facebook page in Eric’s honor, shows how popular he was. Friends have left messages to him and about a dozen people last week wished him a merry Christmas.
Eric opened up about addiction and life struggles through his music. The music video to his song, “Anything,” opens up with a cluster of hypodermic needles.
“Daddy, do you believe in God?” Dae asks him in the music video.
“I don’t know, honey,” Eric responds to his daughter.
Below is a snippet of “Anything”:
“But I feel defeat and my skeleton’s crushed,
I try to get ahead instead of me injecting the drugs,
Cause nothing’s stronger than that heroin love,
So I lift my head and write ‘In Memory Of.’”
“There’s just so much that he did more later in life that I thought was so important because he was helping people with addiction,” Michelle said.
Dae said she and her father would make weird and funny faces together. He had a thing for pterodactyls and loved making others laugh. They had so many plans: this summer they were going to buy ice cream cones, smash them into their foreheads and pretend to be unicorns.
Dae struggled again to come up with the right words. What did her father mean to her? “It’s hard to explain ’cause of how close we were,” she said.
On the morning of Nov. 30, Eric posted a status update on Facebook. Focused, he said he had been up since 2 a.m. writing for an upcoming rap battle. He completed a song, finished two music collaborations and started another one. This pen, he wrote, is on fire.
Eric also had a weekend planned with his daughter, Dae.
“Just Us,” he wrote.
Follow Amaris Castillo on Twitter @AmarisCastillo.