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#NothingForNathan: An alcohol- and drug-free day of remembrance

04/10/2015 05:30 EDT | Updated 06/10/2015 07:59 EDT
A family who lost their young adult son two weeks ago to drug abuse are urging friends to remember Nathan Smallwood by not doing what led to his untimely death.

The family's unique memorial carries the social media tag "#NothingForNathan," and asks friends to refrain from alcohol and drug use for 24 hours on what would what been Smallwood's 24th birthday. 

Smallwood died on March 28 in St. John's. 

The Facebook page set up for the event said Smallwood's death was not intentional, but "after years of drug and alcohol abuse, his body had enough." 

"I guess over a course of time — especially this past year — it just took a toll on his body," his father, David Smallwood, told The St. John's Morning Show. 

On Sunday, the family members are asking for a different request in Smallwood's honour.

"Do something that's good for your soul, whether it's reading a book, taking your dog for a walk," said Ashley Smallwood, Nathan's sister.

"Everybody doesn't need to be partying all the time, every thrill in life doesn't need to revolve around drugs and alcohol — that's pretty much the message." 

Instead of consuming an alcoholic drink, the Smallwoods ask that people grab a Dr Pepper — Nathan Smallwood's favourite — instead.

They'd like people to take a photo of themselves drinking Dr Pepper "and doing something good for the soul," and post it to social media, using the hashtag #NothingForNathan.

Everybody thinks they're invincible 

Feeling pressure to fit in, Nathan Smallwood began going down the wrong path in his mid-teens, said his father.

​"He probably wasn't addicted at first, but the constant abuse over the last seven or eight years took its toll on him."

Despite his ups and downs, his father said, Smallwood was well-liked and hard-working.

"He was a beautiful young man, he was a member of the carpenters union in Edmonton. When he worked, he worked hard," he said.

"I got condolences from all around the world — as far as Indonesia."

'Don't have a joint, don't drink a beer'

For Smallwood's father, Sunday's event is something he needed to do.

"Drug abuse really is an illness, and seeking help … it's like you need to strike when the iron is hot, and when you go to get help it's a hurry up and wait situation, and in the life of these people, hurry up and wait is not a good thing."

After going through the system with his son, including recovery centres and counselling, Smallwood said he is planning to get involved in support groups. 

In the meantime, Smallwood and his daughter's request is simple: "You want to remember Nathan? Do nothing. Don't have a joint. Don't drink a beer."

"His birthday is Sunday, but for me it's every hour and Sunday is just going to be another day for me," he said,

"I think it's got to be done and I think if one person is helped — one person is reached — it will be worth it." 

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