i learned of the loss of a dear friend a couple of hours ago. He died as the result of an alcohol induced accident. He was 45 still going on 22. i saw him for the last time when i went back to the States for Christmas. We went to a sports bar to watch football with friends on a Sunday afternoon and he was the only one drinking. He never got a driver’s license, which probably explained how he made it to 45. i hugged him when i said goodbye to him and i’m glad i did.
It’s not my place to determine if he was an alcoholic or not, but those that loved him worried about his drinking. It’s unfair to him, though, to reduce him to this. He had a job, he had girlfriends and ex wives and friends and he had talent. He was a gifted artist and was without a doubt the most talented musician that i knew. He could not just play every instrument known to man, he could play it better than anyone else you knew.
Plus, he was unbelievably sweet. Constantly smiling. Always telling bad jokes and laughing at yours as though they weren’t bad, as well. He was very giving, and had jobs that included working with children and the elderly.
Children loved him because he was not broken by life and did not feel he had to hide the child within himself. He carried with him a naivete that he shared with everyone and his innocence was so infectious everyone caught it. He was a loyal friend and intelligent beyond the age he acted. While he often drank, i never once saw him become belligerent or aggressive. The times i saw him at his drunkest, he merely passed out in the chair with a smile on his lips.
i don’t know if his family and friends ever staged an intervention to get him into recovery, but it would surprise me if they had. As he did not act violent when drunk and seemed to be able to function in his day to day life, it probably didn’t seem necessary. Also, as anyone in recovery will tell you, there is nothing you can say to convince an addict they need help. Until they realize it themselves, all your pretty words are like sweet smoke.
Sad as it is to say, i’m sure all of us who loved him felt this was his destiny.
The mutual friend who informed me of his death said, “It’s shocking but not surprising.”
We all knew it was going to happen one day, but never thought it would be today.
i don’t want these words to be his elegy because they are not good enough for him and i don’t want him to need an elegy. i want him here, telling me the story of the crazy girlfriend that chewed his fingernails after he passed out, or telling me again how we should be in a blues band with me writing lyrics and him playing every instrument known to man.
After my suicide attempt, i was in ICU for a couple days and there was someone else in the bed across the hall. He had, i think (but i was in a haze for most of that time), a terminally ill disease. i remember feeling a twinge of guilt when it became apparent that, despite trying to to fuck myself up permanently, i was granted a longer life while that stranger across the hall was a victim to a disease he had not brought on himself, yet had to die from it.
i’m feeling a little of that guilt tonight. Why is it that i am the one who became sober after surviving a suicide, while he falls victim to a freak accident?
Untreated alcoholism is a terminal disease. i may not deserve the chance i’ve been given but i will use it to let other people know this simple fact: untreated alcoholism is a terminal disease.
My friend did not deserve to die, but i will use the life left in me to let others know that he created a work of art with the short time he’d been given.