Naylor: If you can’t talk about it, write about it
He always hated seatbelts. I remember him ripping around our quaint suburban streets in his T-top Firebird, spilling cigarette embers onto his faded Misfits tee at every screeching turn, wildly revving the sounds of nighttime mischief without ever being buckled in.
“They make me feel restricted,” he said of the safety devices, as I would jokingly retort, in my best mocking dad-tone, that his reckless behavior would eventually get him killed.
I later quoted him at his intervention, in a room of family and friends who were crying and pleading for him to get help. I spun his words to argue his addiction was restricting him to one way of life. But he smelled my BS, and everyone else’s. He was even humored by it. He knew the vices and flaws of every person lecturing him that day, and short of sticking a needle in my arm, I was among the hypocrites.
It was the summer after high school graduation, and we were set to be college roommates in the fall. We were the perfect match for bunk buddies, tried and tested over a decade’s worth of sleepovers, surfing, punk shows and causing trouble together. But as we partied our way through a wild summer, things took a dark turn once heroin was introduced to our circle.
He and another friend of ours got into some, and their relationship intensified as they became a sect of our crew who took things one step further. The years that followed were largely turbulent. Story after story, stint after stint, they wrote their own chapter together. A Thelma & Louise of sorts, their inseparability was evidenced no more than in the tale of their eventual perish, which happened in the same symbiotic fashion, though weeks and hundreds of miles apart.
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He was the first friend I lost to a drug overdose. And my other friend was the second. And five years later, I’ve stopped counting. These stories have become all too familiar for most of us.
They’re not numbers, they’re faces. And as I watched a friend lay a loved one to rest last week, I saw every one of them. I saw every funeral I missed, and every hug that I should have given their parents. I heard every word I never spoke, and every shortcoming I had in addressing this new reality. I thought about all the times I fought back spontaneous tears in public, and how being back home to let all that out with my friends at a memorial service might have been far healthier in the long-term than trying to simply suppress my grief into oblivion.
Last week, our editor shared a piece of himself that most wouldn’t. If you missed his column in the paper, it’s still up online. He did something that more of us should be doing; he took something he could barely talk about, and he wrote about it instead.
Once I was done reading his column, I immediately started writing mine.
As we continue our Longevity series this fall, and we dive deep into issues such as behavioral health, addiction and suicide, we invite our readers join us in sharing personal stories regarding these issues. We know they’re not easy stories to tell. But if you can’t talk about it, write about it. You can do so anonymously, if you wish; you are not held to the same standards of transparency that my editor and myself are. But if you have something on your chest, I hope that our stories will help inspire you to write yours.
Speaking from experience, there is a sense of relief in knowing you’re not alone.
To share your story and to read more about the Longevity series, please visit VailDaily.com/longevity.
Sean Naylor is the assistant editor of the Vail Daily. Email him at email@example.com