This is difficult to write, because it's about stuff related to AA, and "anonymity is the spiritual foundation of blah blah blah", but fuck it.
A good friend of mine from college (call him E.) got in touch with me a few months ago. I knew from others that he had become a real hard case alcoholic in recent years, and I told people to tell him that if he ever wanted to, he should get in touch with me and I can tell him what I know, since I've been sober a few years. We started conversing on a regular basis since about October, and most days I talked to him he sounded relatively upbeat, but I knew he was often not being honest with me, and every time I talked to him some new facet of his life had gone wrong.
I tried real hard. We had long phone conversations about sobriety, about what works and what doesn't work, about how you can't do this alone, and at some point you have to open yourself up and let total strangers into your life to help you figure things out, and that you have to be painfully, rigorously honest when you do. But until you reach your bottom, until you hit a point where you simply hate your life enough that you are finally ready to listen to people, you're finally ready to take any desperate measure offered in order to not drink again, you will keep drinking.
My bottom was relatively high. I know others who hit what sounded to me like rock bottom before they got clean...divorce, homelessness, jail, etc. And I knew that for some unfortunate few, there was no bottom other than death.
Well, E. finally found his bottom this week. He took his own life.
I hadn't talked to him in a few weeks, not since my last visit to Austin, where I had tried and failed once again to get him to go to a meeting and meet up with my old sponsor. I was coming around to the idea that maybe he had some more drinking to do before he hit bottom, and was coming to terms with the fact that I had no more power over his drinking that I do over my own. But still, I tried my damnedest. I have that compulsive rescue hero streak in me, and I tried all the AA kung fu I knew.
I didn't hear from him for a few weeks, finally called him a couple of days ago, Friday around lunchtime, and left him a voice mail.
Now I know that by then he was already gone.
One thing he told me that haunts me, is that he said when we were in college, even though we ran in the same crowd, he always thought that I didn't like him. That I was somehow "too cool" for him, because I ran the college radio station and listened to all this weird music and he was just a regular old shmoe. When in fact the opposite was true. I loved the guy. He was so kind, so warm, so self-effacingly funny, I always loved running into him and hanging out with him. I used to have this wall up around me that was primarily shyness that I've been told over the years a lot of people mistook for arrogance. And I wonder, would E. have felt that way about me if I didn't act arrogant because of my own insecurities? Would he have talked to me sooner? Would he have called me during the last two weeks when his life apparently spiraled out of control?
I tried everything I knew, and it wasn't enough. And I will always wonder if if there was something else I could have tried, something I could have said, that could have made things click in his brain. I will always wonder if not calling him for his last two weeks was a mistake.
I know intellectually that none of this is my fault, that nothing I could do would have saved him. But in my gut, I am filled with self-doubt.
I remember one time staying up late with E. and a bunch of other people, and we were drunk and otherwise under the influence, and he was making us watch Evil Dead II, which he insisted was the greatest movie ever made. And the movie kept getting more ridiculous and he kept saying "wait, it gets better. it gets better". And it didn't get better, and he'd say, "it gets better!"...until the closing credits rolled and he said, "See? It's over. It got better."
E., man, I'm sorry that you had to get all the way to the end for it to get better. But I know that you're better now, and I'm glad you're not in pain any more. I just want you to know that when I said last month that I loved you and wanted you to get well, I meant it with all my heart.
We'll meet again.