My Last Words To My Best Friend

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My Last Words To My Best Friend

By Gayle Saks 05/04/17

In front of the train station he gave me a final ultimatum. “If you do this, you’ll never see me again.” 

Image: 
Gayle Saks

“Get the fuck out of my car.”

Those are the last words I said to my best friend. A little over a year later he was found by a poor unsuspecting employee after hanging himself in a hotel room.

Five or so years before his suicide and after cycling through every drug and drink he could find, he began abusing crystal meth, a drug that he first dabbled in on the gay party circuit.

Soon after, he was off and running, staying up for days on end, becoming increasingly paranoid to the point where he found himself face down in his Los Angeles neighborhood Walgreens, hands clasped behind his neck, thinking that a helicopter circling above was coming after him. He insisted that people were hiding in his bushes, that the government was randomly taping his phone conversations, and that his computer had been hacked by some unidentified nefarious faction.  

I am not being hyperbolic when I say that there was not one person he met who wasn’t charmed by him. He was universally adored. He was the featured guest, the muse and the entertainer. He was gorgeous and he was a rascal. He was an expert in the history of the royal family, the Rolling Stones and could play his homemade version of the game show $100,000 Pyramid for hours on end. 

He went in and out of treatment, doing well for a little while, falling headlong back in even harder with each relapse. He continued to search, as he had done for 30 years, for meaning in his life. The conversation was always the same, with him asking, “What should I do with my life?” and me and others rattling off similar lists to remind him of his skills and passions—working with animals, being a personal assistant, the hospitality industry, special events planner. He had been extremely successful as an advertising salesman for a gay newspaper and had wanted a switch.  

I begged him to let me help him with his resume, something I actually do as a side job, but there were always excuses and delays. There’s only so many times someone can make the same suggestions before becoming exhausted and a bit checked-out.

During his annual Memorial Day spin through New England, he came to stay with me. Even though he was ostensibly clean, he was off, sort of like his mean drunk alter ego. He had more snark than usual, was irritable in a way that I hadn’t seen before and was saying inappropriate things in front of my then 13-year-old daughter who adored him.

When I was talking about my passion for my job as a substance abuse counselor, he responded by saying, “Oh please. All you do is take pathetic lives and turn them into mediocre ones.” This was the judgmental wealthy WASP in him, the one who CLEARLY had nothing in common with the others who he smoked crystal meth with in crack houses. To me, this was the meanest thing he had ever said in the history of our 30 years of friendship.

I rallied from the blow and as planned headed into Boston so he could see the incredible metamorphosis that had occurred since he visited the last time. Within five minutes of leaving the house he asked me, again, what he should do with his life. When I patiently started to rattle off the usual answers, he began pounding on the dashboard, veins bulging out of his neck, his face red with rage screaming, "WHY ARE YOU ALWAYS TRYING TO FIX ME?”  

When I was too stunned to speak, the pounding persisted as he screamed, “ANSWER ME! WHY AREN’T YOU ANSWERING ME?”  

I began to shake and cry as I tried to figure out what to do. I was between a long stretch of exits on the expressway feeling unsafe, with my best friend. When I exited the expressway to go back in the direction of my house, his rage increased. The drive to my home, maybe five miles away, seemed interminable. I pulled up in front and told him to go in and pack his stuff and not to dare let my daughter suspect that anything unusual was happening. When he came back, I took him to the train station, about a mile from my house.

He said, “If you do this, you’ll never see me again.”  

I had no trouble telling him to get the fuck out of my car.

Eight months ago, when I woke up to voicemails, texts and emails about his suicide and was tasked with spreading the word to his vast network of friends, I felt numb, but never guilty.

I smile at fleeting memories and tear up at certain songs. I mourn the person he was before crystal meth turned his brain into a mess of scrambled synapses. I miss his running commentary on the absurdity of life and the sound of him sucking drags off of his cigarettes during our Sunday morning phone conversations.

I miss the person that he was when he had eight years sober.

I miss the person he was before he fell victim to the most insidious of drugs.   

Gayle Saks has written extensively about her work as a substance abuse counselor from the unique perspective of someone who is not in recovery herself. Her blog was voted one of the Top 20 Recovery Blogs for 2016 by AfterParty Magazine. Saks grew up on Long Island, New York, and lives in the Greater Boston area with her husband, daughter, two cats and two dogs or as her husband says, “Too many beating hearts.” She works as an Admissions Counselor at The Boston Center for Addiction Treatment, a brand new program of Recovery Centers of America.

You can follow her blog at mylifeinthemiddleages.wordpress.com and on Facebook at My Life In the Middle Ages.

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Gayle Saks has written extensively about her work as a substance abuse counselor from the unique perspective of someone who is not in recovery herself. Her blog, My Life In The Middle Ages, was voted one of the Top 20 Recovery Blogs for 2016 by AfterParty Magazine. She has written on the subject for The Fix, HuffPost, mindbodygreen and Thought Catalog. She has also written about being the daughter of a Holocaust survivor and the eventual suicide of her mother. Her pieces on the subject have appeared in kveller where she is a regular contributor, The Jewish Journal, and MammaMia. Saks grew up on Long Island, New York, and lives in the Greater Boston area with her husband, daughter, two cats and two dogs or as her husband says, “Too many beating hearts.” Follow Gayle on Twitter.

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