A real letter is more of a conversation than a recollection of events. This is what I’ve done to date concerning Joseph. Most likely because it’s much less painful to recount the man rather than what I would say to him if I could today. I’ve been much more comfortable thinking about the good things rather than the bad. I carry a great deal of guilt about the bad. I don’t know that I’ll ever get over the thoughts of what I could have done to keep him alive. I carry guilt because on a certain level, I had given up on him. Not as a friend, but I had given up on the idea that I could help him with addiction and depression.
I lived for the days that he wasn’t completely drunk or high. Mostly because seeing someone as supremely talented as he was being so intoxicated that he wasn’t in control of his body made me as sad as anything I could imagine. This is the way he was the last time I saw him. Stumbling around like a punch drunk boxer. But his mind was still sharp. I was playing a song I had been recording for his opinion. He liked it, overall, but wouldn’t let me move on without drilling home the point that people want to hear what I’m saying. I had my vocals a little low in the mix as usual. I’ve just never been comfortable with my voice. It made him a bit angry with me and he continually remarked throughout the song that my vocals needed to be louder. I couldn’t do more than reluctantly agree with him because I knew he was right but also felt that my voice was wrong.
That kind of internal conflict brought about a great anxiety in me that I couldn’t deal with while he was there. So I quickly made up an excuse for why I needed to take him home while I simultaneously shut down all but the most basic communications with him until we got to his house. I put on a shallow smile while we said our goodbyes and that was the last time I saw his face. We talked once more on the phone before he went on vacation and agreed that we needed to get together and work on some things when he got back. But that was it.
So many things go through your head when you lose someone to suicide. You beat yourself up for not doing more the help. You experience great anger, not understanding why it wasn’t enough for them to stay alive. Why you weren’t enough for them to stay alive. How someone so sweet and peaceful could have such demons lurking under the surface, waiting for the right opportunity to end it all. It’s easy to say that the alcohol and drugs led to his suicide. It’s a shallow belief, though. The truth is that the drugs and alcohol kept him alive. It is how he self-medicated the pain he was dealing with. And I hated him for it. I hated him for the way he dealt with his pain. Mostly because I was too stupid to see that it was how he kept himself sane.
So now I find myself in a place where I don’t want to do this anymore. I don’t want to talk about Joseph as some abstract object. He was real. He meant a great deal to me and was a huge part of my life for the short time that I knew him. I think it’s time to stop talking about it and start doing something about it. That’s what he would want, for me to keep going and making music. And of course, to bring my fucking vocals up in the mix…