I have had heartbreak enter my life. I haven’t wanted to talk of this until now but it is time.
I found my son dead in his room on Saturday, December 12, 2020. He died of uncomfortableness. The specific cause of his death is unknown, but the true cause was the uncomfortableness. He might have OD’d, or he might have had a heart attack or it’s even possible he took his own life. None of our family believe he killed himself. His stepmom Jane is beside herself. His mother Valarie is devastated. His brother Leo cannot stop crying. Deborah, Leo’s girlfriend, is heartbroken and has been a rock for all of us. We go about our day and then think of him and then we just feel devastated.
Many of you know that I have been part of a community of people who are trying to move on from drugs and other addictions. They and I have always been uncomfortable in this life and with our place in it. People look at those with addictions and many of them judge us. We are inconvenient for them. We are a pain in the ass. I would like to say to these people that we, the uncomfortable, are aware of the fact that we are inconvenient and that we frequently cause discomfort and pain in the lives of those we love and who love us. We don’t discriminate against the general public either. If we could remove that uncomfortableness, trust me, we would. If you were uncomfortable at the bedrock level of your soul, you would try to make yourself comfortable also.
We have found ways of making ourselves comfortable for a bit and those ways can feel irresistible. Unfortunately, unbeknown to us at first, this period of time is followed by a period of heightened discomfort which can last a lifetime. I was addicted to drugs between the ages of 19 and 42 and I was addicted to heroin for about 15 of those years. If you are curious, you can read about this period of my life at https://www.reptiledysfunction.org/about-site-administrator/.
Josh, I and most of the people I have contact with are like this. He struggled with addictions. He was driven to extremes in everything, driven by his life, while at the same time he could not seem to be a part of the life that was all around him. He was outside the circle, although he found his own circles. He was discouraged. He was bedeviled, just like I was at his age. He was a thrill seeker. Leo and I remember him when he was around 18 or 19 jumping on a bike and riding like a bat out of hell, going around corners blindly without knowing what he would find when he rounded them. He was also one of the kindest, most insightful people I have ever had in my life. When Jane and I would get into arguments and I would turn abusive or controlling or become a large, intimidating, loud male who was acting like an asshole, he would gently intercede and tell me what he thought of what I was doing and what he thought would be a better way of behaving and even I could see that he was right while at the same time I never doubted his love for me.
Josh loved playing online games. He would put on headphones and play with others for hours. When he was around 14 he was ranked within the top 150 people in the world who played Call of Duty. Joshua thought about creative writing when he was younger and wrote some extensive pieces. He was a part of the trans community and had been finding his true self in that life. He had gotten into fire spinning through this group of people called The TLC community the last two or three years and they all took care of one another. He was gentle, kind and loving.
Here are some of the responses to my ex-wife’s post from Josh’s friends:
I’m so sorry. He was a beautiful soul
So sorry for your loss. Breaks my heart. I knew him as a younger man playing paintball at my field. My heartbreaks as he is gone too soon 😞 Sending love and hugs to you. He was a beautiful person. I’m so sorry.
I love watching Josh dance with fire, kind heart, loving spirit, fun ideas, helpfulness, & was always a joy to be around. My heart goes out to you and your family. I’ll blow a kiss at the newest star I see tonight as I know Josh is winking & smiling at us from the heavens. Xoxoxo
Really sad to see this. Josh and I used to play paintball together and did a ton of awesome stuff. From selling muffins at school to raise money for paintball, to holding our own paintball club. We played in a tournament together and did really well a few times. Sad to see this.
So sorry to hear this. Josh was one of the first students I worked with at the high school program at Berkeley-Haas and I still remember how smart, thoughtful, kind, and articulate he was. He inspired me with his authenticity and was always eager to help his team. I’m so sorry for your loss.
So incredibly saddened by this news. I’m forever grateful for having the chance to work with Josh and for all that I have learned from our mornings at the coffee shop together. He will be missed. My thoughts and prayers for all of his family and friends.
I love you so guys so much Valarie and I am so so so incredibly sorry for your guys’ loss. I am so devastated and I cannot wait to get to see you guys however I can. Let me know if you guys need anything!
he was such a beautiful person.. i am very sorry for your loss.
sending my deepest condolences will always remember them dancing
One of the kindest and loving souls i had ever had the joy of knowing. Josh was one of those people who could see the good in everyone and everything.. Always had a way of stoping and taking a look at things in a different light and appreciating it even more so for that… I will never forget a personal so bright. A laugh so loud. A smile so comforting. A friend so true. May you sleep on wings…
I’m so absolutely heartbroken on finding out about this just now… I can’t believe this happened to him, of all people. We were just talking recently in the last couple weeks about hanging out and catching up once I recovered from my wisdom teeth surgery. I’m so sorry, Val. He was like a brother to me and I never once imagined a life without him. I still can’t. Whenever the memorial is, I’ll be there. Physically or in spirit or in however way I can be.
It goes on and on. There are so many more. He had touched so many lives.
We, my family and I, have had many conversations over the last few days with friends and extended family members. They have provided us with comfort and with perspective. It is common for people to feel guilt or to engage in “should haves” at a time like this, but these people have helped us immeasurably. They have told us that we all grieve in our own way and that trying to second-guess yourself at a time like this is never helpful.
My ex-wife shared the news about Josh last night on her Facebook feed and put up pictures of Josh. I finally got myself to look at FB after all this happened today and saw her post. This was my comment on that post and what follows after that comment are conversations I’ve had with people since all this happened. I include them so you can get a better understanding of Josh and so you know a little bit more of what those who loved him are experiencing.
Comment on Valarie’s Facebook post: This was the first time I could bring myself to look at a picture of him. The first time I could cry over him. Hold on tight and together we will come out on the other side of this. He was just the sweetest, most positive of people and the most bedeviled and tortured and pained of souls. I still cannot believe he will not be here.
Conversations with our great friends which I had before I saw her post:
Me: It’s hard for all of us to believe. His brother took it really hard. Jane and I both have had trouble sleeping and I don’t know if things will ever get back to normal.
A wonderful friend: I want you to stay clean too no matter what. I hope that doesn’t make you angry
Me: No, it doesn’t make me angry at all. It is under such circumstances that people frequently relapse. However, I can’t imagine ever thinking that going back to the way I used to be would be a good thing. I feel like that part of me has just evaporated. On the other hand, it’s still really easy for me to get addicted to certain behaviors. I know I’m still me.
Wonderful friend: Yeah, I got you. It’s sneaky though
Me: I know what you mean about delaying the grief. That’s pretty much what I have done my whole life. I haven’t cried yet. The best I can do is weep.
Me: Of course, I keep wanting to find some kind of a short cut to normalcy. Jane was just saying let’s just deal with stuff as it comes up and that seems really sensible to me.
Wonderful friend: Similar as when we very first got sober
Me: You’re right. Everyone just wants to get better in a week and I think it’s just not possible.
Wonderful friend: We naturally want to escape pain. Maybe addicts more than non addicts. Personally I find ways of checking out without using if I really have to. (But I haven’t been up against this). Sleep, food, movies, talking; they all help. Sometimes distraction is all that can be managed
Me: I’ll get through it because there’s no alternative. The only way I would ever give up on life is if I could see that I was heading towards being a giant burden on those that I love. I had always imagined Josh would slay his dragons, that he would overcome all of the things that bedeviled him. The consensus in our family is that he died through misadventure. I believe that to be true. I’m having trouble accepting the vacancy he’s leaving, the emptiness. I have been worried about him for a long time. He did the riskiest things. I had thoughts of his becoming brain dead or becoming incapacitated. He was so frustrated with life and with the feeling that he just couldn’t find a way to fit in and make himself comfortable. When he was in control of himself, he was the kindest, sweetest, bravest person imaginable. I can’t stand the fact that he will not continue. Well, I CAN stand it. I just hate it right now.
A bag of food is brought over. No one knows what to do to make it better, not realizing that by trying to make it better they ARE making it better. They are letting us know that they care. Here is his note attached to the Tupperware: “Jim, I’m awkward with such tragedy. I cook. I’m like a grandma from the 1960’s. Here is the soup you like. I hope it helps in a very small way. Let me know if there’s anything else I can do.’ The same sentiment has been expressed by countless others. We love you all and we feel your love.