It’s a rare occurrence that you make a friend because of their tattoos. We've all seen someone with a rad tat and struck up convo, but how many times has that led to creating an actual friend? It happened to me once. I was on a Megabus ride from Des Moines to Iowa City last fall when a crusty looking punk sat across the aisle from me and I noticed the most amazing knuckle tattoo I had ever seen in my life. I couldn’t help myself. “Excuse me, but do you have ‘Megabus’ tattooed on your knuckles?”
The hands in question belonged to a man known as Jay Dee. Jay Dee said he was from New Orleans and it was obvious he was a true traveler. The other immediately striking thing about his appearance was the lack of a left leg. He initially told me he lost it saving a rich white girl from an alligator before admitting he had recently lost the limb to cancer. He was so warm, outgoing, and friendly for those two hours I knew him. His jovial nature and intriguing stories of riding the rails made the bus ride go by in the blink of an eye. He made me friend him on Facebook and to my great surprise made it a point to stay in touch.
He’d hit me up and tell me where he was and what he was up to. He’d send me pictures of his new tattoos. I was excited for our paths to cross again, but that’s not going to happen.
Jay Dee died alone in a Wal-Mart bathroom in New Mexico several months ago. Only in the last couple weeks did his family and friends become aware of what happened after he had gone unheard from for those last months.
My Megabus friend died from a heroin overdose. It’s not the first time I’ve lost someone in my life to the disease of addiction and it won’t be the last. I feel like I need to take this opportunity to say a few things about the epidemic currently ravaging our country.
Drug addiction is not a moral failing, but a medical issue. Jay Dee had a terrible disease that millions worldwide suffer from. Chances are, you know someone with the same affliction. And if you happen to be suffering from it, like so many others, please take the following words to heart. If you have to use alone, please do so in a manner in which you are immediately ready to get up and able to go be around other people. If my friend had just left that bathroom and collapsed in front of the people in that Wal-Mart, it would have been likely that he would have received the immediate medical attention needed to save his life.
It’s harder than ever to stay safe while managing this disease. If someone in your life is currently struggling with addiction, there are resources designed to help. Admittedly, there is a huge lack of structured support for this deadly affliction and success rates for recovery are nowhere near where they should be. The best piece of advice we have to offer is to love the addicts in your life as much as you can and never cast judgment upon them. Let them know what they mean to you. Let them know the world is better with them in it.
Whenever someone in my life dies, I internalize it by telling myself that as long as I am alive, they are too in a way. Everyone I have lost I carry with me in my heart to this day. And now I will spend the rest of my life carrying a small part of Jay Dee with me wherever I go. I’d like to think he’d enjoy the ride.
We here at Tattoodo urge all of our readers to help fight the epidemic that is plaguing our friends, partners, mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, and daughters and sons. There are some really great organizations out there that help those dealing with addiction. Here is a small list of them that you should consider donating to or becoming involved in.