Goodbye Danny from Thamkrabok

During my stay at Thamkrabok detox temple I got to meet some interesting characters. Those of you who read Dead Drunk might remember a fellow patient who I called Danny in the book (I didn’t use his real name, and I won’t use it here either).

I found out today that Danny has died – apparently by his own hand. I’ve only exchanged a couple of brief emails with him since our time together at the temple. I didn’t really know what was going on in his life. From what I’ve been told he did manage to stay away from alcohol and drugs but unfortunately this was not enough to give him peace. I only knew him for such a brief period but news of his death saddens me deeply.

Danny the Wild Man of Thamkrabok

Danny was unconscious when he arrived in my world. The temple had arranged for him to be picked up at the airport. He’d gotten on the plane voluntarily, but he had a change of heart by the time he landed – the booze on the journey gave him a bit of an appetite for more.

Danny had decided that he wanted to go wild in Bangkok for a couple of days before submitting himself to detox. Representatives from Thamkrabok were waiting for him at Don Muang Airport and somehow managed to convince him to get into their truck. He was probably already too drunk to argue with them, and he consoled himself by tucking into his duty free. The fact that he was unconscious by the time he hit the temple gates meant that he got to skip the usual formalities. He was processed, admitted, and deposited in our dorm without once opening his eyes. The monks had put his mattress on the floor, and this turned out to be a wise move.

When Danny woke up to find himself already in detox he was not a happy camper. He acted like someone who had become possessed by demons. He began screaming that he wanted his ‘stuff’ and he needed to leave right away. The temple volunteers arrived to talk him down, but he wasn’t having any of that. He became louder and more energetic. The Thai monks arrived on the scene, but their lack of English meant that they had even less luck than the volunteers. This led to one of the most bizarre incidents that I’ve ever witnessed in Thailand. Danny was still lying on the mattress but he was managing to kick out and hit the monks. He wasn’t connecting hard or anything, but it is still a definite no-no in Thailand. The monks took it all in good spirits though, and Danny was so skillful with aiming his kicks that some of us onlookers even began to cheer him on. It really was a strange few minutes. The monks resolved the situation by grabbing Danny by each of his limbs and depositing him into the pool outside our dorm (this wasn’t like any pool that you would find in a fancy hotel). The cool water did seem to have a calming effect on him, but he still made the occasional swipe at a monk’s leg with his arms – trying to pull them in as well. Eventually he calmed down enough to be allowed to return to dry land.

Danny the Cool Dude

For his first 24 hours at the temple Danny managed to provide an almost constant commentary on his withdrawal symptoms. We got no sleep in the dorm that night because of it. Most of his comments were funny though, and that made it easier to listen to him. By the second day his mood had completely changed, and he became a joy to be around. He wore dark glasses and waltzed around the temple like some type of celebrity. News about his arrival had become the stuff of legend among the Thai patients, and they all thought he was a real character. The monks too seemed to develop a soft spot for his rebellious nature.

I only knew Danny for 10 days but some people don’t need long to leave a lasting impression. Underneath his bravado he had a real heart of gold. He deeply cared about people and he felt regret about any pain he had ever caused. Danny also had ambitions and planned a great life for when he left the temple. He even talked about writing a book about his experiences. I’m sure it would have been a great read. On my last day at Thamkrabok I had to leave very early but Danny got up to see me off. I appreciated that.

Goodbye Danny from Thamkrabok

I don’t know what drove Danny to take his own life. Getting sober can put us in the ideal position to create a good life for ourselves but none of us get a free pass. The journey is challenging and in order to keep making progress we have to overcome our greatest fears. I don’t claim to know what happens after death, but I’d like to think that Danny is continuing his journey with a lighter load. I knew him only briefly, and that was six years ago, but today I miss him.

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