I know a number of us are uncomfortable sharing details of our personal lives. That's okay, I am not asking for anyone to do that in a reply. I would like to open up just a bit about me, and a man I didn't meet until I was 50 years old, how our lives quickly intertwined, and how much it hurts that he is no longer here. Just pull up a chair and listen-maybe you'll identify with this as well.
I go by Brooksie or The Brookster (that's another story for another day). I am 62 years old now. This story begins back in high school in 1974. I had 3 "friends" back then who were really no more than drinking buddies. My drinking started off tame, but it quickly grew to where I was no longer controlling it, it was controlling me. Nine years later, I was married, a young father, and at a crossroads of my life. I had a harsh decision to make. So on April 8th, 1983, I walked away from alcohol to a refreshing new life. It has not been easy - there have been several "near misses", but my walk with sobriety remains intact.
I have always been a huge football fan, more directly a "womb to the tomb" Browns fan. So, in December of 2007. I joined the community at Browns 24/7. That is where I met a man who would become a very close friend - Jerry Bryan.
We initially got to know each other through Browns football on the fan boards. Jerry was very skilled as a writer, and never short on his opinions either. Jerry was a very passionate person in a lot of areas of his life. He wore his emotions on his sleeve. Boy, could he debate you! And he had no problem telling you if he thought he was right, and you weren't. And yet, any time he did that, he did it with compassion for you.
Jerry was a Cuyahoga Falls boy. I'm just a kid from Akron (wait that line already got used). As our friendship grew, I cannot remember who let the other person know first about us both being in recovery. The first night I met Jerry in person was a weekday winter's night at Luigi's for pizza. We had all night to talk football - but we told stories about our darker partying days, and the road to recovery.
Jerry was a very proud Kent State alumnus. Yet, the screen name he chose - and what we all knew him by - was Zipazoid. (The Zips are Akron U; Kent State's rival for years.) But that was Jerry.
A key moment in our friendship was when Jerry returned home from Florida for his mother's funeral. I fought through snowy weather and traffic to get to Clifford Schumacher in the Falls. When I got inside, Jerry had his back to me. I was wearing my "leather" Browns bomber jacket. I said "Hey, Zip..." He turned around, saw me and the jacket.....
And with tears in his eyes, he gave me a big old hug. He later told me what that moment meant to him. He described it as "epic".
He repayed the favor a couple of years later when I lost my mother. Another shared painful bond.
But the biggest favor that Jerry ever did for me and my family turned out to be very ironic. It was the spring of 2013. I was zeroing in on my 30th sobriety anniversary. I told him a few times how proud I was to have made it that far..... His gift? He had the courage to test our friendship by chewing me out for continuing to think like that. He said "You gotta get your fucking mind off the 30 year milestone, and back on the day by day struggles, or you will surely slip".
Jerry never forgot where he came from. The last time I saw him was when he came back to Ohio with his new bride and we attended a Black Tiger HS FB game at Clifford Stadium. Even though the Falls would come up short that night, there was Jerry singing the Alma Mater like he was still a student there.
I drove past Clifford Stadium the other day, and that night jumped back to the forefront of my memories. It refreshed the hurt I still feel since I got the tragic email just 8 weeks after that night. After celebrating Thanksgiving with friends in Florida, Jerry left the apartment to go run an "errand" and he never returned. He fell victim to the grips of addiction and overdosed.
Now with tears in my eyes, I can say I am still sad that he is no longer here, but very grateful for when he was and the mark he left on my life. Rest in peace, my friend - I love you.
I just thought everyone here, my new and old friends, should know who my friend Jerry was.