It all started six years ago, when I was fourteen years old. I had recently been diagnosed with an incurable and excrutiating skin disease, as well as bipolar, severe depression, and anxiety. A bullying incident at school caused me to drop out. I had no friends, and no one in my family understood me, or was around enough to do so. I spent every day at home, by myself, honestly trying to find new and inventive ways to harm myself. No one knew I did these things to myself, because I hid it. What was going through my head at the time was the fact that I felt more than completely helpless, I felt trapped. Like I didn’t even deserve to die, like that was too good for me. I was seeing a counselor every Tuesday and Thursday evening and taking a number of prescription drugs to help, but nothing did, and some of it even made it worse. Once my counselor found out I’d been cutting myself, she tried to send me to Laureate. I wouldn’t go, because I couldn’t take my music with me, and if it weren’t for the music I listen to, I’d be long gone. I’ve seen Hell…I know what it’s like to live in fear, in relentless agony, being homeless, being broke, not knowing the next time I’m going to get to eat, I know what it’s like to live a life that most people couldn’t. And yet, I made it through, because of one thing. Without this one thing, I never would’ve made it to see sixteen, just like everyone believed.
I kept seeing the name Avenged Sevenfold everywhere, all over the internet, along with the Waking The Fallen promo photo and an overabundance of praise for these five guys dressed in all black wearing eyeliner. At the time though, it was definitely my thing, so I stopped asking myself “who the hell is Avenged Sevenfold?” and found out for myself. What I found was a song called “Chapter Four”, and after one listen, I was in love. The first time I listened to it, the first thing that came to mind was “holy shit, the drummer can PLAY.” A few months after discovering the band, I had my mom drive me to the other side of town to a small hole-in-the-wall record store, because after a couple phone calls, I knew it was the only place in town that without a doubt had the album in stock. We bought Waking The Fallen and listened to it on the drive home. My mom made comments such as “they sound like a heavier Metallica” while we listened to “Unholy Confessions”. Half-way on the drive home we stopped at a Drysdales so my mom could buy a pair of jeans. I sat in the car and listened to my new CD. After listening to “Unholy Confessions”, “Chapter Four”, and “Second Heartbeat” repeatedly because they were the only songs I knew, I was reading the song titles for the ones I didn’t know on the back of the CD case. I was completely distracted by two song titles that were longer than the rest, that truly stood out to me: “I Won’t See You Tonight Part 1″ and Part 2. Of course, I got extremely curious, so I turned on Part 1. I heard the beautiful piano intro begin and closed my eyes. When the pianos stopped and the song really started, I felt overwhelmed. I listened closely to the lyrics and the gentle, raw sound of Matt’s voice as the song took over me. It couldn’t have described how I felt anymore if they tried. Somehow, in this eight minutes and fifty-eight seconds of heartbreaking lyrics and powerful music, I found more than just comfort, I found something I never thought I’d be able to experience. I knew, at the end of the song when it fades to static, I knew I’d found something I never thought I’d be lucky enough to find, anywhere, especially not in a song. I found solace, peace, comfort, and above all else, something that made every breath worth taking and every day a little less painful.
I look back on the past six years and feel overwhelmed due to everything I’ve experienced and how hard it has been, but the first thing that comes to mind when I think of those things is what got me through them all. Eight minutes and fifty-eight seconds of the most unbelievably underappreciated vocals, pianos, guitars, drums, bass, and intensely astounding harmony. It’s the one thing that has never failed to make my life, no matter how difficult, no matter how badly I just want to give up, something worth living, and I can’t believe I found the answer to all my prayers in such an unexpected group of people, but I did, and I will forever be thankful for what they have done for me.
For several years, Avenged Sevenfold was my whole life. They made me change the way I think, the way I view the world, and ultimately changed my life. I still have an old quote from Matt that says “I don’t have any guilty pleasures because I like so much different music. If it sounds good, I’ll listen to it.” That quote made me stop caring what other people think of me and love what I love no matter what people say or think, and made me open up and in time I became a lot more social. All of that turned me into somone with more friends than I know what to do with and incredible times, and I’m grateful because up until I evolved into the person I am now, I was alone and miserable all the time. I look at those five men covered in tattoos and not only do I see a band, or even just five guys, I see family. Those boys have gotten me through more hell than you could even comprehend, I owe them my life.
As of yesterday, I’m faced with the most difficult question I have ever had to ask myself: What do you do when someone who saved your life dies? I have yet to find the answer, and I am not the same person now that he’s gone. One of the five people that put my heart back together is gone forever, and he took his rightful piece of my heart with him. I woke up yesterday morning to my mom running in my room hysterical and yelling “Christy! Oh my god! Oh my god! Jimmy’s dead, the Rev died!” I sat straight up and the both of us ran downstairs and gathered around the computer to look up any information. I hadn’t started to cry yet, I wanted to know for sure. After seeing several articles pertaining to his death, it finally started to sink in, that he really is gone and he isn’t coming back. That’s when the tears started. Mom held me and cried with me, because I’m not the only one in the family with an Avenged Sevenfold tattoo…she has one, too. I cried until I was exhausted and went back to sleep for a couple of hours before I had to pry myself out of bed to get ready for work. I cried in the shower, I cried while getting ready, and on the way to work, I listened to “I Won’t See You Tonight Part 1″ and cried some more, but I didn’t cry as hard during that one as I did when I had the bright idea to turn on “Critical Acclaim” to hear him sing. It tore me up. I tried to put my makeup on in the car, but couldn’t stop crying long enough to do it. I went to work with my mind set on Jimmy, and couldn’t concentrate. Who knows, maybe I’ll go in to work tomorrow and receive a pink slip because I screwed up so much yesterday, but I was completely and totally distraught, and nothing could make me feel better. After work, I came home and tried to rest before I went out, but I couldn’t fall asleep. I was dead tired, but so upset I couldn’t fall asleep. I looked up at an old Cities of Evil Tour promo poster on my wall and jumped up, turned on the light and ran over to the wall it’s on and looked at it close up, and noticed that it’s signed by The Rev. I put my hand over his signature and cried, because it’s the only thing I have that’s personal from him. I drove to my friends’ house around eleven with a thirty case of Miller High Life and a four pack of Sparks for her, and as soon as I got in and settled, I started to drink. Three beers later, we were sitting at the bar, talking about the day in review, and talking about Jimmy’s passing. I choked up and held my beer up, and my friends soon followed, and we made a toast to someone who might be away from the Earth, but will immortalized in his music and in our hearts. I drank eight beers last night, and my limit is half that. My best friends Sarah and Beanie were in the bathroom rolling a blunt, and I was sitting on the floor in front of them, so trashed I couldn’t see straight, when out of nowhere I said “I can’t believe he’s gone, dude.” I started to cry, longer and harder than I’ve cried in a very long time. For an hour, I was completely inconsolable, not only because I was completely drunk, but because it set in, right then and there, that I’d never see him again. Before this, I had never lost someone close to me. My grandpa died when I was five, and my great uncle passed a couple of years ago, but I wasn’t close to or attached to either of them. Jimmy is a part of something that completely changed my life for the best, and to think that he’s gone forever destroys me. I never got to say thank you, I never got to say anything. I’ve met Matt, Zacky, and Johnny, but I never thought not meeting Jimmy the night I met the three of them would mean I’d never get to meet him at all. Right now, I’d give absolutely anything to be with them…to share my story with them, and celebrate his life and all of his accomplishments over the course of his twenty-eight short years. I always said if one of them passed, I’d get a huge memorial tattoo for them, and that’s exactly what I intend on doing. Jimmy was the one that always made me laugh by saying something stupid when I felt like shit. He could play the drums better than anyone I’ve ever seen. He was a great man, he did incredible things for me and an unthinkable amount of others as well. James Owen Sullivan did not leave this earth in vain…he was a best friend, a brilliant musician, and an incredible human being, and he will live on in our hearts and minds forever. We miss you and love you, Jimmy…RIP.