Daniel Vann Whitaker

Daniel Vann Whitaker

Sensitive, funny, deep, loving, impactful

Danny was very sensitive and empathetic. He felt every feeling very deeply and could not stand to see a person or animal suffer. At first meeting he would seem a little quiet and reserved, but as you got to know him you could see his goofy, mischievous side. He loved to play pranks on people and make them laugh, but he also had an appealing vulnerability that he only revealed to his family and closest friends.

Growing up, Danny was on the football and tennis teams and liked to shoot hoops and play ping-pong. He was a Duke basketball and New York Giants fan. He also loved to play video games and draw and had an interest in firearms. He designed some of his tattoos, which he viewed as a form of art and self-expression. Danny had a lot of pets throughout his life, including dogs, cats, fish and even lizards, but his most beloved was his dog and closest companion, Ruger.

Danny preferred experiential learning over formal education and would independently pursue topics he was interested in. After completing inpatient treatment, Danny hoped to return to school so he could potentially work in the recovery community or even attend law school like his dad and sister. Sadly, he relapsed before this could become a reality.

Becky enjoyed the pranks that Danny concocted. One time, as a joke, she signed up Danny’s email address to receive a cat newsletter. Knowing that she didn’t like anything about guns, he signed her up to receive emails from the NRA and Gun Owners of America. Becky will never unsubscribe because she smiles and thinks about Danny, when the messages arrive in her inbox. She misses texting back and forth with Danny, sending funny memes, their inside jokes and walking into the kitchen at midnight finding him eating a bowl of kids’ cereal, like Cinnamon Toast Crunch or Cocoa Krispies. She misses the sound of his laugh when he thought something was funny.

After Danny’s death, the family learned how much he meant to his friends in the recovery community. His friend, Wyatt who was in recovery with him said; “Daniel truly changed my outlook on life… he loved me like a brother. He made me a better person and helped me realize that you can be strong and still vulnerable and it’s OK.”

Like so many others, Danny felt a sense of shame surrounding his illness; he felt he was letting everyone down. Becky sees Danny as brave and strong for seeking treatment and working so hard at recovery, “I was, and still am, so proud of him. When he died, my world immediately split in two. I view everything as “before” or “after” Danny. I hope his story will show that he was so much more than how he died.”

Danny’s sister, Becky Whitaker, provided the information for this narrative.

June 2, 1990 – November 22, 2017
Age. 27 – Lived with addiction 10 years

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