Autism and Addiction: The Dylan Dailor Story
Dylan Dailor is on the autism spectrum. Always has been. Always will be. Yet he refused to let it defeat him. Then Dylan had his wisdom teeth removed and he became an addict too. But his TEDx Talk Autism and Addiction proves he still refuses to be defeated.
From Autism to Addiction
Dylan Dailor says the last time he didn’t feel anxiety was the day of his birth. In other words, never. Dylan was diagnosed as being on the spectrum at seven. It’s kind of the middle-late range to be diagnosed with autism, said Dylan. And when you’re diagnosed at that age people want to get you where they think you need to be now.
“You need to learn the social skills now,” they counseled. “Then people will like you and you’ll be happy.”
Easier said than done. Oh, Dylan learned the skills all right. But the skills didn’t help. He couldn’t function socially. His classmates beat him up. And he was nowhere near happy.
Then came the wisdom teeth. A dentist gave Dylan a fentanyl-based cocktail. And he woke up happier than he’d ever been in his life.
Dylan also became hyper-productive. He completed 12 English assignments in a day and scored a hundred on them all. That made him even happier. Dylan was still happy when he went to sleep.
The next day however was different. Much different.
“I did not feel well,” recalls Dylan. “I was nauseous. And I was sweaty. Clammy. Shaking. And I was like, it’s all gone away. What happened? What happened?”
Yes, the fentanyl had worn off. So did the happy. And now Dylan was suffering from the dreaded opioid withdrawal. Thankfully, the thoughtful dentist had given Dylan a prescription for Vicodin. That cured the sickness. It also cured the unhappy. For a month or so anyway. Then Dylan had to kick narcotics all over again. It wasn’t pretty.
A college accident led to an emergency room visit. Dylan was recovered by then. But he still didn’t identify as an addict. Then he did. And once he did, Dylan found it to be both “really exciting” and “really scary.”
But Dylan was also ashamed.
“I can’t tell people [I’m an addict],” he remembered thinking. “Because this is not me. This is not who I am. This is a different Dylan. And this Dylan is bad.”
Dylan stayed mum. His college friends liked to go out and drink on the weekends. They told Dylan that drinking was how they felt better about their day. Dylan wanted to feel better about his day too. But he knew he couldn’t. Not through drinking or drugging anyway. Still he stayed mum. Living in constant fear that he’d slip.
“When does it happen?” said Dylan. “When does somebody offer me something and I don’t say no?. And how do I stop it again?”
I Am Not a Freak
Dylan is still in college. And he still suffers the same fears brought about by autism and addiction. But that hasn’t prevented him from becoming an overachiever. In fact, Dylan published his first book, I Am Not a Freak, even before college. His second book, Atypical Neurotypicals, came out in 2018.
I Am Not a Freak came from a powerpoint Dylan created in the 5th grade so that his classmates might understand him and stop their bullying. The presentation may not have worked the wanted wonders, but the book is making a serious impact in the field of autism, for children (for whom it was written), as well as for adults.
Atypical Neurotypicals was also written for children. It also promises to even further help young and old folks understand what is and what isn’t about people on the spectrum. As the book’s Amazon page so helpfully makes clear, atypical means ‘unusual or different.’ While neurotypical means ‘not autistic or on the spectrum,’
“Neurotypical behaviors can be a little confusing for people who are on the spectrum,” the page continues. “And even those who aren’t. So let’s look to the animal kingdom so that we can understand what neurotypicals do and remember that they’re individuals too.”
Both of Dylan’s books spurred TEDx Talks, as well as some ever-increasing recognition, from professionals, academicians and peers. But even with all that go-cat-go, Dylan’s still struggling with autism and addiction. And, as his hopeful yet heartbreaking TEDx Talk makes clear, people are still struggling to understand Dylan Dailor.
“No amount of achievement can make people like you,” he says. “And though I do want to help people on the spectrum of autism who are suffering [from addiction], that’s not my main goal. In all reality, I’m doing this because I want people to stop being mean to me. It’s not the people right now who are being mean to me. I want people from five years ago to be nice to me– five years ago. I want people from five, ten, any number of years ago, to stop hitting me. But that’s not how it works.”
“Being on the computer all the time doesn’t work. Working all the time doesn’t work. Using fentanyl, er, worked in a way. But it wasn’t healthy. That’s not the way to go with life. It’s not what I want. It’s not who I’d imagined I’d be.”
Just Be Weird
Here’s where the hopeful becomes heartbreaking — and hopeful all over again:
“We have this idea of normal,” concludes Dylan. “And I think the problem is normal isn’t good. Normal’s a very bad concept. Because you’ll never be normal. No one in this room will be normal. I don’t care of you’re a character on the spectrum. And I don’t care if you’re a neurotypical. I can’t be normal. You can’t be normal. And everyone trying to get to normal isn’t making things better. So, just be weird. All of our brains work differently. Just be weird.”
Bravo, Dylan Dailor! Bravo! You’re right. We are all wired differently. Some of us have autism. Some of us have addiction. And some of us have both autism and addiction. It doesn’t matter. None of us are normal. Because there’s no such thing. We can all survive though. In fact, we can even prevail. Just look at Dylan Dailor.
We at Healing Properties applaud the irrepressible Dylan Dailor for his fortitude, his talents and his courage. We especially applaud the bright young man for how well he epitomizes his TEDx Charles Bukowski quote:
“What matters most is how well you walk through the ring of fire.”