Submitted by Rachel McGaughey, his sister

He was an artist in so many different ways

Travis was the eldest, so he was always cool to be with. I remember when I was young that I wanted to be just like him.

He was a musician, a comic, a writer and a comedian with everyone he was around. He was in band class as a kid, and he taught himself guitar and bass guitar. I remember one time he tried to teach me how to play “Smoke on the Water.” I never finished learning, but I remember how excited he was to teach me.

Travis McGaughey (right) and Rachel McGaughey

Toward the end of his life, he delved into writing. He started during one of his trips to rehab and ended up writing a bunch of letters to some of the people in his life. He was an artistic person with a lot to say; he just didn’t always know how to communicate it.

Travis was brilliant but didn’t know it — and capable of much more than he gave himself credit for. He was tortured and beautiful.

Travis’ greatest accomplishment

Travis was brilliant and used his knowledge and wisdom to always root for the underdog. As much tension as there was in our house at times, Travis was incredibly loyal to the people he loved, even to his own detriment.

How drugs became a part of Travis’ life

He struggled with depression heavily during junior high and high school. Being in such a low place made it easy for him to seek out something that took those feelings away. He would describe himself as feeling “numb” during the worst of it.

He was hooked on opioids and other substances when he was 15. It started after he was prescribed painkillers for his wisdom tooth removal surgery. As his younger sister, I distinctly remember not understanding why my brother had dropped out of school or why he was always in trouble. It took me a long time to really understand what was happening, but he was in and out of rehab several times and was wanted for several crimes.

He became a different person to me

I strove to be everything he wasn’t for the sake of my family, especially my parents. I think the reality was that I was really trying to “keep up appearances” and make them feel like everything was normal. Looking back, I realize at times that I hated him for what he was doing, all while not understanding the actual battle that he was facing.

Travis playing the guitar

During the roughest times, he stole from us, he put my siblings and my parents in danger, he made me feel unsafe in my home, and he made me embarrassed to talk to other people about my family. I was constantly at odds with him because of our familial stress, and it put me in a position in which I was never able to really reconcile with him.

Travis struggled for a long time

He struggled from the time he was 15 until he died at 23 years old. He went through multiple rehab programs, had several sponsors (some of whom died of an overdose themselves), went through job after job, tried to get multiple careers started for himself, and so much more. Before he died, he had actually been clean for three months, was in a stable job, and had regained so much of his health and strength back.

Travis would want to be remembered as someone who could have done so much more

Toward the end of his life, he used his struggles to help other people and try to bring some awareness to the affliction that he faced. I specifically remember the day that I read the letter he wrote to me, just a few months before he died. He took the time to apologize to me and explain why he was the way he was. He mentioned that I was old enough now to understand where he was coming from and that he always loved me.

At my brother’s funeral, we shared a video that compiled short segments from the letters he wrote to us. Many people who saw that video came forward and said that his words made a big difference in the life of other people who struggled with addiction. I think that this would really mean something to him, as he strove to help other people understand this affliction.

If I could say one thing to Travis, it would be

I am so sorry that I couldn’t tell you that I loved you and that I was proud of you. Despite how it ended, you took your life back, and I wish every day that I got the chance to see you healthy and happy one more time.