I never write about personal stuff unless it’s an occasion for a snarky joke, or unless an actor’s dependency issue has been revealed in such a way that it’s become a big unavoidable news story (like the pull-overs involving Mel Gibson or Lindsay Lohan, say). But this time I’m feeling something else — a tremendous sadness over a near-tragedy, and a kind of anger about the usual Hollywood response to such things, which is to brush it under the carpet.

I’m a Libertarian in the sense that I think people are fully entitled to do anything they want to their bodies without prosecution from the law, but yesterday’s Owen Wilson episode is different for four reasons. I used to know him, I residually care about him, I’ve loved almost every one of his performances, and I think what apparently happened yesterday was a subconscious attempt on his part to bring certain matters to the fore.

In other words, by dramatizing his issues in this fashion, Owen has half-intentionally sparked a conversation that will amount to a kind of public intervention. A tree didn’t fall on Owen yesterday, but at the same time I don’t think he really meant to do what he apparently attempted to do.

Wilson has toldTMZ.com that “I respectfully ask that the media allow me to receive care and heal in private during this difficult time.” On a personal healing note it’s obviously no one’s business but his. I would never allude to anything ever — there are dozens of stories that get around that I’ve never touched — but at the same time Wilson knew before doing this to himself that whatever the outcome it would be a huge story and widely commented upon.

I’ve known a guy for a long time who’s known Owen for a long time, and this guy has been telling me all along that there have been Owen issues that have never really gone away…not really. I could never quite make sense of this because Owen always worked so much and had been so productive. He looked terrific — bright smile, good color, alive and crackling — when I saw him with Kate Hudson last April in San Francisco at Cafe Trieste in North Beach.

A close Wilson friend calls this matter “a heartbreak…a real heartbreak. I’m so damn sad I really don’t know what else to say. I’m in tears. I just feel so bad for him and now [for him] to have to go through it publicly…” I don’t want to drag anyone through any personal muck, but life is choices and to continue living it’s sometimes necessary to stop playing the same old game that we all play when someone has a problem, which is never to talk about it until they’re dead. It’s only allowable to talk about how much they’re liked and how much talent they have and how much we care for them, followed by a shrug of the shoulders and “Oh, well…not my business.”

The guy I know spoke this morning to a Dallas guy who also knows Owen from way back when, and the Big D guy said that what apparently happened is a “hinky” thing for Owen to have done. (“Hinky” is Dallas slang for “sissy.”)

“This has always been Owen’s life,” my source says. “He’s always been this little child, this quick-witted survivor. His canniness and his cunning in order to survive has been all over his movie characters since the beginning. He’s Dignan, he’s all those guys.

“Owen figured out a long time ago that if you act, you don’t have to work. He’s a great writer, but he has no discipline. But he’s got this character, this persona — he plays the same guy every time, and it connects to who he is and in a general way to his generation, and he created this character on his own.”

A colleague told me this morning that “its really just so sad — I feel for him and his family. I hope Owen make its through this and gets stronger from it.”