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I had a lot of time for reflection this past holiday weekend.
Often enough, though, I ditch reflection and keep myself busy. Like many with my personality type (INFJ), I tend to excel when left in solitude.
I baked four loaves of white bread, one banana bread, wrote a piece about David Bowie, and two songs for a woman I couldn’t stop thinking about. This was all by Friday night.
As Saturday rolled around, I began looking through my tax documents from last year for the express purpose of counting my chickens before they hatch. That is, get an idea of what my tax refund was going to be. I spotted a journal that looked vaguely familiar, the way something does when you remember it from a different era of your life.
But it wasn’t familiar enough to place the time frame at first glance. For this reason, I opened it to see what sort of hidden gems I might find.
What I found was a suicide note—from 15 years ago.
It’s difficult to describe, with any degree of accuracy, the potpourri of different and strange emotions I felt while being reacquainted with my old, pathetic self—this version of me who hit a threshold of pain that made suicide look like a viable option.
“I know we’ve been taught that a person goes to hell if they take their own life, but I guess that I am hoping that God is a forgiving God and He’ll understand the pain of my reality.”
It is almost humorous that I didn’t totally believe there was a God at that point in my life, but as someone so entrenched in the characteristics of an addict, I was probably just hedging my bets.
Just in case (I probably justified to myself), I may as well leave some evidence of my regret. It might look better for me in purgatory.
I read the note a couple more times and realized three important things:
1. All the fears I had about my future were unfounded.
I believe, if I remember correctly, my first daughter’s mother left and found someone else. I, on the other hand, was so wrapped up in the getting and using of drugs—and the subsequent act of getting more—that dating fell pretty low on my list of priorities.
Well, until I was by myself and convinced that no one was ever going to love me again. Lines like, “35 years old—alone, lonely, abandoned with no hope in the world of ever meeting anyone…” tell me that I was convinced that all joy in my life was over. And would never return.
In retrospect, I went on to find sobriety, have a pretty active dating life, and finally fall in love. She was an ex-girlfriend from my college years, and we started a family. None of these things seemed remotely possible from the place I was standing as I was writing this letter.
2. Alcohol and drugs made me delusional.
As horrific and sad as it felt for my girlfriend to take our child back to her parents, who were hundreds of miles away, the alternative wasn’t pretty. She needed to find sobriety; I needed to find sobriety; my daughter needed a halfway decent chance at a happy childhood. There was no way I could see any of that in the haze I existed in at the time.
3. Every problem I had was directly or indirectly the result of using alcohol and substances.
As I go through the letter and read the litany of circumstances that became so overwhelming, I felt like I had to end it all. Every single one was tied to my substance abuse issues—dental problems, a total lack of money and resources, loneliness, bad credit, a dead-end job. It all could’ve been addressed and repaired if I just stopped using and got some help. (I simply did not see it as a possibility.)
That night, I put $150 worth of my drug of choice into my body and closed my eyes, with the sincere hope of never opening them again. One memory that remains vivid is the moment my eyes did open the next day. My first word was “F*ck.” I couldn’t believe that it didn’t work, and I was still alive.
This is what is commonly referred to, in recovery palance, as hitting bottom. It wasn’t too long after that when I dragged myself into my first 12-step meeting and began the most exciting journey of my life.
As I said, I found love many times. I learned a trade and began earning quadruple what I was earning, built my credit back up, started a family, became a published author, found the Elephant Journal community, and became a highly-sought-after and well-paid musician.
This is not even an exhaustive list of what has transpired over the last decade, but suffice it to say, I am more than glad that I did not wind up dying that night.
I write this in hopes that it may come up in a keyword search about suicide and recovery and perhaps find its way into the hands of someone who is, right now, where I was 15 years ago.
As long as we have the ability to breathe, there is no limit to what we can do with our lives. It is never too late.
Dear person who is ready to give up, if this article has found you, please find your way to a detox, rehab, or even a 12-step meeting. Then prepare for the most exciting journey of your life to begin.