The exact date slips my mind somehow, but I know it was five years ago.
I also recall it was a Saturday night in May. You may have been home drinking all night—or possibly out.
Details are sketchy. Partly because of the drinking, partly because I really don’t want to remember all that clearly.
I remember enough.
I remember that you wrote your letter out. You didn’t care to say goodbye or explain why you desperately desired to end your life. You believed nobody cared.
In your mind, they would have been inconvenienced a couple of weeks having to deal with you and your stuff. They would be annoyed that you were no longer there to dump their crap on.
You were fine with that; it was the thing that you all were in alignment with, that you had value for dealing with what others refused to and little else.
I remember you popping open that last bottle of Sam Adams and sparking up one final Marlboro for the road. Just a little more time with a couple of the vices that kept the demons at bay just enough for you to function.
I remember while you were nursing them, your mind wandered a little bit, which gave you space to have the one jolting revelation that changed everything. You still don’t know where it came from, but it wasn’t your mind.
It was quite loud and clear, too:
“The kids! You can’t do this to the kids!”
Our niece and nephew. Those kids, I remember the epiphany that came through for you when it came to the kids.
Those two loved you as you were, warts and all, and you couldn’t accept your last action on this planet being the thing that screwed them up.
The rest of the world wouldn’t have cared as far as you knew, but they would have. They would have been devastated and broken.
That was enough to sway you. That night, nothing else would have been.
I remember it was clear that you had to throw the letter away and a few other things. Your first thought was, well, what now? Followed by a damn, I guess I have to go back to work on Monday, huh?
The next one came from the same voice that woke you up and reminded you of the kids, “When I figure this out, and I will…there’s what, seven billion people on this rock? Just on probability, there have to be people like me out there. I am determined that when I get healthy enough, I will do what I can to help as many of them as I can.”
Five years later, we’re still here. Congratulations to us.
Has it been smooth sailing? Of course not; there have been and will always be choppy seas in life. The point is to learn how to navigate them. They can never be fully controlled, but we can learn when to steer the boat and when to simply let go and let the currents take it where they were going anyway.
I would consider it an accurate way to describe the last few years. It’s been a process of letting go of what was killing you, walking away from those who preferred the broken, battered version of you, learning what you needed in order to thrive.
Along the way doing your best to honor your vow of service to those like you.
We’ve done some amazing work together. We quit a job that burned us out, wrote a book, traveled to over 30 states, became a certified coach.
We quit smoking and drinking and lost a lot of weight (we won’t discuss how we’ve headed back the other way on the COVID-19 diet).
We have built a community and have been connected to so many people with stories similar to ours. That voice was right; there really are people like us. We’ve done some things.
We’ve watched the children grow into amazing, creative, loving teenagers who are going to make this world a better place just by them being in it.
Just watching them grow up alone was worth staying, even if nothing else went right.
Speaking of things not going right, there had been a lot of those as well.
Some people made it clear that they did not approve of this journey, and we had to cut the cord for our own well-being. There have been a lot of hopes and expectations that got crushed along the way.
We have experienced significant letdown, disappointment, and heartbreak through this journey.
Frankly, there have been a few of these valleys where we wondered if we made the right decision that night in that old apartment.
It’s not something we like to talk about because it’s not exactly uplifting and inspiring. It’s also the truth—not every day is sunshine, rainbows, and puppies. Some days are literal hell, and when we’ve given up almost all of our coping vices, we have no choice but to really feel the pain in those moments.
Sometimes it still feels like it’s us against the world, and no matter what we create or accomplish, it’s not enough. Uncertainty can still generate the familiar feelings of doom and dread, and we wonder if we will ever make our way out of that rough water.
Yeah, those hard stretches continue to come, and they always will.
What’s different is how we see the darkness upon its arrival. I wouldn’t say that we’ve all become friends yet, but we’re continuing to accept its presence. It’s not something to fight with, nor does it need to be a catalyst for self-contempt.
It’s simply another voice. Does it have the information we need to hear?
Absolutely, the things we need to hear can appear from anywhere. Here’s the difference, and this is huge. We no longer feel an obligation to be attached to it.
If the noise isn’t helpful or flat-out belligerent, we get to let it scream and walk away.
If there is something useful in there, we can receive it, say thank you, and still move along. There’s no need to waste energy and create pain by fighting against it.
That voice no longer possesses power in defining our worth anymore. To call this a big deal is an epic understatement.
It is the same regarding those outside voices which informed us at different points that we weren’t good enough and never will be. The ones that decided we were not smart enough, or talented enough, or attractive enough, or whatever enough.
Those voices control the room only when we allow them to take over.
It’s hard to see that when those voices are really loud and overbearing, but we have the means to turn them down and tune them out. We always have. They only become our problem when we allow them to be. That understanding may have brought us the most freedom.
We’ve learned that we can ride out life’s continued ups and downs, and we’ll be okay, even if in the moment we have no idea how that would even be possible.
All of the turbulent moments show up like storms. Some storms are only an annoyance, while others can be downright terrifying, leaving extreme damage in their wake. There is one constant with all storms; they all come to an end. They move on, or they weaken. Every storm is a temporary event.
Learning how to fully feel our emotions rather than burying them or taking them out on others. Discovering that it was not only acceptable but necessary to allow them all to have their space and their say. It was equally as important to learn that once they did, they were allowed to move on.
We released our need to hang onto them for whatever dysfunctional reason made sense in the moment.
One of the hardest lessons to integrate was the importance of placing our care and our needs first in order to give as we truly desire. It is utterly impossible to fill anyone’s glass if you’re only carrying an empty pitcher.
We learned that we needed to fill ourselves up and to learn how to maintain a full pitcher. This meant learning to say no and then doing whatever was necessary to honor that no. This kept our energy from leaking, which allowed us to pour in the cups that could really receive benefit from our pitchers.
We’ve been blessed to learn and grow immensely within these five years. We have had some amazing experiences.
We have a lot more growing to do, and we have no idea what is waiting around the corner for us to experience. It can be scary at times as the primal mind does not handle uncertainty or massive change well.
Yet, we always come out the other side, don’t we? Maybe we’re doing this right after all? Is it possible that we can’t screw this up, no matter what it may look like in any single snapshot?
We would have missed out on all of this had we chosen differently and ignored one powerful message.
We’ve already made an impact on ourselves, but also on more lives than we will ever know. That’s a pretty amazing feeling, a combination of gratitude, contentment, accomplishment, wonder, and curiosity.
Proud of how far we have come. Excited for what the journey brings us next.
I am thankful we are still here. I suspect we are not alone. Happy five years.