I don’t share the following because I am proud of any of it. I only share it because it may resonate with someone who is going through a similar emotional black hole in there own life.
I awoke with a start, with an officer standing next to me. My heart sank as I looked down at my wrists that were attached to IV’s and my body was covered with a simple hospital gown. I didn’t say a word. I couldn’t recall the last several hours, and I felt as though I had been hit by a truck.
The officer engaged in conversation first. He asked me if I was feeling alright and whether I had been drinking. At this point, I was pretty sure he knew the answer to that, as he had just transported me, poisoned, to the hospital and helped save my life. I weakly answered, “Yes.” He asked if I was trying to hurt myself. I told him that I just wanted the pain to stop, to seek emotional refuge, and to be done with it all and that, ‘yes’, I was trying to hurt myself. He asked if I had taken any pills along with the poison (alcohol) that I had ingested. I told him the truth and said that I didn’t remember. I then asked him, “Officer, if I get up and walk out of here right now, are you going to arrest me?”
Looking back now, I can see that this was a foolish question. I was in no shape to go anywhere. I had just had the most visceral reaction that one can have to a poison ingested into ones body. I had completely and utterly passed out and was not able to function at all. The BAC came back reading .34 which is close to the deadly amount of poison that can be possible in one’s body without death incurring. At the time, I didn’t think I was in that bad of shape, probably because the IV’s were doing their job. But I wasn’t going anywhere, and I wouldn’t go anywhere, for the next several days. I would live my life on three different stories of a hospital; emergency room, hospital room, and then the psychiatric facility. I would go through the lowest of lows I have ever felt in my entire life, and discover I could have hope, I could have joy, even amidst circumstances that were pretty bleak. I recognized there were others that understood the deep pain I had been trying to squelch, trying to manage, and those folks were willing to extend a hand of grace. I learned a lot in those few days. Learning that needed practice. Learning that needed to be executed to better understand how to live life.
As the doctor in the Emergency Room had a discussion with me about thinking maybe I had a problem, I was indignant. I didn’t think I had a problem. I kept telling him over and over again I didn’t. Often, the last person to recognize that someone is alcoholic is the alcoholic himself. The doctor had seen me before, just a month earlier, in a similar situation, with a lot more support around me. I was by myself this time. I was a loner in the hospital system, and the doctor knew there was a long road ahead of me, if I was to recover. He knew there was a short road ahead of me, if I didn’t. He told me they would take care of me, get me physically healthy, and then help me with my mental state of being. I kept denying that I needed any of help, and at some point asked him if I could take the IV’s out. I’m not sure what I would have done after that, as I was in a hospital gown, but I was determined to get out of there.
The feelings of desolation and disgrace were upon me in these moments. I had messed something up that was far bigger than an accident or a mistake. I had thrown life to the wind to see if the wind would capture me. I had lobbed trust to the wolves with family and friends and I had done the unthinkable, and attempted to end life, because life was happening on life’s terms. I was stuck in a hospital bed. Determined to get out, determined I would ‘figure this out’, and determined I could go at it alone. The next few days of my experience changed the course of my life, and I could not be more grateful for the people who walked with me in those moments.
As I lay on the bed, looking out the window, awaiting the poison to leave my body, darkness loomed. I knew life would never be the same again, and it would not resemble anything I was comfortable with or had experienced before. I knew I was angry, with God, with others, blaming those around me for the choices I made. I knew I needed help but everything within me screamed I didn’t, as my pride and arrogance rose again to the surface. I can’t help but remember the wilderness I had thrust myself into, not letting anyone into the season of life I was facing. I was alone in a hospital room, and life was happening to me, because of my choices.
Eventually, I figured out something had happened the night before that was significant. I found a piece of paper in my belongings that I had signed that indicated blood was drawn to determine whether I was a candidate for a DUI charge. I knew I hadn’t been driving, and had pulled over to the side of the road, but I also knew sleeping in a car, drunk would allow the authorities to charge me with a DUI. I knew I had broken the law, at that point, and never really stopped long enough to determine the consequences. My selfishness reigned in those days. I was about me, for me, and even amidst the pain carried pride and arrogance that was far beyond the scope of simple personality. I was completely and utterly broken in my spirit. My spiritual depth was bankrupt and I knew God was distant, if God even existed. The DUI was not something I wanted to talk about, because I knew that would have lasting effects on relationships and on my life. And so, I did what most good addicts do, I deflected questions regarding the drinking. I simply made jokes, found ways to keep people at bay in regards to my drinking habits, and wandered from place to place within the hospital trying to determine my next course of action. One of the nurses, within the first day of living in the hospital gave me a great piece of advice (that I struggled to hear). She said, “Take this time and focus on you, not in a prideful, arrogant, or selfish way. You are going to be better for it, if you can get healthy.” I recalled one of the sayings one of my favorite people in the world used to keep on her desk in that moment. “A healthy you is going to be healthy for everyone else.” (Or something like that, I didn’t ever take the time to read it closely as it wasn’t really something I understood or sought to understand). I needed to get healthy. I needed to reorganize the thoughts in my head and begin to think straight again. I needed mental sanity, because what I was trying to do, was complete insanity.
I didn’t take the advice of the nurse, completely, to focus on me. I focused on the things I couldn’t control. I focused on the relationship with the church I was a part of, and I focused on my relationship with my wife, (potential ex wife, if I didn’t turn things around). I focused on the immediate of where I was going to live and how I was going to make things work for me instead of focusing on how to be a healthy me. I wanted to make sure things happened in a certain sequence, that I could somehow control what was said and what was done. And what I learned from inside the walls of the hospital, maybe for the very first time, was that I was not in control of much of anything. I was out of control and my life had become unmanageable. There was chaos in every corner because there was chaos within my own heart, and mind. Not only could I not ‘control’ the circumstances around me, but I couldn’t control the circumstances within me. I had no concept of managing my own emotion. I didn’t even want to feel emotion.
That night in the emergency room, I found out who I really was. The character defects had become paramount in my life. And I was on the verge of utter catastrophe. Thankfully, through the experiences described elsewhere, I found hope. I found emotion. I found life. I engaged in spiritual practices that were far more in depth than I had ever taught others to do. I’m still living in chaos around me. But there is hope for the future, contentment in the present and acceptance of the past.
If you are struggling to overcome the desire within you to hurt or kill yourself, please seek help. You are worth it. You are worth every single moment that you can live beyond the here and now. And life can be different for you in the future. Call the National Suicide Hotline, talk to them, become real for the first time in a long time. And know that the people around you just want you to be healthy. They are not out to get you, nor are they fighting against you. They want the best for you. I’m learning that, day after day, one day at a time.