The Day I Almost

Took My Own Life

The Day I Almost

Took My Own Life

The chill of winter ripped through the late fall air.  It was the night of my 36th birthday - November 7, 2019.  I was in my office taking care of an urgent issue for a client that came up out of nowhere - not something I wanted to be doing on the night of my birthday when I ought to be spending time with my family, but as it was, I didn't have much choice.

After awhile, I took a break and stepped outside for a cigarette to clear my head as I sought to find a solution to this work problem I was dealing with.  I looked up at the stars exasperated.  They seemed a lot dimmer than usual despite the fact the sky was crystal clear.

When you're in the throes of depression, everything loses it's luster.  Including the night sky - something I've always marveled at. 

Depending on the degree of severity of the depression, you cannot see beauty.  Colors lose their brilliance, things that normally inspired awe and appreciation no longer do.

I was feeling exasperated somewhat because of this work issue that had me stumped but mostly because of the deep, unshakable depression I had been fighting to varying degrees for quite some time now. 

It had been an incredibly challenging year.  I quit drinking almost a year before on December 26, 2018 after a couple hard years of using it excessively to mask the pain that drove me there.  A few months after, my neighbor and good friend Chris took his life on March 8, 2019.

To top it all off, I was just at the beginnings of the painful process turning my life upside down, of scrutinizing every aspect I could muster to courage to audit and sorting through my past trying to understand how the things that had happened to me and how I dealt with it or failed to deal with it had lead me to the point where booze was my only reprieve from the never ending pain inside culminating to the point where I was seriously considering suicide after drinking too much and ruining Christmas the night before I decided to quit for good.

As I was puffing on my cigarette looking at the stars, the words, "you've got to get the poison out!" kept running through my head. Just moments before, I had a YouTube video playing in the background while I worked.  In the video, Gary Vaynerchuk was talking to a successful businessman who had come up to him at the end a speaking engagement Gary was doing in Las Vegas. The man was quite troubled and, judging by what he was saying to Gary right from the start, I knew it was something I could relate to and so I honed in on the conversation to hear the outcome and his advice.

The man was telling Gary that he couldn't shake something from his turbulent childhood that was constantly troubling him under the surface.  He went on to say that, even though he had built a $100 million dollar company, had a happy marriage and loves his kids, he couldn't shake this thing that was eating at him inside.  I could relate, minus the $100 million dollar company.

After suggesting therapy to have someone to talk through it with, Gary said to him, "there's no amount of money and success that's going to fix that.  You've got to get the poison out! I know people who have gone to therapy for 10 years and they never talked about the thing that was troubling them deep down. They danced around it and, as a result, they're no better than when they started. You've gotta get the fuckin' poison out!"

"There's no amount of money and success that's going to fix that.  You've got to get the poison out! I know people who have gone to therapy for 10 years and they never talked about the thing that was troubling them deep down. They dance around it and, as a result, they're no better than when they started. You've gotta get the fuckin' poison out!"

LAS VEGAS, NV | OCT 22, 2019<br />Gary Vaynerchuk (right) admonishing a fan to "get the poison out" and talk about what's troubling him and disrupting his life.
LAS VEGAS, NV | OCT 22, 2019
Gary Vaynerchuk (right) admonishing a fan to "get the poison out" and talk about what's troubling him and disrupting his life.

As his words, "you gotta get the poison out!" were ringing in my head, I took and long hard pull of my cigarette and looked to the sky and said, "I've been digging for months trying to just find the fucking poison and it's eating me alive!  If I could find the poison, I'd get it out!"  No one could accuse me of holding it back and intentionally neglecting to uncover and disclose it. 

Ironically, I had just started seeing a therapist who specializes in CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) a month or two before and when I got there for the first session, I put it all on the table with a laundry list of my flaws, dysfunctions as well as events that I had remembered and written down in recent months since early childhood that I suspected were the root causes of a lot of my present day struggles. 

After hearing me expound upon these things in detail and as honestly as I could, he looked at me wide-eyed and said, "in all my years of counseling, I don't think I've ever had someone be so open and honest right from the get go."

"I'm dead serious about fixing this," I said, "I want to get this dealt with and I want to move on with my life.  It's been plaguing me for as long as I can remember and there's no point beating around the bush about it. There isn't an area of my life that this doesn't severely disrupt."

"I'm dead serious about fixing this," I said, "I want to get this dealt with and I want to move on with my life.  It's been plaguing me for as long as I can remember and there's no point beating around the bush about it. There isn't an area of my life that this doesn't severely disrupt."

He was excited, encouraged and confident that we were going to have a great story of success to tell because of my willingness to dive in deep, not play games and get to work.  

I truly was dead serious.  When you're suffering, you'll do anything to alleviate the pain.  I understood that my life was on the line and I experienced, firsthand, how disruptive depression, anxiety and the downstream addiction in an attempt to cope can be to every single aspect of my life.  I spent almost every minute of my free time learning about this and what the most reputable experts in the world had to say about why it happens and what to do about.  I obsessively devoured content from every medium as often as I could - many times listening to the same podcast, keynote or audiobook over and over and over again to get whatever material that would help me orient myself in the storm internalized.

Seconds after I said aloud, "I've been digging for months trying to find the fucking poison and it's eating me alive," things quickly began to unravel sending me careening down a path toward suicide that, moments before, I had no idea was ahead of me.

Suddenly and unexpectedly, I had what I call a forward-facing flashback.  I was in my backyard and out of nowhere and completely unannounced, I saw this horrific scene play out in a flash in my mind with such detail, that it was as though it was actually happening.  I saw my second oldest son Gavin come screaming hysterically toward me out the back door on our deck.  He was screaming, "mom is dead, mom is dead!"

As I write this, I can still hear it, see it and feel it just as clear as when it happened the night of November 7, 2019. 

Right after I experienced that, I felt like I was going to collapse.  My heart pounded so hard I was convinced it was going to explode.  I broke out into a cold sweat.

Suddenly, I saw these words flash across my mind, "the death of your father" in big bold letters.  My ears were ringing.  I felt like I was losing my mind.

I struggled as best as I could to regain some semblance of composure as I staggered up the stairs on my deck and into the back door.

I knew this wasn't real but my mind and body had reacted like it was.  When I came through the door into the kitchen, I stood at the counter like a deer in headlights, trying to keep it together.  I filled up a glass of water as I was suddenly parched with thirst.  Jill looked at me from the couch and knew immediately that something was wrong.

I still felt really faint and my heart was racing just as hard as it was when all this began.  I told Jill I wasn't feeling well and was going to have a shower and lay down.  When I got into the shower, I started getting scared that I was having a heart attack or at serious risk of having one.  My heart didn't feel like it had slowed down at all, I still felt just as faint and maybe I was just imagining it, but my lips started to feel tingly.

As I showered, I thought about going to the hospital once I got out just in case.  "Nah, it'll pass.  I'll lay down for awhile and take it easy."  Like most men, I hated going to the doctor and still do, nevermind the hospital.  I'll be sitting there for hours bored out of my mind only to have the doctor tell me everything was fine.

"No thanks, I don't have the energy for that."  Besides, I had a big day of problems at work to sort out the next day and as much sleep as I could get would serve me far better than a wasted-of-time trip to the hospital.

I finished my shower and I don't really remember much after that.  I know I went to bed and probably didn't sleep well.  Sleep was and still is another major struggle I've dealt with since I was a little kid.

The Day That Almost Became The Last Day of My Life

I don't recall much about how the day started.  I just remember feeling completely numb.  I felt absolutely nothing.  If anything, I felt more dead inside than I had ever felt in my life.  I didn't feel dark or depressed.  There was simply nothing there. At all.

When I woke up, this recurring thought started coming to mind, "they'd all be better off without you."  I didn't resist it or argue or reason against it, I just let it come.  I had my morning shower, grabbed a coffee and headed out to my office.

I started trying to work but was having such a hard time even beginning to concentrate.  No matter how hard I tried, I just couldn't.  I can't remember if my mind was racing or not.  Probably, since it always was every minute of every day when I was awake for as long as I can remember; whether or not I was cognizant of it, is another story.  I can't recall.  For some reason, I don't think it was but I observed how I felt and thought it was very strange that I didn't feel major anxiety or depression.  None, whatsoever.  Odd, especially after what had happened just the night before.  Even more unusual considering I'd been battling a pretty nasty bought of depression and anxiety for what seemed like forever up until this point.

I had had many similar experiences in the past as the one I just had the night before.  It was actually a fairly frequent occurrence, especially after I got married and started having kids. But I'd never experienced anything that created that level of disturbance and physical symptoms as what had happened just 12 or so hours before.

Whenever those types of intrusive thoughts entered my mind in the past, it was almost always followed up with varying degrees of anxiety and despair that lasted, sometimes just a few days, and sometimes it would trigger an episode that would last for months.  If there were a lot of additional external worries, that was almost always the variable and back then, I didn't have any tools to deal with it.  I just did whatever I could to suppress it or distract myself from it.

That thought persisted and seemed to get louder...

"They'd all be better off without you..."

I started to really consider it.  God knows it's been hard on everyone having to live through this hell with me.  For years.  Not just since I quit drinking. That, coupled with the fact I was learning a ton about childhood trauma and the blinders were starting to come off, whether I liked it or not, about the reality of the trauma I'd caused my own kids. Trauma because of my drinking, my almost complete emotional absence over the years, my instability, my over-the-top expectations, intensity and ways I'd inadvertently communicated to them in such a way that could only be taken by them that they weren't loved and didn't measure up.  Even though that was never my intent and I certainly never said that, that's just how kids take it. 

I can't imagine there being too many manifestations of guilt in one's life that are much more painful then having to face the reality you hurt your own kids. 

And now, through everything I was learning, the depths of it all was hitting me like a freight train.

Multiply that by how hard I already was on myself to begin with plus a plethora of other factors, amplify that by the fact I just lived through an experience less than 12 hours before where my mind suddenly became an unpredictable ticking time tomb that just blew up and dropped me to my knees in a way I'd never before experienced. Take that and pile on the fact I felt little to no hope that I would ever conquer this hell I was living through...

It became too much.  They absolutely would be better off without me.  I had no doubt about it.  I really couldn't do this anymore and they deserve so much more and it felt undeniable now that I would never be able to give them what they need.

I am nothing but a net liability to them.  They would be better off without me and to top it all off, I didn't want to live anymore anyways.  If I was being honest with myself, I hadn't for quite some time and it was only getting worse.  

There was one thread that was keeping me hanging on and that was the belief that Jill and the kids needed me and my presence in their life was worth suffering for.

But now that that final thread had been so thoroughly severed, it was time to put this all to an end.  "Do them all a favor and get it over with" the thought kept going through my mind. "Jill is still young enough to find someone who could give her the life that she deserves and she is a one in a million.  She won't have any problems and the kids will have someone who give them what they need that I never could and clearly would never able to do."

I mulled over the thought over and over again.  I thought about my mom.  I knew she'd be devastated - for a time.  But she'd get over it and she'd eventually be relieved to not have to be constantly worried about me.  I thought about my sisters.  I knew they'd be crushed but by that point, I'd made up my mind.  This is what was best.  For everyone.

I knew exactly how I would end it.  This wasn't the first time I'd thought about this but I was about to make sure it would be the last.  I sat down at my computer and wrote an angry, cold suicide note.  Remember, I wasn't feeling anything.  No remorse, no love.  If anything, just guilt from the weight of the pain I'd caused everyone which was slowly giving way to the feeling of significant relief.  The suffering was finally about to end and I would finally be free.

I finished my note, read through it and didn't even flinch.  It was time to go and get this over with. I was surprised at how little I felt.  My life was about to end and I didn't care - not one bit.  I felt peace. For the first time in as long as I could remember.  My mind wasn't racing, I wasn't feeling the constant threat of impending doom that had plagued me my whole life.

I stood up from my desk, grabbed my keys to head to the hardware store to get the supplies I'd need, depending on the method I was about to deploy to get this over with then head up a forest service road and put and end to it all.

"By the time the sun goes down," I thought to myself, "this will all be over."  I'll be peacefully asleep never to wake up on this God-forsaken Earth ever again.  Jill and the kids have a hard road ahead but just like I wrote in my suicide note, "when you've found someone else, you'll all look back on this period and I'll be nothing but a painful, distant memory that you'll be glad is where it belongs; over and in the past."

I was absolutely sure of it.

I grabbed my phone which was at the far end of my desk before heading out the door of my office.  I picked it up and there was a notification; a message from a friend.  Out of habit, I opened it and right there in the conversation thread, was a picture of me and my daughter Aveah that I'd send just a few days before.  It was a picture that Jill had just snapped only a few days before while we were on vacation.  I looked at her precious, beautiful face in the picture as I kissed her cheek and she was soaking it in.  The expression on her face said more than words could ever do. 

Instantly, the scene of what was about to come flashed across my mind.  I saw her sobbing in absolute anguish and devastating heartbreak.  At that time, I was much harder on my boys than I was with Aveah and as such, we had a closer bond.  To this day, I cannot explain it, but up until this point in the day, all I'd thought about was Jill and the boys.  Here I was faced with the absolute certainty that, though I thought Jill and the boys may look back on my time in their life as nothing but a painful, distant memory, I knew without a shadow of a doubt that my little girl would be crushed and no amount of time would soothe that wound.

I came face to face with the reality of the unrelenting anguish I was about to unleash upon my precious little sweetheart if I went through with what I was about to do and instantly, that snapped me out of it. Seeing that picture and the proceeding scene flash through my mind dispelled the deadly lie that I'd bought into that was leading me to my quickly approaching and certain demise and downstream carnage that is was about to cause.  It instantly snapped me out of it and I sat down in the chair at the other end of my desk, stared at the picture of me and my darling little Aveah and wept and wept. 

I have no idea how I long I sat there for; crying and shaking, shaken to my very core at how close I came to making a tragic decision which would cause unquantifiable carnage to the people I loved the most and potentially, future generations. It was haunting to realize how close I just came.  If it wasn't for the perfect timing of seeing that picture when I did, I would not be here today.  I have absolutely no doubt about that.  I was done.  This life was over and I wasn't scared, not one single bit.  There wasn't an ounce of hesitation within me.  If I had gotten up just a few minutes sooner and left my phone on my desk and headed out the door to execute my plan, I wouldn't be here today to share this story.

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