Content Warning: Self-Harm, Mental Health Issues
On New Year’s Eve I came dangerously close to attempting suicide.
The root causes are a history of alcoholism, depression, mood disorder, and suicide ideation.
The acute triggers were alcohol, financial stress, anxiety, and shame.
What follows is Part One of my story – what happened that day. Part Two and beyond will be how I’m coming out of it on the other side and the action steps I’m taking. I’ve always been at my best when I am taking my lessons learned and sharing them. I’m doing that here. If you or someone you know is struggling with these issues this is a cautionary tale – don’t do what I did. Use the numbers below and reach out for help. I just got lucky.
National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255
Text 741741 – Crisis Text Line
The Near Miss
After a few conversations about money with my wife and my business partner I was feeling defeated. I was feeling like the work I’d been doing and the money I’ve been committing in the last year to building a gym with my partner was wasted cash. I’ve got a kid in college, a mortgage, car payments, my own student loan debt. You know, life. Dollars count and I felt I’d put a whole bunch of those dollars in a place that wasn’t bearing fruit.
“I’m gonna have a beer or two.” Simple right? A little lubricant to release the acute stress.
Here’s the thing. I have rarely been able to have a beer or two. Generally if I have one I want the rest of them. Tuesday, December 31st was one of those days. Already feeling stressed out about money, a fear of failure, and shame about all of it I cracked that first beer open. I chased it will a dozen or 15 more. I honestly don’t know.
My first beer is the alarm bell that wakes the Demons. They are like good firefighters – even when they are napping they are ready to spring into action.
Beer two is when they are responding. Depending on how I’ve been doing, sometimes they are a long way off and I quit before they arrive on scene. If I’m already in a bad place they are right around the corner and they turn out quick.
Beer three is size-up time. They split up. One checks the front and the other takes a lap – each of them keeping in touch with the other and looking for the easiest place to get inside and wreck havoc.
Beer four they select their entry point. They try the handle. Sometimes I’m able to shout them down and stop them. “Hey guys, thanks for coming, it’s taken care of.” New Years Eve wasn’t one of those days.
Beer five is when they gap the door. The Halligan slides into a gap between the door and the jam and gets its first purchase.
Beer number six they set the wedge.
Beer number seven is two or three good taps.
Beer number eight the Demons reset the Halligan. They are ready to go.
Beer number nine is where the leverage starts. The Demons are prying. The locks are bending, the door is buckling, and the hinges are straining.
The whole time I hear them telling me they are coming for me. It isn’t comforting at all.
It’s the sound of wraiths coming to eat my soul.
This is the last moment when I can wave them off. I start trying to distract them by calling people to go to a boat and gamble, or go to a strip club, or just go together and get really thoroughly drunk. I’m laughing and joking, trying to get a partner-in-crime. I can’t get it together to say: “I need help!!!!”
I decide Beer 10 will drown them.
I’ve forgotten where the word decimation comes from. Damnit.
The jam splinters. The locks are really good on my door. Nice long throw, good screws, solid core. This isn’t a job for Candidate Demons. Sadly mine have been on the job a loooooong time, and they are good at it.
The apply more leverage.
Some place between Beer 11 and 15 they get it. The jam splits. The door flies open as if they’d set an explosive charge.
“You are fucking worthless.”
“You think you are so damn smart you piece of shit.”
“Kill yourself. Seriously, you are wasting everyone’s time and energy. Get the fuck out of here.”
Those are the nicest things they say.
Fuck it, maybe they are right. Maybe everyone in my life would be better off with the insurance money than they would be with my wasteful, failure ass.
I unlock the trunk with the guns. I pull the Springfield XD out. I really like this pistol. It’s a full frame. It shoots beautifully. Not that range will be an issue.
I unlock the trunk with the ammo. I drunkenly fumble a box of hollow point .45ACP and spill most of it on the floor. I manage to pick up one. I don’t need more than one for fucks sake. I can’t stand up straight but I can load a magazine and rack the slide. I even think to press check. Obviously it’s attention to detail that matters right now.
I look at the pistol and know all I need to do is walk outside, put it against my heart, and pull. Someone will realize that the guy with the TBI wanted his autopsy to include a brain dissection to look for CTE, so he left it intact. The mess won’t be in the house.
And in that moment something deep inside – maybe it’s the Wolfhound I’ve always carried with me, or maybe it’s the lizard brain – screams “STOP!”
Dave Grossman has said that an adult screaming “Stop!” at a school shooter can be an effective tool. Deep inside I might remember that, or maybe it’s just a primal awareness of what the Demons are here to finally do.
The pistol gets thrown back in the case. I stagger upstairs.
“Take a nap. Just lie about the drinking. You’ll go out tonight and won’t be home. You can fix this by morning.”
And, in a way, the next morning I started to fix it.
Author’s Note: I’m safe. I’m getting the help I need. I have much to say but a story like this is going to take some time and effort to work through. The lessons learned even more. Please look out for our Brothers and Sisters. Many of us have our own Demons no one else knows about.