I hope that for the rest of your life, every night that you close your eyes, that you see my sons dead body in front of you …
It was April of 1993.
It was the Best of Times, it was the Worst of times.
Little did I know, on one particular day, how bad things could get. What I did not know then, was that things would get progressively worse, and almost take me down with it.
We had worked a fortnight, building the bar from the ground up. I did not sleep, for many hours, during the build period. And it was with great pride and respect, to my fellow men, that the bar opened with great fan fare at the beginning of April 1993. I bar tended that night. And made a ton of money.
The following Sunday, I was at my day job, I still had a day job then. It was a normal day, so I thought, until my mother called me. Which was totally out of character for her, because we had a love hate relationship. She asked me if I had seen James at all, which I replied … NO.
She then offered that his mother had called MY Mother, telling her that James was missing and that I needed to find him.
I met James in a bar one night, and we hit it off. Life, as a young alcoholic who was drinking to be seen, made being seen, a priority. And while it lasted, I took advantage of every moment that I was being seen. I did not know that James was a serial LIAR, and that he would end up being the most irresponsible, deceptive and secretive man I had ever met.
He strung a series of lies together, and disappeared for days, weeks, and months at a time, without a word. He cheated behind my back, and never amended his behavior.
But what stung the most was his most dastardly act.
We had not been together for some time, by the time my mother made that call, that Sunday afternoon, about him being missing.
I would eventually quit my day job, opting to work full time at the bar, in the ensuing days. I sent word out that James was missing, and nobody had any idea where he was. Six days later, it was the cops who found him.
I got a call that morning, by the Fort Lauderdale Police, that James’s body had been found, in an apartment on the outskirts of Fort Lauderdale. It was a nondescript apartment complex, I had never visited before.
A detective met me at my car, and asked me to sit in his cruiser with him, while the coroner did his job. It was hours, before they released me. James was dead. How and why he died, I would not know for some time, the answers came in stages.
The next day, I received a call from the coroners office, asking me to come to the morgue and identify what was left of James. I remember it clearly, as if it were yesterday. Because of the curse his mother uttered to me, after I had done, what I had to do.
I walked into the hallway of the building, an exam room to the left and one to the right. It was hazy, because I was sobbing.
The coroner slid back the curtain, and I could see James, stuck amid a scream, plainly etched on what was left of his face. He was still wearing jewelry I had given him. It only lasted a couple of minutes. I made the positive ID and was stuck in place, as I sobbed uncontrollably. It was the most piteous of sobbing. I just could not contain myself.
James was gone. I had just signed the papers to ship his body home to his family. I called to tell them that he was on his way home, wherein his mother laid out that curse, that reverberates in the back of my brain.
To This Very Night …
I tell you this story, because it was a pivotal moment in my life, a year before I had my last drink. The first time.
I left the coroners office and headed for the bar, where I was employed full time now. I cried all the way there, and then some more.
I drank enough liquor that night to kill an elephant. That was just the beginning…
A week would go by, and I was inconsolable. Todd and Bill knew they had to do something, because I was drinking way too much. Their first attempt to help me, was to get me into therapy. So I sat for weeks and weeks, in a Survivors of Suicide Therapy group.
Every night, the same stories. Mothers, Fathers, Brothers, and Sisters, telling the same stories of how their respective family members had killed themselves.
Do you think that stemmed my drinking ???
Not One Bit !!!
At one point, my after hours drinking, became, sitting in a bar at Seven in the Morning … I crossed that invisible line I drew for myself. Because I realized that I had begun drinking in the morning. Which was a harbinger of really bad things to come.
It was on one of those Seven AM Drinking sprees, that was my death knell. I know, well, I did not know, or want to know the ramifications of my personal behavior.
But my alcoholism was always tied, inextricably to SEX.
When someone you trust tells you that to become “ONE OF,” and the only way to become ONE OF, was to go to the bar and drink. Alcoholism was just waiting for me, the very first day I was let out of the chute.
It was only a few number of years, before I crossed that invisible line in “alcoholic” behavior. From twenty One to Twenty Five I was an uncontrollable alcoholic, but nobody ever said the word STOP.
Alcoholics have certain parameters we use to judge how BAD our drinking would get. Drinking in the morning is one of them. There is a fine line there, between nightly drinking, and drinking in the morning.
I NEVER drank in the morning. I never had liquor in any home I ever lived in. I always had to go out to get it.
A year would pass.
I sat in that therapy room for months, listening to the same odd stories of death and loss, and that only made me drink MORE.
Until the night that TODD SAID STOP…
He was through watching me drinking myself into the ground. The month before I got sober, July of 1994, I was diagnosed with AIDS. And NOW, I was drinking to kill myself. I was not going to go down in misery, like MANY of my friends had sunken into and died. Alone …
I hit my first meeting. And I stayed sober for four years, because Todd swore that he would never let me die. In that he succeeded.
But the Alcoholic Will Drink Again …
Alcoholics Anonymous is not perfect. And alcoholics are imperfect as well. But an alcoholic TODAY, would never tell someone, sitting in a meeting to GO AWAY and NEVER COME BACK ! Because if you misspeak and say something crass or irresponsible, you might just sign someone’s death certificate.
My eighteen month slip was long and arduous. But I made it back, thank God. Times have changed. And I am still sober today.
I heard a suicide story tonight. And clearly, I identified. I was right back there, standing in the coroners office. And said as much to our speaker after the meeting.
There are pivotal moments in our lives when SHIT HAPPENS.
Some people make it, many others DO NOT.
Like we heard tonight, you know something is wrong, when you STOP going to meetings. And the committee in your head starts to speak in whispers.
That glass of wine, isn’t a slip.
You’re not an alcoholic.
Nobody will know.
Suffering tragic loss, in any form is devastating. Sometimes you just cannot drag yourself back from the brink of death. Or another drink …
Then again, The Grace of God can be miraculous.
Sometimes getting out of hell, needs a little miracle, to jump start the process of healing and sobriety.
I know few people in this place, whose miracle came, not a minute too soon, for us. And I stand with my friend tonight, speaking words of truth when we both can say, that the second time around is NOT a cake walk.
The first time is a gift, the second time, you have to work for it.
I was telling a friend of mine, before tonight’s meeting, that not a whole lot of people, like or even respect my sober journey. Most people think I am a little off base and crazy. But I told him how I operated. It was his choice to either take what I offered him or throw it into the dustbin of pointless conversations.
There are no pointless conversations in sobriety. Because you never know when something you say will impact someone in a way you never expected. And my friend said to me that he knows, for sure, that there are specific young people, who heard me speak words to them, and because of those words, those young people are still sober today.
Because of one act of kindness in a time of intense need.
Suicide is a serious issue. You never know when shit will happen. We just need to be present and listen intently to our friends, and know, for certain, that the time to act is NOW, and not LATER.
There is help out there. If you ever think that the end is better than perseverance though pain, to get to the other side,
THERE IS HELP.
MAKE THE CALL.
You are Not Alone !!!