Pivotal Moments in Time

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 !!!


Wednesday: Bell Let’s Talk Day: Let’s Talk About Mental Health

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Today is a very special day. The day Canada and other places, shed light on a very important topic, that still, seems to be Taboo in many places.

The topic is Mental Health.

If you’ve ever suffered from something tragic in your life, or know someone who has, or you just know someone who is over their heads in the water and they can’t seem to find solid ground, or you have that friend or family member who is suffering in silence, there is something we can do, for us and for them, We Can Talk …

You never know when a conversation will happen that might change a life in ways, we could not imagine.

I’ve just finished reading Romeo Dallaire’s book, Waiting for First Light, my ongoing battle with PTSD. War is a place we see in the movies or on the news, it does not affect us directly, but it does affect many, who have been to conflict zones, or war zones, or on peace keeping missions, war for them is real.

You cannot imagine the visuals that they have seen, the atrocities they witnessed, seeing men, women and children die all around them, and watching their brothers and sisters in arms get killed in action.

And when they come home, they are shattered human beings. And we as a society have failed these brave men and women, over and over again. The Canadian Military has continually failed their own people.

PTSD is something the military has yet to fully comprehend and do something about in concrete ways and means.

Meanwhile, tens of thousands of men and women suffer with unimaginable horrors and night terrors, and addictive behavior to quench the pain with drugs and alcohol.

Some take their own lives in Suicide because they have no way out of the pain.

PTSD is an old problem. But in decades past, we had different names for it.

In the Viet Nam Era, when my father came home from the war, in stories he had told me, he and many others came back and they were Shell Shocked.

But in reading Romeo’s book, I see very similar parallels in what happened, and how my father coped with his issues. He never talked about it, until one season when I was in High School, he actually had film, photos and a story to tell.

Meanwhile at home he was drinking himself to death, and abusing his wife and children.

All those men who came back from that war, were bad mouthed, and ridiculed. What happened ? They went without, and many went to their graves mentally cracked.

Living through the scourge of AIDS, was terrible. For many of us who were on the front lines, dealing with terrible sicknesses and ailments, then watching families, churches, friends and lovers, toss their sick partners into the gutter to die alone and penniless, without an ounce of dignity, was horrifying.

I’ve witnessed my share of tragedy. And suffered my own bouts with depression due to Suicide, AIDS and almost loosing my own life. I would not say that I would call my problems PTSD, but tragic sickness and death is part of my story.

Soon after my diagnosis my doctor hooked me up with a good psychiatrist. Along with medicines, and therapy, I was put on an anti-depressant regimen, that I am still on to this day.

I lived, thankfully. I am also clean and sober, which only enhances my life and my personal well-being. I had people to talk to. Therapists, Psychiatrists, Counselors, Todd, and the myriad of people who have been involved in my sobriety.

A few months after I met hubby, he got very sick. And he was cycling rapidly, over and over again, obsessively. A few weeks in, he had a nervous breakdown, and fell to pieces. Doctors and shrinks came on board, and he was diagnosed as Bi-Polar Rapid Cycling.

For ten long and arduous months we plied him with pill after pill, trying to find the right mixture of a “Little bit of this and a Little bit of that…” until we found the mix that worked for him. For that almost year, I was chief cook, cleaner and chief bottle washer.

I got him out of bed, fed him, got him on the sofa.

And at night, I fed him, bathed him, and put him to bed.

A ritual that still exists to this very day.

I was going to school full-time, taking care of house and home, going to meetings, and taking care of hubby, who was comatose on the sofa for the entire ten month period, catatonic.

I remember the night that we had found the magic pill … The next morning he got up, he was coherent, lucid and alive.

It was like Lazarus, rising from the grave.

There was still working to do, to bring him back into full participation in his own life.
And that stared with simple occupational therapy, to get him to do simple things, that led to him getting back into the saddle and living once again.

Mental health is a top issue in our home. Having two people who have mental issues is a task in itself.

I believe that a human who suffers from a mental illness NEEDS a SECOND set of eyes on them all the time. So that they aren’t doing it themselves. That there is someone else actively involved with their daily care and to watch their medical progress with whatever medication a doctor puts them on, because we don’t necessarily catch things on our own, we need that SECOND set of eyes on the case.

I have worked with kids with Asperger’s Syndrome and Autism. That is some of my most rewarding work, to date. I have sponsees who have mental illnesses as well. Depression, PTSD and Schizophrenia. Everybody needs to be loved and cared for. My time is not only invested in helping men and women stay sober, I also try to help them to stay sane.

To make sure they are on their meds, seeing their doctors and case workers and making sure that they are taking care of themselves, and each other, as well taking care that their homes are safe, clean and void of drugs and alcohol.

Mental Illness is a scourge on our city. many, MANY of our homeless men, women and kids, (read: Young People) on the street, suffer from mental illness, and they go about their lives, and nobody really gives a damn, unless you see them on the street.

We don’t have the amount of resources that the city needs to tackle that problem, because not only do you have mental illness to contend with you also have addiction to alcohol and drugs as well. So you have a triple cocktail of sadness …

Too many of our young people are killing themselves over bullying and mental illness.

What are we teaching our kids, when so many of them are dying and nobody knew about what was going on with them! We have to talk to our kids and actually give a damn about them instead of leaving them to their own devices and video games and their phones.

SUICIDE IS NEVER AN OPTION – EVER !!!

Give a kid a chance … talk to them for God’s Sake.

There is help. There are solutions. You don’t have to be alone. We are here.

We will help you in any way we can. All you have to do is ASK …

Let’s Talk …

Thursday – HELP

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It is a sad day in the music business today. It is always sad when a trailblazing genius of musical craft, dies. Prince was the ultimate Master of musical craft. There will never be another like him, ever.

It has been an interesting week so far.

I try, every day, to do the right thing, and give the right advice. But it seems that not everybody listened, or is communicating when needed, and with that, some have sunk into a funk, and only when the pain gets too much to bear alone, do they ask for help.

All along, everybody knows what they could do, and should do. The problem is that many forget what it was like before The Work, or past conversations and past experiences, and complacency and laziness take over, or maybe it is just that life takes over, and in the busyness of school, work, families, significant others, they loose sight of what they should be doing to make sure everything else in life works well.

Depression is a bitch. And I know a bit about depression, and other forms of it, because of personal experience here at home, and over the years working with kids with disabilities and functional problems. People are suffering across the board lately, and I do what I can to help them.

If you are sad, or you are in difficulty, or you seem to be in a hole that you can’t find your way out of, there is HELP. You are not alone. There are people out here, who can help you. You just need to reach out and make that call.

Sadly, this past week, we have seen example after example of people, in certain mediums online who have no idea how much some people, and kids suffer on a daily basis with depression and suicidal tendencies. And add insult to injury by shooting their mouths off.

Here at home, In Canada, a First World Country, we have failed thousands of kids, families and entire populations of native, and indigenous people who live in Third World communities, live off grid, in places that are difficult to reach, are not connected to Big City Centers, who have no running water, homes that are falling down around them, and recently rashes of kids committing suicide has reached terrible proportions.

The Attawapiskat community located in Ontario has issued an emergency call for help, because scores of their children are dying at their own hands, this epidemic of youth suicide is a scourge on the face of our First World Country.

Canada is NOT doing enough, we have FAILED to help.

The solution is very simple, but because of bureaucratic red tape, native treaties, and policies that really need to be scrapped all together, we could do right by these communities that have nothing, and need so much and go without every day.

When you can’t have WATER, or HEAT, or HOUSING that is solid, and you can’t afford simple food, because of the jacked up prices they pay for food, THIS is unconscionable.

It does not take a rocket scientist to figure out what has to happen to guarantee that generations of kids stay alive. It does not take a rocket scientist to know that if we don’t connect the lost to communities that can help, more kids are going to die.

I don’t know what else to tell my folks, to get them back on the bus and reengage in their sobrieties.

We spent an hour tonight talking about relapses, and slipping, and staying sober in the long term, because one of our number is stuck in that proverbial door of do I keep the pot on the living room table, do I smoke it, or do I flush it?

We all offered to get rid of it for her, and she said no.

At some point we all made that choice that we wanted to get clean and sober and were willing to do anything to get there. Sadly, some seem to not take addiction as serious as their fellows, and have begun to use again.

I don’t know what to do now, but be present and available when my phone rings.

So much sadness in the country that has so much to offer.

Nobody is immune. Get on board the bus, and listen.