My rock bottom was a suicide attempt. I honestly didn’t think I could stop. I had tried everything. A few years earlier, I became addicted to opiates. That was the first time I couldn’t stop something on my own. I was told at an early age never to do drugs. At 23, I tried my first.
Ecstasy. All the depression and anxiety I had suffered from most of my life melted away. Sweet relief. That opened the door wide. So prior to the opiate problem, I had taken many different drugs, for prolonged periods of time, and when I reached a point that I felt like things were getting out of control, I was always able to stop, without help. But this was different. I wanted to stop, and absolutely couldn’t.
So I broke down and sought help.
I found a counselor, told him my story, and he recommended an outpatient program he was familiar with which was run by the head psychiatrist at the local hospital, who specialized in addiction. He wanted to put me on Suboxone, but told me that I had to go through full withdrawal before he’d write me a prescription. Later I would learn that Suboxone is not only used as an opiate blocker, but to ease the withdrawal symptoms. Addiction specialist? This guy almost killed me. Going cold turkey off opiates is almost indescribable. It felt like my muscles were being ripped from my bones. Horrible stuff. Anyway, I made it through the week of hell, started the Suboxone, and met with the outpatient group 5 days a week. They funneled us into the local NA groups, and I started seeing a psychiatrist who could prescribe be the Suboxone, and help me figure out what the hell was wrong with me. She put me on antidepressants and Xanax. I saw her once a week for over 3 years. (Never once did she suggest that I might be an addict.) I dropped out of the outpatient program about a week before it was officially over. The woman who ran it was aggressive and kind of rude, and I was already on the Suboxone and seeing a psychiatrist so why did I need to anyway? I had the opiates under control. I never had any problem getting off anything before the opiates, so clearly I wasn’t an addict. I did keep going to the NA meetings though. At some point, I started drinking alcohol. I mean, it’s legal, and they sell it in every convenience store and grocery store everywhere, so it can’t be that bad, right? My problem was with opiates! Progressively I was drinking more and more. I talked to my psychiatrist about being worried about alcohol now. I couldn’t seem to control it anymore. She put me on another medication that was supposed to lower the craving for alcohol. It did nothing. I remember in the NA meetings hearing “jails, institutions, and death.” I came really close to achieving all 3.
I ended up in jail for 3 days…
(Road rage incident. I didn’t like drinking around my kids, so I drove drunk a LOT. It really is a miracle I never wound up with a DUI.) I remember being in jail for the first time in my life, terrified, at 39, thinking “you have got to stop this. Look at where you are. I am never going to drink again. That lasted about 3 days. That was in June of ‘09. Then in mid December I was Institutionalized for 3 days. “You have got to stop!” I told myself. Again. I got out, and 2 days later, I thought “just one. I can have just one.”
I don’t remember the day, but it was a few days after Christmas ‘09, I decided that the best option for me was to end my life.
Throughout my entire childhood, my father was abusive, mentally and physically. The one promise I made myself at a very young age, was that I was going to break the chain of abuse. I was going to be a good dad. It was my sole purpose for being on this earth. I couldn’t be a good dad if I was drinking. And I could. not. stop. I researched suicide. I decided the best way would be to hang myself. I went to the liquor store and bought a bottle of vodka and (4) Four Loko’s. I knew I wouldn’t have the courage to go through with it sober. I went to Walmart and bought a high strength marine rope. When my wife left for work I called my sister to come sit with the kids. Told her I just needed to get out of the house for a bit. Rode my bike to a stretch of woods not far from my house. If I went deep enough in the woods, I knew it would be a long time before someone found me. Tied the rope to a thick branch on a giant oak tree, sat down to write my note to my kids, my wife, and my parents, and started drinking. I remember crying while I wrote the note. Telling myself “you’ve got to do this. Your kids deserve better.” I finished all the alcohol, climbed up on the bike propped against the tree and tried to tie the knot behind my neck. I was so drunk that I fell off the bike into the palmetto bushes below. Climbed back up on the bike and tried again. Fell again. I fell 6 times. Turns out that tying a knot behind your head is pretty difficult when you’re that drunk. I was covered in sweat. Completely exhausted. Sitting there on the ground, drunk, sweaty, and bloody from all the scratches I’d gotten from falling over and over into the palmetto bushes. Suddenly I had a moment of clarity. “Ask for help”. I called my mom. “Mom I need help. I can’t stop drinking. (She was at my aunts house in NC on vacation. My cousin, the son of that aunt, had committed suicide 2 years earlier. He was an alcoholic. That was a hard call to make.) “One of the women I work with has a daughter that struggled with alcohol who went to a rehab in Delray Beach. That was years ago, and she is doing really well now”, she said. I made the call the next morning.
A week later, my wife drove me 3 hours to that rehab.
I remember on the drive down thinking “what will people think?!” The stigma attached to addiction, and having to go to rehab to stop, almost cost me my life. It was the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make. I was in detox for 8 days, and then 30 days in treatment. I remember that it took me 14 days in for it to finally click in my head that I was an addict, and maybe I should really listen to these people. The denial when you’re deep in the disease is astonishing.
I remember my first bout with depression happening when I was in the 6th grade. I’ve suffered from it my entire life. Many months prior to rehab, I read Darkness Visible by William Styron. He describes when he went to a treatment facility for help with his depression, it was like being in a capsule, protected from the world. That is what I needed. All those meetings I went to, the outpatient program, all the books I read, none of those things were going to do me any good. I was a full-blown addict. Being put in that capsule, away from the world, was my only hope. It is by far the best and most important decision I have ever made.
On January 9th, 2015, it will be 5 years since I walked through that door.
I would have to write 20 more pages to describe how much my life is different now. It really is profound. I wanted to write this in case there was someone out there who’s going through the same thing. Who’s tried the meetings and still can’t stop. I believe you can get to a point in addiction where your only hope is a treatment facility. Protected and safe from the outside world. That was certainly the case for me. The counselors there not only saved my life, but gave me a new life, better than I ever could have imagined was possible. Don’t give up. Don‘t be ashamed to ask for help. Don’t let your ego kill you. I’m living proof that you can know peace again.