Demons, pain and coping with death
Call 911 if anyone is in danger
1-800-273-8255, National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
888-207-4004, Mind Springs Health crisis line
Aspen Hope Center, 970-925-5858
Mantherapy.org, Colorado’s website geared toward men
Garfield County Suicide Prevention Coalition, information on prevention classes, 970-948-6108
Mind Springs Health locations across the Western Slope
SUICIDE WARNING SIGNS
• Threatening to hurt or kill oneself, looking for means (such as firearms) to kill oneself, and talking or writing about death or suicide.
• Increased substance (alcohol or drug) use
• No sense of purpose in life
• Anxiety, agitation, unable to sleep or sleeping all the time
• Feeling trapped
• Withdrawal from friends, family and society
• Rage, uncontrolled anger, seeking revenge
• Engaging in reckless or risky behaviors, seemingly without thinking
• Dramatic mood changes.
Last week I wrote about my friend and my concerns for her health and possible risk of suicide. After writing my column, I made the call to the sheriff in North Carolina. I waited too long. Officers broke into her house and found her dead on the dining room floor. She had been there an estimated three weeks, passing away the day after Christmas.
Reading my friend’s death certificate I was first taken back when I read, “Cause of death — complications due to alcoholism.”
In reality she was gone for years. In this case, I believe alcoholism was a slow form of suicide.
As an alcoholic, I knew I had a problem. Inwardly I suppose most of us have that understanding. Fortunately I decided, as difficult as it was, that I had to quit drinking completely. It isn’t easy, and it’s nearly impossible to convince another individual that they have a problem worthy of intervention.
If you don’t have a drinking issue you may not understand. When I woke up in the morning feeling horrible, I would say to myself, “I’m taking a break,” and by the end of the day I’d decide to have just one and be back at it.
Like suicide, loved ones left in the wake of alcoholism have similar scars. I felt guilt, shame and a terrible hole in my soul. We don’t like to talk about our demons so we don’t. And the patterns continue.
At the Post Independent we believe telling stories such as mine could help others and possibly even help save a life. Some say I write too openly of my personal life. And I agree, although I think it is important for humans to help each other by sharing.
My friend I wrote about last week was my former wife, Bonnie. I apologize if I offend family or friends by telling my story. Admittedly this is a cathartic exercise for myself, but I also know from feedback I have received from previous personal columns that my transparent writings have helped others. That is my ultimate goal.
As I stared at the stain from her body and some of her hair left where she had laid, it was a horrific site. I began to ask what if…?
Living with an alcoholic is not easy. One moment I was with a sober woman and we were madly in love. The next moment I was with an angry person who despised me through no fault of my own. For years I believed I deserved the anger thrust at me and hung in there with the hope that she would quit drinking. Like the cancer she fought a few years back, try as I might, I was not able to affect Bonnie’s alcoholism.
We were married for better than 22 years and knew each other for better than 30. Bonnie was the love of my life, my soul mate.
I believe I could have saved her life if I tolerated the alcoholism. And no matter what anyone tells me or I tell myself, I will always live with that thought. Yes, I have already forgiven myself but the image and the questions remain.
There are so many important life lessons most of us never learn until we are in the moment of the experience. My personal list includes: how to be a good husband and a good parent, dealing with aging parents, what is alcoholism? And then what do you do for yourself and how to live with an alcoholic, and most recently how to cope with the death of a spouse.
Human beings are far more understanding and forgiving than we realize. The support I have received from friends, family and strangers has been almost overwhelming but welcomed and appreciated. Thank you.
Depression, alcoholism and abuse of other drugs are challenges for far too many people. They can lead to suicide or a related death. What do you do about it? When do you take action? For many like myself, those are difficult questions. Few who have already gone through the experience wish to discuss the subject, although if they do it helps others.
Our community has plenty of resources that can help. Rather than try to push an individual to change his or her habits, I suggest you seek help and guidance for yourself. There are counselors and nonprofits whose sole purpose is to help those in need. Seek help for yourself first before you try to take action on behalf of a friend or relative who appears to be facing a crisis.
If I had followed my newly learned advice, most likely Bonnie would still be on this earth. She would have been extremely unhappy with me, although at the same time she would have had another shot of turning her life around.
In the case of Bonnie, I don’t get a second chance to help.
Michael Bennett is publisher of the Post Independent.
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