Six years ago, I got a job as a personal assistant to a restaurant/bar owner, who had two very important rules, don’t date his employees and don’t date his friends (I realize now those are weird and inappropriate boundaries to set for someone you just hired). Unfortunately for my new boss, I was in a rebellious early 20’s phase, which meant every day was opposite day, so I heard “do” instead of “don’t”.
Fast forward, two weeks later, and I am crushing HARD on the bar manager, who also happens to be my boss’ roommate. Whoops.
One night, my boss asked me to stay late and help close down the bar. I jumped at the chance to spend some extra time with my new crush. We ended up staying at the bar, drinking and talking and “working” until 4am. When we realized how late it was, he walked me to my car and gave me the most memorable first kiss I’ve ever had. Needless to say, I was smitten after that.
The relationship developed the way most LA flings do and fizzled out, the way most LA flings do, and then went back-and-forth for a few months, the way most LA flings do. Even though we clearly were not meant to be, I held onto hope for a while because, well, I loved the guy.
I lost any and all of that hope on this day, five years ago when I got a call telling me he was “gone”. The first thing I asked was, “Where did he go?”. I didn’t get it. My brain physically could not comprehend the information it was being given. He was, what? Dead? He did what? Wait, suicide? “But, I talked to him two days ago.”, I told my friend on the other line before my legs gave out and I dropped my phone as I fell to the ground.
I’ve carried a lot of regret around for the last five years. I wish I would’ve told him how I really felt. I wish I hadn’t been such a bitch when he reached out before he died. I wish I could’ve helped him. I wish… I wish…. I wish….
I bring this up now, today, not only because it’s the five year anniversary, but also because last year, something happened that made me understand this tragedy more, and I think I’m ready to talk about it.
I’ve written a lot about anxiety and depression and how sobriety effects those things, and I’ve written about my own struggles with all of the above, to an extent. What I haven’t written about is how dark it got.
Last year, a little over half-way through my year of sobriety, I considered suicide. I held a bottle of prescription pills in my hand, opened the lid, and stared down at twenty capsules, wondering if it was enough to get the job done. When I realized what I was about to do and heard the thoughts I was having, I called my sister. She was at a concert with some friends, but came rushing over to sit with me while I sobbed.
“I think I kind of understand how [he] felt”, I remember telling my sister.
Of course, we have no way of really knowing how anyone thinks or feels right before they take their own life, and it would be unfair of us to assume we do. But, for the first time, I could understand the darkness and the desperate need for relief.
I think that night, I got really lucky. I was lucky to have someone I could call who I trusted and who I knew would help me. And I was lucky that I was sober.
That sounds a bit contradictory seeing as how my sobriety started it all and sent me into a tailspin of depression and anxiety, I know, but I also know that had I been under the influence with those dark and twisty thoughts, I wouldn’t have had that moment of clarity to call and ask for help.
Alcohol and drugs do not lend a helpful hand when you are struggling. We all know this. We’ve seen the PSA’s and sat through the D.A.R.E. classes. We’ve come down from a night of hard partying, only to completely despise ourselves. These substances may seem like they’re making it better in the moment, but they aren’t. Period. In fact, it’s making it all worse.
If you’re struggling, reach out and speak up. It’s easier said than done, but do it anyways, because it does get better.
I wish I could have told him that.