November 23, 2013 is International Survivors of Suicide Day. Designed for those who have lost loved ones to suicide, this day provides opportunities to connect with others who share the experience. You can read more about it at http://www.afsp.org/survivorday. I am a survivor of suicide - however, not in the context of losing a loved one in this way. I am a survivor in the sense that I survived a failed attempt at my own suicide.
In November of 1999, I experienced great personal loss through a divorce which separated me from my children and resulted in the end of a career. The pain I experienced cannot be adequately described in words. Already dealing with severe depression, the events of that month dealt a crushing blow. I can honestly say the combination of the depression and the excruciating sense of loss I experienced resulted in some very faulty thinking and reasoning on my part.
I came to believe it was in the best interest of my estranged family to die - I thought it would ease their feelings and the insurance money would be of some help. I also came to believe that it was only through death I had any hope of escaping the pain I felt.
I overdosed on sleeping pills and alcohol. Through a series of miscalculations on my part, I did wake up the next day. I had more pills which I was attempting to take when police and paramedics arrived at my hotel room.
After being released from the hospital, I spent ten days at a mental health facility where through medication and therapy they treated my depression. Even though the pain of loss still clung to me, the fog which had corrupted my thinking had been lifted enough to allow me to see my situation in a different light. Though very dim, there was a glimmer of hope which enabled me to face each day - one at a time.
I did discover, for instance, that I was not alone. I had many friends who in one way or another sought to help me through this difficult time of my life. One couple, to whom I can never adequately express my appreciation, is Don and Tacille Rumfelt who graciously opened their home and allowed me to live with them for several weeks - including making me feel as much a part of their family as possible during the Christmas holidays. Tim Stiffler was also another friend who helped me find my way back from despair.
I began a new - though short lived - career in January. I went to school to obtain a CDL license then drove a semi-truck for the next 10 months. During my time on the road, I met the most wonderful woman I have ever known over the internet. We began corresponding via email in May, met face to face for the first time the last week-end in July and married in November. Lisa is not only my business partner and wife - she is indeed my very best friend.
When I reflect over the past several years, I realize how much I would have missed out on had my suicide attempt been successful. In November of 1999 I truly believed I would never be happy again. Now, in November of 2013, I realize many of my greatest moments of happiness have occurred during the last 13 years. I have had the opportunity to reconcile with my two sons and to gain a third through marriage. I was there to see my oldest son step off the plane after returning from his first deployment to Iraq during the war. I have three absolutely adorable grandchildren - including one just born 8 days ago and two beautiful daughters in law. Though not a daughter, I do have a remarkable young woman, Andrea, who Lisa and I often refer to as our adopted daughter, and her boyfriend Justin who are a very special part of our lives. And, of course, I have a loving wife who brings a smile to my face each and every day.
When I think of all the things I would have missed if my life had ended in that hotel room 14 years ago, I can only pause and express my gratitude to God that I failed. I am a suicide survivor and I know from firsthand experience that suicide was not the right decision.