A Dance With the Devil


The air was crisp and leaves were falling; changing into orange and yellow ornaments as their life expired. I envied them as they floated down and rested peacefully on the ground below. I wanted to feel their serenity; that I finally don’t have to fight anymore; that my battle is over – I’ve flown the white flag and I’m off to a better place. It was as if I was in a dreamlike state, and these thoughts continued to fill my head as I took gulp after gulp from the bottle of Grey Goose I had just stolen from my parent’s house. In reality, this, on top of the bottle of Xanax I had eaten, was brewing up quite the recipe for disaster – because in my distorted state of mind,  I was manifesting the courage to join the tranquility of the leaves.

It was 5am the following day when I came to.  My head was throbbing and showcased a deep, bloody wound; my hands were cut up and virtually unusable without intense pain – the rest of my body scraped and bruised, like I had been a gladiator who just fought in the great colosseum.  I was wearing a hospital gown and feeling very confused when a nurse walked over and asked me how I was doing.  My only response was, “how did I get here, what happened?”  She hesitantly and briefly explained to me what had transpired and welcomed me to the Psych Ward at Riverview Medical Center in Red Bank, NJ.

The rest of the story of how I ended up there I cannot easily recall myself and I can mostly describe what took place based on what was told to me from third parties involved. Although, over the years since this event took place, certain memories have surfaced and I can put together bits and pieces of what happened. It went something like this.

I hopped out of the car and placed my work badge on the hood in my drunken and drug fueled stupor. I assume I did this so they would be able to at least identify my body. I left the driver door open with keys still in the ignition. I was at the park where I had spent a lot of my childhood playing tennis, basketball and fishing off the dock. I could vividly remember what it felt like back then; to have no worries; no stress; no responsibilities. Life was simple – now it was complicated. I had recently married a girl I had only known for a matter of months and became a husband and father virtually overnight. I was young and newly exposed to the world of recovery where I was warned not to make any major life changes within the first year of sobriety. I did not take that suggestion and in hindsight, I can see why I probably should have.

Stretched across the river was a bridge for the NJ Transit train crossing – I perceived that bridge as my out; my ticket to the other side – freedom at last. As it was told to me, I made goodbye phone calls to my boss at work and my father. By the time I talked to my dad, I was standing on the bridge staring down the oncoming train. Horns and whistles were blowing as the conductors pleaded for me to remove myself from the tracks; my father hearing everything that was transpiring as I was saying goodbye incoherently. The train was within yards of me now and there was one last attempt at blasting the horn as my phone simultaneously cut out into silence. In that moment my dad believed he had lost his first born son – and there was nothing he could do about it. After that, time seemed to proceed in slow motion as the whole experience continued to unfold.

I had moved myself onto the other track where trains traveled in the opposite direction and I can still remember the feeling and sheer force of its might speeding past me; a foot away from my body. It was intense, yet liberating – I was actually feeling something. As the train continued past and sped off out of view, I walked to the edge of the bridge and peered down at the water and rocks below. I looked up at the sky one last time before letting go – a type of freedom I had never experienced before – a split second of, “It’s finally over”. About halfway down my mind went dark; I don’t remember hitting the bottom or being rescued and dragged out of the marsh by a co-worker who was in the area. I don’t remember the blood streaming down my face or the EMT’s desperately trying to get me in the ambulance. I don’t recall the ride to the hospital, trying to fight security guards, or the belief that I had demons living in my head. I don’t recall being pinned down into a four-point restraint and sedated to stop my out-of-control behavior. I came to at 5am – that’s what I remember.

So how did I get in this mess? I had reached a point where I felt cornered, trapped, and saw no other way out. My disease of addiction; my depression; my anxiety – they had all become stronger than my desire to keep living; to keep fighting or breathing oxygen into my lungs. I had succumbed to my tunnel vision and the idea that it would never get better; I was completely out of options. Yet, in all reality, I did have options – I simply chose not to acknowledge them. I desired the easy way out, surrender; to give up, but it wasn’t my time yet – I still had unfinished business.

5 Things I Didn’t Consider in My Time of Despair:

  1. Making mistakes and enduring failure is inevitable – everybody fails because nobody is perfect.  It’s how we react to our failures that determines our perspective.  Learn from it, don’t repeat it, and move on.  Leave the past in the past.  Every time you fail, you have discovered a new way that something doesn’t work – and it means you are trying which says somewhere inside; you still have hope-and hope is all you need.
  2. Remember that feelings of discomfort, awkwardness and the slew of other emotions we go through are only temporary; they don’t last forever and life will go on.  See the bigger picture, the positive aspects of the seemingly difficult situations we deal with.  For example, I had no idea how to be a dad, yet I had instantly become one.  I was scared that I would mess up or not be good enough.  But what I didn’t see was that his biological father wanted no part of the situation at all and I had the opportunity to give this little boy a dad that he otherwise might not have had.  Today, I’m grateful and privileged to be a part of his life.
  3. Negative emotions will produce negative outcomes and positive emotions will yield positive outcomes.  Get up and do something productive – it will get you out of your head and give you a sense of accomplishment.  Change your way of thinking; if you tell yourself you can’t do it, then you won’t be able to do it.  If you tell yourself you CAN do it, then you can do anything you set your mind to –  it’s the self-fulfilling prophecy effect and it’s never too late.  You need to persevere and follow through with what you’ve started.  No giving up.
  4. Stop worrying about the things that are out of your control.  There is literally nothing you can do about it.  There will always be people and situations that we have no control over so take a deep breath and say the Serenity Prayer to yourself, “God, grant me the serenity, to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”  It’s simple, yet helpful if you understand and apply it to your life.
  5. If you even sense the tiniest bit of hope inside, you can climb out of any hole or any pit, no matter how deep, and work towards giving yourself a happy and fulfilling life.  I believe we are here for a reason and we should enjoy the pursuit of our purpose – not dwell in what “could have” or “should have” been.

Ending my life was not the answer to my insecurities, my fears, or the responsibilities that come with being an adult.  It would have been selfish should I have been successful in my attempt and I would have affected the lives of my family, friends, and colleagues forever – just as anybody who carries out the act of suicide does.  Today, I have a daughter because I survived this ordeal, who otherwise would not exist in my life or the lives of the families that love her.  My step-son still has a dad that loves him and will be there for him through and through.  My mom and dad still have their son and my brother still has his brother.  I didn’t consider the possibilities of the future because I was so stuck in my selfishness and self-pity; I couldn’t even humble myself enough to enjoy or see what I had right in front of me.  I wasn’t seeing the ride for what it was and I could only notice the negative side in everything.  There will be bad days of course, but bad day’s end and new day’s begin – and with every new day there is new opportunity.   There is nothing that can’t be fixed or made better in our lives if we work for it, granted we embrace some open-mindedness and willingness to catapult ourselves to heights we never thought we’d see or believed were possible.

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