The Greatest Gift

During the summer of 1989,  just out of High School, I spent three weeks in the USSR. The above picture is a note my mother hid in my luggage that I found while on the trip

March 12, 2006 was the darkest among many dark days for me.  Later it would be defined as the catalyst that led to my shift or sometimes referred to as a moment of clarity.

It was the day I left behind my perception of the world and my place in it. After a failed marriage, a job I resented, and a friend who had recently passed away, I was depressed and overwhelmed with life. From a loft apartment in downtown Kansas City I would make my final stand. With money in the bank and a liquor store three blocks away, I was in heaven, and hell. This is how I remember those last few days.

Eight hundred pounds, my body, my soul, weighs eight hundred pounds. For days, I have been laying here on this futon, alone in this loft, too weak to walk or eat much. The booze has stopped working. The empty bottles are a reminder of what is left of my soul, emptiness. Every warm drop of life sucked out of them. I remember hearing that personal hygiene is one of the first things to go as we totally lose control and go insane. For the last few days, I have forced myself to crawl the twenty feet to the bathtub. Not any more, I don’t care. My fingernails are long, I used to hate that.

There is a pipe running through my loft about ten feet from the floor. The paint is chipped and peeling. The smooth outer shell that once hid its cold hard underneath, enabling it to blend in with its surroundings, is falling away. In the corner, a half-built entertainment center, my 32″ Hi-Def TV sits on the floor. Next to it, a pair of Monster Cables, I will use those to hang myself from the pipe. How fitting to kill the monster I have become inside. It’s going to be epic; my story will touch the lives of others and give them the strength I lack. Maybe I should get a video camera and film my own demise… I’ll be famous. Who am I kidding, I’m too weak to even walk two blocks to the liquor store and my car has two flat tires and tags that have been expired for a year and half. I would never make it.

Strewn about the loft is evidence of my last days here. Several dozen empty vodka bottles—more hidden in the empty cabinets—as many empty beer bottles, a pile of unpaid bills, dirty clothes, sunflower seeds, and one of those single sandwich grills where I cook frozen hamburger patties to force-feed myself. A blanket covers the window, making it hard to distinguish night from day. Paranoia insisted I cover the peephole in the door and pillows line the small closet where I spend most daylight hours in case someone tries to enter. On the street below, iron sheets cover holes in the street—unfinished work to be done. Cars passing randomly, “thump-thump,” add to my paranoia. Was someone knocking? From my latest count, there are 530 bricks along the north wall. That can’t be right, it’s a big wall. I loose concentration. I am going crazy.

Growing up my mother would say, “The greatest gift a child can give is that their parents they outlive.” She hasn’t come to see me. My father came last week to see how I was doing. He left with tears in his eyes when I told him everything was going to be OK, his response, “its not OK son.” My parents live about an hour away. For my father to come to the “big city” says a lot. I don’t think he has ever been here before. I wonder how he found me. A cousin of mine came by too, as well as some friends; I sent them all away. Even the police responding to a call about my well-being; the a-holes thought I was on meth—geesh, can’t they tell a drunk and crazy man when they see one? As with everyone, I sent them away, “I’m fine.” But not before thanking them and telling them everything was going to be OK, that this was my decision and I’m OK with it. I was concerned for their conscience, that it be void of any regrets that they didn’t try something. Although my mother hasn’t come, she’s been praying for me. I know her. She knows there’s nothing she can do for me but pray. I did promise her that I would call everyday to let her know I’m OK. The calls stopped but I try to send an email each day. The days have run together so I’m not sure when the last email was sent. The voice mail on my cell phone is full. It hurts too much to listen to the messages.

My sister hasn’t come by anymore either, although I have talked to her on the phone, I think. Or was that an email? She does not feel sorry for me, and I know she is not coming to save me this time. She told me so the last time we had contact. “I don’t feel sorry for you and I won’t come save you, but if you choose ‘life’, call me and I’ll be there.”

I have a niece; she must be almost seven months old now. I wonder what her face looks like. I bet she smells of life, innocence, happiness and freedom. I wish I were innocent. I was not there when she was born. I was isolating in another place away from her world. The only place I have ever really known, and really hate. I hate that this place of isolation has become more comfortable than failing as the person I want to be. I treat loneliness with isolation, I am sick. I wanted to be a good uncle, a great uncle. I always had the best of intentions and always wanted to be there for my family and my ex-wife. She let me go; she knew I was sick.

About a week ago I tied a belt around a vertical pipe that runs from the floor to the ceiling along the West wall. I know people in jail use belts to hang themselves. I look at it again, knowing I’m too weak to stand on anything or reach the pipe overhead to use the Monster Cables. STOP, just stop. My head will not stop playing the images of the man I never was and have always wanted to be. That man is too far now—unreachable. I want to die. The prayers of getting robbed and shot on the way to the liquor store didn’t work. Sleeping under the bridge to attract a would-be killer didn’t work. The prayers of getting cancer so I can die with some dignity didn’t work. Alcohol isn’t working now either, causing my entire body to wretch in convulsion as it touches my lips. My mouth tastes like metal, cold iron.

War Games; my mind is eating itself again. Global Thermal Nuclear War or Checkers, life with or without alcohol; regardless it’s still got “me” in it and there’s no way to win at this game. I just want it to stop, the regret, the guilt, the loneliness—me. I wish my head would stop spinning with thoughts and images folding in on themselves. Liquor, work, anything used to stop the brain eating, not anymore. Now what? I have two choices, kill myself, or try life again. Killing me would be easy, I hope. Living is hard, I know.

I hear my mother, “the greatest gift a child can give is that their parents they outlive.” Does my phone still work? I tried using it a few days ago to order some food, but I couldn’t dial, my brain refused to stop eating itself long enough to put the numbers in the right sequence. I want to die, I’m so so tired. I’m just tired. My mother… God what I’ve put her through.

Speed dial, my sister is number 1 on speed dial; she’s a few miles away. I hit the number 1 on my cell phone, she answers, and I say “I’m at that point. I can’t do it anymore. Come get me.”

I chose life.

Eight hundred pounds. My sister helps me carry my eight hundred pound soul out of the loft. She sits next to me all night as I lay in her stepson’s bed. I tell her I don’t love myself. She tells me she does. That she can love me enough until I can love myself. She sits with me with her hand on my forehead; I feel a hundred pounds lift. The DT’s and night terrors start. I concentrate on the toddler clothes hanging in the closet. I notice the little hangers holding little clothes that keep little bodies warm. The bedroom smells of children—life, innocence, happiness and freedom. God what I wouldn’t give to be that innocent again

The next day my sister drives me to a treatment center I’ve visited before. I love these people, they never gave up on me. I’m scared but I chose life. Seven hundred pounds, my soul weighs seven hundred pounds.

Since that day, I have awakened each day and chosen life. I pray each morning when I wake and again at night before going to bed. Each day I concentrate on three things: trust God, clean house (morally), and help others. Today I am closer to being the man I always thought I could be. My soul has been lifted from a weight that once pulled me to the depths of hell to one of lofty spirit. And for that I am grateful. But that’s just today and tomorrow I start all over. And for that too I am grateful.

Click here to listen to a song I wrote about the experience.

Comments

  1. Chad Prigmore says

    Right on Jared!

    I’ve been doing this for a long time, and that is the best story I can remember reading! You really understand what sobriety is about, and you remember the horror of the last days – never forget that horror and fear, they turn to strength over time.

    Great job!

    • Jared says

      @Chad,
      Thanks for your generous comment. It’s appreciated.

      I agree, fear only lasts for so long, it is then I have to rely on something greater than myself (strength from a higher power). Sharing my story is one way of helping me remember.

      Amazing, at a noon meeting yesterday our meeting leader led off the meeting with the following paragraph from Step 6 in the 12 x 12,

      “When men and women pour so much alcohol into themselves that they destroy their lives, they commit a most unnatural act. Defying their instinctive desire for self-preservation, they seem bent upon self-destruction. They work against their own deepest instinct. As they are humbled by the terrific beating administered by alcohol, the grace of God can enter them and expel their obsession. Here their powerful instinct to live can cooperate fully with their Creator’s desire to give them new life. For nature and God alike abhor suicide.”
      - Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions

      That one paragraph takes me back to this time in my life more than any other. A God wink ;-)

  2. Molly B says

    Jared -
    You are an inspiration to us all. Your attitude and spirit humble me every day. Thanks for letting me in.

  3. Patricia - Spiritual Journey Of A Lighworker says

    Jared, Congratulations on your three years of sobriety. I don’t have the experience of drinking or doing drugs but I know the effects that alcoholism had on me from growing up with the family disease of alcoholism. I am an adult child of an alcoholic. I have quite a few friends who are active in A.A. so I am familiar with the program.

    I went to Al-Anon and Adult Children of Alcoholics meetings for 10 years and then took a 10 year break from meetings. A little over a year ago, a friend asked me to go to some Al-Anon meetings with her.

    Years ago I went to all the open A. A. meetings I could find as a way of getting to know me better. I don’t drink but I have some of the characteristics of an alcoholic. As an adult, I took on traits of my alcoholic father and grandfather and also some traits of my co-dependent mother.

    Learning to live and to feel was the best thing that came out of my recovery work. Like you, I learned that sharing my story with others was one way that I could give back to others. Thank you for sharing the story. I was deeply touched by your pain and sense of hopelessness. It is a blessing to know that neither of us has to live that way today.

    I came here from Albert’s blog and the comments that you have been leaving. Thanks for sharing your wisdom there too.
    Patricia

    • Jared says

      @Patricia
      Thanks for stopping by and the kind comments. I look forward to learning more about you on your blog as well.

  4. Joe Taylor says

    Jared, every time that I read one of your writings it AMAZES me. You Sir, are truly talented. I hope that God has given you strength and courage to share your story with others. Do you remember in HS when they would have Options and Answers day? I remember the speakers most of all. I think that your story would really help people. God bless you and congrats on three years. My Dad celebrated 28 years in October. His bottom was a 100 year old oak tree.

  5. Nicole M says

    Jared, thanks for sharing this. It touches lives and does help others to know there are others out there that have been through similiar situations.
    May God Richly Bless You.

  6. ~ Julie says

    Jared,

    You had this experience because you were intended to come through it and inspire others and you are doing exactly that! Your parents and sister were a big part of that as well, they knew how to be there for you, but also when they had to leave it up to you. You went to the depths of pain before allowing yourself to awaken and you can help a greater number of people due to that. Luckily though, we don’t all have to suffer to that degree in order to awaken. I feel that you will help many to find the freedom you have found without having to hit bottom first. That is a true blessing.
    Namasté

  7. Lisis says

    Jared… what a beautiful, touching story. I am SO glad you chose life. Although I haven’t had to deal with alcoholism much in my life (except for one ex-boyfriend many moons ago) I have experienced my fair share of hopelessness and despair… both in friends and myself. I really get it when you wrote, “I want to die, I’m so so tired. I’m just tired.” I’ve known that feeling.

    I guess you and I both were meant to feel the depths of despair so that we may empathize with others and act with compassion.

    Thank you, for sharing this.

    • Jared says

      @Lisis,
      Thanks for stopping by and your comments. Well said about empathizing and acting with compassion.

  8. mk says

    Hello Jared,

    You wrote:

    “I hate that this place of isolation has become more comfortable than failing as the person I want to be.”

    And my response:

    WOW! I have been sober now for just over 9 months and I am starting to feel myself naturally come out of my alcoholic isolation. I am craving life and I am awkwardly making my way toward it. That one statement that you wrote above really spoke to me because it took me back to my bottom and helped me be grateful for where I find myself today – thanks for sharing.

    You also wrote:

    “Each day I concentrate on three things: trust God, clean house (morally), and help others.”

    Thanks for sharing the simplicity that recovery can/should be. As I am a newbie in recovery, forgetting that (the simplicity) of it all, is my number one offense and I always feel better when I keep that close.

    mk

    • Jared says

      mk,
      Congrats on your 9 months! That’s awesome! I have a friend in recovery that no matter how long you have, he always says, “that’s a critical time.” ;-)

      I’m sure you’ve heard the saying that alcoholics treat loneliness with isolation.

      It is a simple program, but we often make it more difficult. Like worrying about our 5th step when we’re on 3 or 4, worrying about step 9 when we’re on 7. I find it best to simply concentrate on where I’m at today, and to remember that I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be.

      Thanks for sharing!

  9. gerlach says

    we will know a New Freedom and a New Happiness, We will not regret the past or wish to shut the door on it. We will comprehend the
    word Serenity and we Will know Peace. Your story is so familiar. Grace…..Keep showing up my friend. The journey that you have impart upon is a ride you don’t want to miss. Congratulation’s.
    I just celebrated 24 years Jan 3rd.
    Tommyg

  10. ally says

    Hi Jared,

    I came across your blog because of the tiny buddha website.

    I’ve already felt what you’ve felt — you wanted to die and tried praying that you die soon. I still feel the same way sometimes. I’ve also tried to escape my problems through drinking alcohol but I’ve never really been alcoholic…or maybe I did, but it’s not like I can’t live w/o it.

    I just want to know as how you found God. How would you know if he really is listening or not? My problems may seem shallow compared to others but I don’t feel that’s he’s really listening to me.

    I’ve also tried diverting my attention and tried my best to find my happiness elsewhere but I still end up feeling empty. :(

    I hope you’ll share with me on how and why you decided to choose life…and how you found God.

    Thank you.

    • Jared says

      Ally,
      That’s a great question; how I chose life and found God. Quite simply I just asked for help and had the willingness to do whatever was suggested. The key is that I had to find something to live for; at my bottom it was real simple, I realized I didn’t really want to die and thought about my mother and sister. Yet the decision was still not that easy because I knew how hard it was going to be to get better as I had tried before.

      The most important thing I learned is that I don’t have to do it alone. There are people out there who can help and I just have to be diligent enough to find where I fit in.

      It’s like when we say we want to stop drinking but are we “really” willing to go to any length? Deep inside we may not be ready to stop yet although we’re miserable. We set ourselves up for failure and sabotage ourselves as we may feel deep inside we’re not worth of true happiness. When I was at my bottom and made that tough decision to live, I knew I was willing to do anything, no matter what the cost or how hard it would be. Regardless of whether our not you may be alcoholic, I still believe there are three important ingredients to finding freedom and happiness; honesty, willingness, and open mindedness.

      I hope you find what you’re looking for and I will do anything I can to help.

      Jared

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