Avoiding the temptation to choose a permanent solution
By Steve Wildsmith | (firstname.lastname@example.org)
The first time a friend of mine killed himself was shortly after we parted ways after graduating college.
Mahlon was a guy who never stopped laughing. That’s what I remember most: a mane of wild hair bouncing from constant laughter that rang out across the newsroom of our college newspaper.
When I was living in a halfway house a decade ago, another close friend tried to end his own life. He was a part of the community of men living together at the E.M. Jellinek Center in North Knoxville, and as he fought for his life in the hospital following an overdose attempt, many of us sat around the back porch, asking ourselves what we could have done.
I remember well what my old house manager, Billy Joe, said: “Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.”
I’ve thought a lot about those words in the days since the apparent suicide of country star Mindy McCready, who was found last weekend, dead from what appears to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Her death didn’t come as a total surprise; anyone who grapples with addiction to the degree that she did contemplates it. The literature of the 12-Step program to which I belong talks about how we reach a point in our addiction where we’re too tired to keep living, but too scared to die. For some addicts like myself, an attempt to end it is often a half-hearted one: an intentional overdose, a slash across the wrists, a trifling effort that injures our dignity more than anything else.
Sometimes, though, the pain becomes too great, and the misery outgrows whatever fear we may have of leaving it all behind. Mindy McCready, apparently, found herself in such a place. And even though I didn’t know her and was never really a fan of her music, I’m still filled with a certain amount of sadness, because it didn’t have to end that way.
Anyone who’s ever walked in darkness and stood on the edge of the abyss, looking down into the yawning maw of forever and feeling the cool rush of nothing, can truly understand what the temptation to end it all is like. The consequences of our actions overwhelm us, and it seems easier to throw ourselves over that edge than to turn and face them. Even more insidiously is the whisper of addiction and/or mental illness in the back of our heads: “This is how it’s always going to be. This is how you’re always going to feel.”
That, of course, is a lie. Everything changes. The only constant in life is change, and no matter what our situations may be or how dire our circumstances become or how low we feel we’ve sunken, time and work can change all of it.
But standing there on the edge, the effort it will take to make those changes seems inconceivable.
Mindy McCready, apparently, thought so. And so she chose to take that leap. I only wish my old friend Billy Joe or someone else like him had been there to tell her exactly what he told me all those years ago.
The problems life throws our way are temporary, as are the situations in which we find ourselves because of decisions we’ve made. Addiction and alcoholism can wreck our lives and the lives of those around us, and they can usher in storm clouds of doubt and self-hate and suffering that cloud our outlook and our judgment.
But that’s all they are: clouds. And like all storm clouds, they’ll eventually pass. If we have the willingness to just hang on, and to do the footwork necessary to right our ship and repair the damage we’ve caused, then the sun will emerge.
It takes time and effort, but if we have our lives, then we have the ability to do the work and the time it takes to do it. We need not choose a permanent solution to temporary problems, because the storms will eventually end and the sun will shine again in our lives.
As long as we live, there is hope. That is truth. That is reality, not the whispers of our broken and sick minds.
Steve Wildsmith is a recovering addict and the Weekend editor for The Daily Times. Contact him at (email@example.com) or at 981-1144.