Here’s What I Learned in the Midst of My Suicide Attempt

Before 9/11, life was a sinking ship. I lacked purpose, direction, the confidence to feel things were going to get better. When 9/11 happened, the Marines gave me a sense of being and purpose. I was now a Marine, fighting for revenge on behalf of a nation.

At 20, I signed a Power of Attorney and made a will. Preparing for death through paperwork is quite sobering. When we are young, death seems so far away. We don’t think about 401k’s, corporate benefits. We’re thinking about traveling the world and taking risks. When you’re young in the Marines, you are trained from the first day that death is creeping in. It’s always creeping in. It has to be on top of your mind. You have to prepare for it like you would anything else and when I had to decide who was getting my few prized belongings like my Xbox and Sony Boombox, the outcome that I may die over there was more of a reality than the reality of making it back home.

I was quite comfortable with dying in war.

At the time, I wished I had died in Iraq.

It would have been a noble way to go out, to be remembered and honored.

Secretly, I wasn’t comfortable with surviving war and starting a new life. The thought of having to figure out what was next scared the shit out of me and that fear drove me to become incredibly reckless before I deployed to Iraq. I’d thrown everything I had into a short life that ended in war. My weekends were filled with being drunk all the time, spending every last dollar on bar tabs, fast food at 2:00AM and at hitting on women at the bars. A couple times I had found that I spend my whole paycheck and more while in a drunken stupor at a place called Big Daddy’s. When that happened, it struck me with instant anxiety that I had to wait two more paychecks just to get out of the hole but I’d get over it. I wasn’t going to come home anyway.

At least I thought so.

Thing is, I did survive war. I survived it twice. Full of IED’s, close encounters that created endless anxiety of waiting for your death and hyper-vigilance that never shut off, I made it home and was completely unprepared. I felt guilty that I was alive, with nothing in my name but a old Volkswagen Passat and a couch to sleep on back at my parents house. Deep down, I was envious of my friends and others that didn’t make it home. They didn’t have to figure out what was next for them. They didn’t have to plan for the future. They no longer had to endure the struggle and grind of life and yet, here I was staring at the ceiling on my mom’s couch wondering what the hell was I going to do with no money and no plan for the future.

The secret guilt of still being alive stayed with me throughout college. It ate at me. Nothing in college felt remotely close to the military, to the purpose of the war and the gaping hole of what to do next grew wider. I started to drink heavily my freshman year and struggled with alcohol for years after that. Pot became a nice addition with alcohol and it added a sweet relief of euphoria that washed over me with every inhale. When I was drinking and smoking, I didn’t have to deal with the world. I didn’t have to think about life. Couple those two with some pills and I had quite the cocktail for numbing my existence. 8 years ago, the daily additions drove me to thoughts of suicide and one day in December, I decided that life was too hard to bare and what was the point.

Being alone, with a knife in your hand, in the kitchen you once played in with your little brother while your mom made dinner, you think of the times that were tough and you think of the times that brought you joy. Your life flashes before you. I realized during that dark hour that this is not how I wanted things to end. This is not how I wanted to be remembered and that making it home from war was a blessing in disguise that I didn’t see until the end of my life.

This became my dark secret until now. I want to share this with you because life is complicated, hard and often, a constant struggle. But that doesn’t mean you have to do it alone. No one should do life alone. There are too many people that care in the world. I learned that the hard way and the ego, the pride, the guilt, all of the negative feelings almost robbed me of a life worth living. It took me years to come to terms and I cannot thank those people, those closest to me who helped me because they cared and wanted me to live life.

From my darkest times to the mountain top moments, here’s what I learned at the end of life.

It’s never too late to give a s**t

I feared death when I went to war. I feared death when I was in college. I fear death now. I fear death because death signals the end of time. I want to have more of it.

I wish I wouldn’t have wasted time with substance abuse and sitting on my mom’s couch but now is not the time to wish or regret. Now is the time to take the time I have and use it wisely, to make up for lost time in depression and focus on bettering myself and others lives. I do give a s**t. I give a s**t more now than ever and it’s because I know what it was like to not give anything at all.

Life is worth the memories

My friend’s grandfather told me a couple years ago that if you live long enough, all you’ll have is memories. You’ll remember the pain, the pleasures and things you got to do when you were young. You’ll also remember that the best ones are the ones where you feared the moment and overcame it. I want memories because I hope now more than ever, I’ll be able to live long enough to sit and enjoy them despite how painful some of them will be.

Mortality is the motivator

I’ve believe life to be long yet fragile. At any point, it can end. That stays in my head everyday now. Some of you may think that’s crazy to have death be top of mind. You may be right but what I find useful about thinking about the fragility of life is that it keeps things in perspective. It helps me remember to take things less personal, to be less offended and make the most of every situation.

Learn in the valley so you can climb to the mountain top

Pastor Oswald Chambers mentions that we find God not during our mountain top moments but rather in the day-to-day drudgery. It is then that we find help, we find our limits and what we are capable of becoming. Often going through our valley of death results in tumultuous events that yield prosperous growth.

Struggle is beautiful. We need it more than anything. Our lives can’t be free of struggle or challenge otherwise we would never learn about ourselves. And that is what I found in the darkest of times.

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