I am in a bit of shock I think. I didn’t cry when I received the news. I sat on the couch. The TV was still blaring but I heard nothing. I had fallen into an abyss. A friend of mine, though one that had become distant, hung himself. I saw him every Thursday night at our Depression in Sobriety meeting for nearly 2 years. I had gone over to his house to watch the warriors win the championship, met his wife, played with his dogs. I shared intimate stories of pain and strife surrounding bipolar disorder. He never once judged me. He always gave me a hug at the end of the meeting.
He had 30 plus years of sobriety. I am just coming up on 3. He had sponsored many a man, shared his experience strength and hope. When I knew him, he was not sponsoring. He was barely going to meetings. He felt misunderstood. He felt judged. His hands tremored severely from the medications. If he didn’t clasp one hand in the other, it would shake uncontrollably. But, he always said he felt safe in our meeting. We were a cozy group of 4 typically. The realities of what it was like to live with depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder spilled out onto the floor. We didn’t try to clean it up, or make it look pretty. We just sat with each other. Listened. Empathized.
It was always said in these rooms it didn’t matter how much sobriety you had on the books. Mental Illness doesn’t discriminate. These men I shared space with thought they had already let it all out. They had worked the steps numerous times in their 20-30+ years. They got down on their hands and knees. They told their sponsors deep dark secrets that pulled at the very core of their being. They told truths of neglect and abuse in their younger days. It’s almost backwards, as one gains more time sober it can cause more depression, more anxiety, more emotional pain. My friend’s pink cloud has long evaporated.
I’m sure I drank for many of the same reasons they did, just in my own time. The truths that I brought to the table were always welcome. Or, if I needed to sit silent and not share, that was okay too. It was a pretty sacred space we created. The words and sentiments expressed among the four of us could never be spoken at a traditional AA meeting. My thoughts of suicide or the fears of the devil never fell on deaf ears. I was never told to go back and read the big book. My emotions were held in the circle for as long as I needed them to be.
I think my friend really started to feel defeated. He was no longer able to do many things that made him feel productive and full of worth. He couldn’t work anymore, which was a source of pride for him. In his mind, his memory was failing him. He couldn’t read. He couldn’t remember directions. The tremors from medications was an embarrassment and reminder of where he was. I don’t think he had faith he was going to get any better. What an intolerable place to be. I have been there. I have been at the bridge, I have overdosed. When that darkness stays just one minute too long and shades our thought process, there seems to be only one option.
Our dear friend took the option he thought best to remedy his pain and sorrow. I can picture him at his home watching the warriors surrounded by his wife and dogs. That was the most joy I had seen in him for a while. He was animated and yelling at the tv screen. He was able to laugh that night. I think he also felt surrounded by friends. This is how I will remember him. I honor his struggle. I hope he can now find peace.