I recently got some bad news that a friend of mine from recovery suddenly passed away. He was only 32 years old. As these dark pandemic days drag on, I felt I needed to write this post to process my emotions.
I’m not sure if my friend committed suicide, and I don’t plan on prying to find out if he did. But he did attempt suicide in the past. As someone who struggles with suicidal ideations, the news of his passing hit me hard.
News of suicides and overdoses are fairly common in the recovery community. I don’t think this means the community is failing its members; I think it more so highlights the challenges we face. I can think of two other people I knew who ended their lives within the past few years.
For some people I know, there’s a sad resignation about it. The common refrain is that recovery is hard, and we’re bound to lose friends along the way. I understand this thinking, but I suppose I’m too emotional of a person to accept this at face value. I’d rather fully grieve the losses.
I’ve written on the blog before about suicide prevention and the saying, which I love, that it’s a permanent solution to a temporary problem. By saying this, I don’t mean to imply the people who follow through with their plans are lesser beings. I say it more to soothe myself and perhaps prevent myself from ever doing it.
I can’t imagine the mental and emotional pain my friends were in to do it, though I have an idea of what it’s like. In my darkest moments, I do have thoughts of suicide. For whatever reason, I usually have enough belief in the goodness of life to keep on going.
My Catholic upbringing may be a part of this. I was raised to think of suicide as a sin, almost akin to murder. I was raised to believe that those who take their lives automatically go to Hell.
I don’t really think this is true. If someone is in such immense pain that they take their own lives, I believe God would certainly forgive them. I’m also not even sure of things like the existence of God, the afterlife, or Hell.
This is a rambling post, and I apologize for that. Hearing of my friend’s death hit me hard. Combined with the turmoil in the world right now, it was easy to fall into dark and negative thoughts.
Even though things are rough now, I believe we must hang on to whatever hope and joy we can find. I’m still finding things to be grateful for, little things that keep me going each day, like discovering new music, our pets, walks in our new neighborhood, and having a creative outlet.
Hold on to hope
In a post about suicide, I felt it would be good to pass on some more professional advice from reputable sources, as well.
For one thing, suicidal thoughts and ideations don’t make someone weak or a bad person. As many as one in six people become seriously suicidal at some point in their life, according to an article by Western Michigan University. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S.
I found this passage from Western Michigan University’s Suicide Prevention Program to be particularly powerful:
“Job loss, financial problems, loss of important people in our lives—all such stressful events can seem catastrophic at the time they are happening. Then, months or years later, they usually look smaller and more manageable. Sometimes, imagining ourselves “five years down the road” can help us to see that a problem that currently seems catastrophic will pass and that we will survive. Reach out for help during these moments to start your healing.”
This reminds me of the affirmation that I love and use a lot: You Owe it To Your Future Self. Right now, the world appears to be in chaos, along with whatever personal problems people may be bearing. But we really don’t know what the future holds. It could be better, not worse, than we expect.
I’m writing this post partly for selfish reasons – to process my own pain and confusion. But I also hope this can resonate with someone else. If you’re feeling hopeless, I included some links to good suicide prevention resources below. And please, don’t give up.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (the national suicide prevention lifeline phone number in the U.S. is 1-800-273-8255)
CDC Suicide Prevention resources
Seeking Help if You Are Contemplating Suicide (from Western Michigan University)
(Photo by Faris Mohammed on Unsplash)