Archive for May, 2012

Thinking about suicide? Let me give you a few pointers:

Tuesday, May 1st, 2012

Click here for audio version of this article

I promise that this won’t be some depressing, morbid article. But if you are considering suicide, give it 30 days and make some plans.

I’ve heard from a lot of people who quit drinking, doing drugs, or were trying to quit, talk about committing suicide. I was one of them. But I took it seriously – I planned it out and didn’t talk to anyone about it until the day before it was schedule.

Scheduled? How do you schedule a suicide? Let me share some details.

I had been sober for a little over 4 years. The first two years of sobriety was the worst time in my life. The third year wasn’t much better. The fourth year I began making some dramatic progress with my physical health, my mental health and my financial health. However, I was tired. I wasn’t seeing any more progress coming into my life. I had lost a lot of my friends – some due to death and some due to my own sobriety. I had worked so hard at rebuilding my life and I was simply tired. I couldn’t see anything exciting or enjoyable to come in my future.

During the four years of my sobriety I had gotten to know a lot of people through my website and my writing. As I talked with many of them they told me stories of their child’s, sibling’s or spouse’s suicide. I would ask, “How did it make YOU feel?” Naturally, they had multiple feelings, but many felt betrayed and angry. Betrayed by the person who left them with a mess to clean up (financial and legal), angry that the person left them with more burdens than while they were alive. They were also sad, sad that the person was gone, but sadder for the children, friends and family that were left to deal with the aftermath, the unanswered questions.

Those stories made me realize how selfish suicide is. I felt that if I was going to commit suicide I didn’t want to burden my family and friends with MY mess – the bills, accounting, cleaning and purging of my home, the legal hassles. That wouldn’t leave a good memory of me. They would hate me even more for what I did.

I had contemplated suicide during the first three years of sobriety, but I didn’t want to lose. I wanted to prove to people that I could stay sober, rebuild my life and become a productive person. I had done that and now I was tired. I was ready, it was time to go. I realized, “Hey, I’m serious about this.” I began to think about the feelings of OTHERS. I wondered why I felt suicide was an option. Was I blaming someone else for my sadness? If so, who and why? Was this some twisted way of me “getting even” with someone? And if I am blaming another person, how can I let that person have so much control over me?

The more I thought about these questions the more I thought about other people. I wanted to make sure that no one felt guilt or responsibility. I wanted to make certain that I was doing this for my own reasons and not as a result of someone else. I also realized that I needed far more time to handle all preparations.

So I spent the months of November and December cleaning my house. Purging and throwing out old junk. I donated a lot of clothes that I was no longer wearing. I paid off all of my big bills. I compiled a report with all important bank and credit account numbers with telephone contact numbers (to close accounts after I was gone). I made sure that I had my beneficiaries updated on my life insurance policy, with copies of policies and contact telephone numbers. I had my attorney draft up a will distributing all of my tangible possessions. All bank accounts and financial accounts were setup to be P.O.D. (Payable On Death), or T.O.D. (Transfer On Death).

I detailed out all directives for the transfer and handling of my business. I also had directions for what type of funeral party I wanted and what I wanted done with my body. I made sure that all paperwork was correct and prepared. I then took a large sealed envelope over to my sister and told her, “I’m going to be doing some traveling, so this is just in case something happens. It doesn’t get opened unless I die.” We had a laugh and then talked about normal stuff.

I knew exactly how, where and what day I would finish. Once again I took others into consideration. I didn’t want to leave an icky mess or make a mistake and not complete my project. I had no intention of drinking or using drugs prior. I wanted toxicology or any autopsy (if performed), to show that my system was clean. I had full faculty and clarity of what I was doing.

Once all preparations were handled, I invited a business colleague over to my house for dinner on Friday night. (That Sunday evening was my scheduled completion date.) I made it clear that I wanted to discuss a very serious matter. I said, “I would like you to review some plans that I’m making and see if you can spot any holes or flaws in my line of thinking.”

The conversation was lighthearted and very businesslike. I explained that I wasn’t fishing for sympathy or attention. “I know how to get attention if I want it.” My colleague knows me and understood that my plans were highly calculated. She didn’t try to talk me out of it. What she did do was exactly what I had asked: She saw some holes in my line of thinking. She presented some ideas for me to implement, which I hadn’t considered, and suggested that I work on these ideas for 30 days. If after 30 days I saw no progress and still felt the same way, she agreed to do my eulogy. We then had dinner.

I took notes during our conversation and agreed to implement some of her suggestions beginning that Monday morning. Ironically, there was an unopened envelope on my kitchen table from Barnes & Noble. I hadn’t opened it because I had dealt with enough rejection over the past few years. I didn’t open the letter all weekend because I wanted to stay focused on positive planning for the next 30 days.

That Monday morning arrived and I decided to start with opening the “rejection letter.” That letter was not a rejection letter – it was a letter of intent with an order to purchase my book! Two pieces of paper changed how I felt about myself. For 4 years I felt worthless, unloved and unlovable. During those 4 years I had the love and support of MY family. I had the love and support of old friends and words of appreciation from new friends. Yet I still felt useless and worthless until one piece of outside recognition came my way.

What an awful disservice I had almost committed to the many others who genuinely care about me. I hold them in higher appreciation now because they cared about me before I received that piece of outside recognition.

So here I am, still alive and I’m writing this blog. Three of my books are in Barnes & Noble stores, on Amazon.com, on Nook and Kindle and through other sources. The Audiobooks are on iTunes and numerous other outlets. My work and views on sobriety are of interest to people all over the United States and internationally. I have made a lot of progress in making the best out of my sobriety.

Here’s what I learned: Suicide is very selfish and it leaves a mess for those you leave behind. I didn’t want to burden others with a mess, so I organized my life and wanted to make my departure less of a problem for those who would be stuck taking care of the aftermath. This required me to think about OTHER PEOPLE.

The recounting of my entire life: My accomplishments, my failures, my material belongings, my behaviors, my memories, my goals, my relationships and my thoughts were all part of my suicide planning. It always brought me back to taking OTHER PEOPLE into consideration. The organizing of my debts, assets and legal documentation always required me to think about OTHER PEOPLE.

To me, my life didn’t seem worth living but through this process I realized that my life was worth living for others. My life means something to other people. I will not selfishly take that away from them, regardless of how I might ever feel about myself. I live sober and healthy FOR others, but I receive the benefits.

If you are serious about suicide, or even if you’ve simply talked about it, give yourself at least 30 days. During those 30 days, think about how your suicide will affect others. Think about how you want to be remembered. Go over your finances and your belongings. Think about how you must organize areas of your life so you don’t leave others with a messy burden to clean up after you’re gone. Think about other people.

Your life may not seem valuable to you, but it’s probably invaluable to many others. Before you do harm to yourself, even if it’s just taking that next drink, line, hit or bump, think of others.

Appreciation of the NOW:

Tuesday, May 1st, 2012

Click here for audio version of this article

I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase: “Life is a journey not a destination.” Yeah, well that sounds great but it’s not always fun when the destination is hell and you’re riding in the middle seat on a bus that smells like B.O. But I understand the thought process behind the statement. I’ve been guilty of not enjoying the journey.

It’s not always easy to enjoy the journey and see the good at the NOW point. I spent a lot of my life waiting. Waiting for this to happen or waiting for that to happen,,, then I’ll be happy,,, then I’ll start working out,,, then I’ll look for a new job,,, then I’ll start my own business,,, then I’ll write a book,,, then I’ll quit drinking,,, then I’ll be happy…

While all that waiting was going on, life was still going on and I was still actively doing something, but I failed to taste and enjoy all that I was in the midst of doing. And on those rare occasions when the “now I’ll be happy” arrived, the moments of joy were short-lived because I celebrated by getting drunk and then waiting for the next “then I’ll be happy.”

When I say “enjoy the journey and appreciate the NOW” I’m not inferring that all activities and processes will be pleasurable. There are times when the destination is better than the journey, but I go back to appreciating the NOW. Once you’ve arrived at your “destination” – enjoy it.

What does this have to do with living sober? I was so busy being miserable during my first year of sobriety that I forgot that I was alive. The second and third year of sobriety weren’t much better. Oh sure, there were moments of happiness, but they were few and far between. I kept focusing on the calendar: “I’ll be happy when I’m sober for a year, 2 years, no, at 3 years I’ll be happy…” I forgot to enjoy being sober NOW.

In reflection I feel as if I wasted three years of my sobriety waiting for that “magic day” to arrive. The time has been spent, I wasted it by not fully enjoying the journey of learning, expanding, growing stronger and making the best out of my sobriety. True, money wasn’t wasted on getting wasted, drama and bullshit were eliminated, my health improved, but I neglected to emotionally enjoy those things while they were going on. By not feeling the emotions I was denying myself the opportunity to appreciate the NOW when it was happening.

Enough preachy shit Mark, give an example of the NOW process. Let’s say your destination is: “I want to get a new car.” Well the journey of researching cars, looking at cars, test-driving cars, working and saving for a new car can be more fun than the car itself. If you’re solely fixated on the car and only the car, the experience of everything else will be missed. And if you impulsively “gotta have that car” you might be stuck with payments that you can’t afford for the next four years and you’ll be regretting your decision.

So this means: “Take your time, enjoy the journey. Enjoy the process and appreciate what you do have and what you can afford.” Absolutely strive for more, but stuff is just stuff along the journey.

Now at this point you might be saying, “Fuck you Mark. You’ve got a big fancy motor coach and you travel around the country and act cool.” I wouldn’t blame you for saying that, however you don’t know the whole story. You may not realize what I was willing to go without, how much planning and work I put into getting myself into this position. Nobody just came along and gave it to me. In fact, many people wanted to take things away from me. And now, some even try to undermine my sobriety because I don’t follow their religion. And some people won’t want you to enjoy your NOW.

As long as you’ve made the decision to live sober you might as well make the best out of it and appreciate the NOW and not be too fixated on some magical destination. The challenges and the struggles of life are part of the journey. Of course we would all like life to flow along seamless and without problems, but that’s not reality.

So what do I do to appreciate the NOW? I’m mindful of my situations. I might not like certain conditions, the way things are, what is or has transpired, or the spot I’m in. But I ask myself: “How can I make the best out of it?” This isn’t some silly “put on a smiley face” bullshit. Some things totally suck. But I’m here, life is happening to me NOW, so I better do something with it.

Learning to appreciate the NOW allows me to be happier in life. I accept the lows and the struggles for what they are. I can address my problems with a better attitude. I’m not delusional, I know things won’t always (if ever), turn out perfectly as planned. But I feel as if I have more say in the matter – regardless of whether it’s a good or bad outcome.

Here’s what I reflect on:

  • What have I learned?
  • What did I experience?
  • Am I missing living NOW because I’m waiting to live LATER?
  • Am I expecting more than I have put in?
  • Am I missing being grateful for what I have NOW?
  • Am I feeling like I deserve more than I have earned?
  • What’s been my role in all that I’ve experienced?
  • Am I so busy wanting and waiting that I’m forgetting the doing?

By having a higher appreciation of the NOW, I can be happier with what I currently have or the way things currently are. This also gives me more clarity towards what I want. I can better define what I don’t like, what I do want and then determine if there is anything that I can do about it. And if I can do something about it, what am I going to do?

Look, I’m not one of those annoyingly bubbly, overly happy people – but I’m not a total pessimist either.  I know that some things can royally suck, but I can make a concerted effort to appreciate what I do have, to enjoy the journey and experience the NOW.

If you’re going to live sober, enjoy it NOW. Don’t wait for sobriety to magically bring something to you on some certain date in the future; YOU have to make the best out of your sobriety NOW. So please do me a favor and go enjoy your life.