Hollow. So spiritually empty inside that I was hollow. I couldn‘t drink enough, sex enough, gamble enough, or degrade myself enough to fill the void. So hollow it ached.
Over the two decades that I drank it progressed from a vague unrest to an inner void so pronounced that I was an existential vacuum sucking the joy out of even once pleasurable pursuits. I was spiritually bare–often running away from home because I was restless and discontent, only to find myself spending restless, discontent nights in cookie-cutter hotel rooms.
There was a sense of separation from everyone in my life and a sense of alienation from a Power greater than myself that resulted in full-time despair. As the drinking progressed, each day was dimmer and darker than the last. Despite the downward spiral caused by my abuse of alcohol, the pain associated with my empty spirit was so deep that anesthetizing with liquor seemed the only option. I was an unwitting convert to nihilism–life was without meaning, purpose or value.
My friend alcohol–-Iethal but enticing–was, in actuality, an insidious enemy masquerading as my chum. Daily I’d turned to the bottle to fill the emptiness of spirit. Fueled by alcohol, my spirit would temporarily surge-I was Lazarus back from the dead. But invariable the false, liquid vitality would malinger–no real life would be sparked.
When the shrieking pain of existence echoes around an empty soul, living isn’t so appealing. I wanted to die, but I was at a loss as to how to approach this undertaking. There were a few fragments of humanity in my shattered mind that made suicide problematic. What would my two daughters think? Would they be scarred? My two stepsons seemed to enjoy having me around. Would my self-inflicted demise set them off on the wrong track?
So I plotted.
I had to make it appear that it wasn‘t a deliberate act. A car wreck perhaps? Damn those ever increasing safety ratings. I‘d probably just end up crippled but alive–a black-eye from an air bag deployment and a lifetime in a wheelchair. That wouldn‘t do.
So I did what I always did. I drank. I numbed out watching TV. I existed without actually living.
Who says TV isn‘t educational. I found my way out in the form of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. It had been around since 2000, but I was slow on the uptake. It was 2004. I needed to die.
A particular storyline caught my eye. A man was found dead in a park. Shot to the head. No gun. No witnesses. Who dunnit? Turns out the victim did himself in.
He had bought a small, light-weight handgun and tied it to a ribbon dangling from a couple of large helium-filled balloons. He did the deal and the evidence floated off. It appeared to be a homicide. It would have been the perfect exit .The insurance policy would have paid off.
Just one glitch. The gun was found by a small boy when it dropped to earth miles away. And being a boy he discharged the weapon and caused enough of a stir to get the CSls involved. Silly boy.
Fat chance of that happening in real life. I lived in the desert after all. All I‘d need to do was make sure I had a favorable wind and the gun would head off into the vast nothingness of the Southwest. The magic of TV has provided me with the perfect exit.
Only one snag. Try as I might, 1 couldn’t muster the false courage needed to pull the trigger. I attempted dry runs with a handgun I had at home. Even though I knew the chambers were empty, I was unnerved trying to pull the trigger with the firearm pointed at my head.
So I continued plotting. I bought three seasons of CSI on DVD and studied.
Poison. Myriad episodes dealt with poisons. That I could carry out. If there is one thing an alcoholic can do is gulp down something the body wants to reject.
So what was my poison? Anti-freeze? Seemed like you had to ingest a lot. How could 1 make that look like someone was poisoning me? There were the kids to think about after all. Tragic, but not self-inflected. That is what I was going for.
Ricin? I found the recipe online. It said a dose the size of a few grains of table salt could drop a full-grown human. I could make it look like I was a victim of a terrorist plot. But then I studied the recipe closer. There were more than a few steps. Hadn’t I struggled in high school chemistry? When everyone else’s test tube turned blue, wasn’t mine pink? Odds were not good that I could pull this off.
I needed a poison that could be introduced in a small enough amount that I could make it look like I had the misfortune of grabbing a maliciously-laced Big Gulp cup. But I needed a toxin that required no technical skills on my part.
I found an episode where the corpse‘s breath smelled faintly of almonds. The CSI rightly identified the culprit as cyanide purchased off the Internet. I had found my answer.
After a few days of contemplation I got good and drunk and set my plan in motion. Doing a little drunken web surfing I found that cyanide was used in mining. Armed with this knowledge I went shopping on the web looking to score some lethal powder. If questioned, I was a gold mining enthusiast looking for that elusive precious metal in deserts of Arizona.
As luck would have it I found a website that sold small bottles of cyanide, no questions asked. I ordered and waited. In three to five days (I was too cheap to spring for the expedited shipping) my purchase arrived. Hurriedly I unboxed my purchase, eyed the bottle and then examined the enclosed Material Safety Data Sheet.
Scanning past information on the product’s melting point, storage guidelines and spill-handling procedures I got to the section on health effects. I was crestfallen. Mine was not a toxic form of cyanide.
No wonder it was so easy to purchase. Cyanide was just part of the name of a compound that boasted a side effect, if consumed, of pronounced loosening of the stool—diarrhea not death.
I was none to unfamiliar with loose stools. Ingesting vast amounts of grain alcohol produced that effect with some regularity. I had often experienced a butt crack rubbed raw by too many wipings, but I had never known it to be lethal.
Had I done a little poking around on the source of all knowable knowledge known as Wikipedia I would have learned that potassium cyanide or sodium cyanide are the two most lethal solid compound forms of cyanide. But alas, I wasn‘t Wikipedia-savvy in 2004. The site was only three years old ... who knows if it even had entries suitable for the terminally suicidal yet.
I was at a loss. Determine to die but armed only with the capacity to crap my pants. What’s a suicidal alcoholic to do? I buried the bottle at the bottom of the trash, lest the prying eyes of my wife spot it, and went back to my CSI DVDs.
More ideas were found but my will to actually take action waning. The roller coaster of upward anticipation of release from this mortal coil followed by the crashing let down that accompanied my cyanide purchase left me listless. I was too depressed to die. Two more years went by and I settled on uninspired thought to drink myself to death.
Fortunately my weekend attempt at death by alcohol resulted in bloody morning pukes and a seat in the rooms of recovery. It has been eight plus years since I wanted to drink and/or die.
Having put my suicidal past behind me through Twelve Step recovery I am sadly amused by those well-intentioned, but oft misguided, addiction counselors who stress the importance of thinking of drugs and alcohol like a poison. Do they think they can scare people sober? If, when I am spiritually unfit, there are times when I wish to cease to exist, where is the deterrent in labeling drugs and alcohol a poison?
The beauty and simplicity of Twelve Step recovery is that it teaches a way of living that is, well, worth living. I blog frequently about the spiritual side of recovery. Having lived too many years spiritually hollow there is a reason for that; nurturing my spirit, my soul if you will, has proven the one effective means to fill a formerly hollow soul.
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