Welcome to our next ‘campfire’ story.
The Campfire for the Heart project is a collection of true, international stories of human resilience. Although every story is unique, they all highlight our ability to adapt positively to bad experiences and showcase our indomitable human spirit.
If you have a resilience story to share, or know someone who does, please contact Natalie Stockdale through www.stockdalewellbeing.com.
“I know this is not a temporary recovery phase.
I’ve chosen LIFE!”
My story is not exceptional or extraordinary. I’m a mature man who’s been a husband, a father, a self-employed, financially secure businessman. I’ve suffered from depression, alcoholism and have been on the brink of suicide. I’m now living with passionate purpose and can tell you what worked for me.
About 15 years ago, my ‘normal’ world turned upside down when my wife suddenly left me, taking our three children with her. The sun that had normally risen in the east, suddenly rose in the west. I was grief-stricken, lost, disorientated and deeply lonely.
My self-esteem plummeted. I thought I must have been unworthy of my wife, my family. I turned to alcohol to numb my pain. Firstly, in small doses then, incrementally, more and more.
Alcoholism is an insidious addiction. It creeps up in a devious and subtle way. As my dependence on alcohol increased, my work performance and business declined and the downward journey began. I knew I was on a slippery slide, but my emotional pain, my depression was hard to bear. It was the easiest way to get through each day.
At the time, I also thought I needed to be in a relationship to complete my life. I had a succession of unsuccessful relationships and growing financial pressures. I began selling off some of my belongings to make my mortgage payments, which reinforced my feeling of failure and unworthiness.
COVID struck and I suddenly had no income, no way out. I didn’t want to wake up in the morning. A giant hand was inside my chest crushing me. I had no purpose, no point to continue. Simple tasks like having a shower or changing the sheets seemed like mountains.
One day I went for a ride on my motorcycle trying to relax. As I rode along, my sub-conscious began scanning for a hard target to ride into. A car or truck was not an option as I didn’t want to harm anyone else. I just wanted the pain to go away. Had I found a concrete wall that day, I wouldn’t be here now.
Suicide had become a reality. Then I started thinking about my kids and the effect my suicide would have on them. Initially, I thought they would cope. Then I found an article about parental suicide and the lifelong trauma it can have on children. Bugga, I thought, I don’t want to leave them that legacy. Suicide was no longer my preferred route. While my own pain would end, I’d be causing a lifetime of pain for them- which for me, was not acceptable. My love for my children trumped my desperate desire to escape the pain.
I went to my GP who recommended a free drug and alcohol rehabilitation centre at a public hospital. The intake psychologist there said, “Would you like last night’s drink to be your last?”
It was a surprising, pivotal and ‘now, or never’ moment. I took a leap of faith and agreed to commit to the program. With the aid of professional counselling, medications and injections of nutritional supplements, the detox stage was made easier. My anxiety was dissolved. I could live with myself again. The rehab program was a critical part of my recovery. It was a central part of a puzzle that I’d been trying, up until then, and failing to put together.
With the love of my children and the wonderful rehab program motivating me, I decided it was time to ‘get out of this shit’, to take responsibility and find other solutions. I realised that I’m worth saving. I shifted my attitude of unworthiness to worthiness. Nathaniel’s Branden’s book, 6 Pillars of Self-Esteem helped me to to accept myself and, dare I say it, to love myself.
Now I’m a different man. My mojo is back stronger than ever. From my heart, I can say that I’ve shifted from the brink of suicide to feeling happy, confident and highly purposeful. My friends are amazed at the change in me. I know this is not a temporary recovery phase. It’s permanent. I’ve chosen LIFE!
There was no singular solution to my current wellbeing. It was like unlocking a combination, solving a puzzle, joining the dots. After years of effort, it all just fell into place.
Once my self-esteem was on the rise, I made more effort to care for myself. I exercise and meditate more regularly. I eat more nutritious food and spend time with close friends fishing or motorcycling. For the first time, I’ve lost my need for a partner. For now, that void is filled by my newfound love of myself.
I would not have been able to be where I am today without the support of men’s groups. I became involved with Mens Wellbeing, a wonderful community of “men supporting men”. We meet with vulnerability and honesty and go deep within ourselves. For men, this can be very hard. A lot of us were taught not be vulnerable, not to cry. Our meetings are nourishing, renewing and juice for my soul.
There are much better ways to deal with pain than alcohol and suicide. Life will get better if you believe it’s possible. For me, it did not matter how miniscule that possibility was. Hang on to the tiniest thread of possibility and reach out for help. The path to a happier life may be closer than imagined and illuminated by the most unexpected sources.