Dealing with addiction is difficult enough without having to face the reality of suicide. According to a 2013 Center for Disease Control report, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States, with over 40,000 people dying each year by suicide. To wrap our minds around this is overwhelming, and confronting an individual on the topic is uncomfortable, to say the least.
Sadly, many doctors are inadequately trained to look for suicidal tendencies or how to treat patients struggling with suicidal thoughts. Since suicide is a difficult topic to address in general and thoughts who are contemplating suicide are often hesitant to express their desire to anyone, the end result is that no help is asked for or offered.
My Addiction Story
So why do addicts consider suicide a viable option? To answer this, I will share a personal experience.
Ten years ago, I was completely unable to control my addiction to narcotic pain meds and was forced to enter a treatment program. After 5 months, I completed the program and started living a program of recovery. However, 10 months later, I relapsed and had to enter treatment again. This cycle continued for me for the next 3 years.
Each time I re-entered treatment, I remember that I felt like a complete failure. I kept wondering to myself, What did I miss? How come I can't stay sober? What's wrong with me? I felt undeserving of love, trust and hope. Without any of that, what was left for me but death? When our world starts to shrink, it’s easy to think that our only option is to end it all.
I vividly recall my first AA meeting where I heard the words: "Those who do not recover are people who cannot or will not completely give themselves to this simple program, usually men and women who are constitutionally incapable of being honest with themselves. There are such unfortunates. They are not at fault; they seem to have been born that way." I immediately thought to myself, Am I one of those who do not recover? Is there something wrong with me that prevents me from living a life of recovery? If so, then what's the point of trying? What's the point of continuing this life of addiction?
Lessons From AA
I believe that the wisdom of AA or NA is essential to my outlook. If I consider my recovery in terms of a life-long reality, it's easy to fall into a state of despair. However, when I consider my recovery in terms of a day-by-day, hour-by-hour, minute-by-minute process, it begins to be more feasible. Like cancer, addiction is a disease that has no cure but only a remission. Each moment of every day we choose to either live in recovery or addiction.
The truth is, I cannot promise you that I will be sober next week or even tomorrow. I can only hope, pray and work to maintain my sobriety in this moment. Looking forward to the future regarding recovery is futile—I cannot promise you anything there. This is what the 12-step program means by "Just for Today." There is much wisdom in this idea.
Suicide may seem like the best or only option in our recovery, but it does not have to be that way. There are so many people who are living a life of recovery that are happy, content and fulfilled. This life is possible for each and every one of us. If we're willing to live life "just for today" in recovery and seek out others who do the same, we can find a life of recovery, happiness and fulfillment.
Every day I have a choice of ending my life or living life to its fullest. I can choose to end my life of misery or choose to live a life of recovery—a life filled with promise, truth, hope and self-love.