Hey everyone! Below is a post I just received from a reader. I’m putting it on the front page because I’m not sure everyone knows they can read posts from readers under each of my entries. This one might get your attention. It got mine.
Alex, I will shoot you a private email.
I’ve been reading your blog, and I am impressed with your brutal honesty and candid approach to telling your story. It would be easy for me to use an old cliche and say that everyone should read your story, and I believe that everyone should; however, I will refrain from repeating this cliche in favor of saying: everyone and anyone who wants to utter an opinion about alcoholism and alcoholics should read not only your story, but many more. Yours is an important one, its relevant, and insightful.
In 1993, I lost a friend and colleague to alcoholism. He committed suicide. Several years before, when I was new at my job, another colleague, Mark, pointed out to me that Dave was an alcoholic, and when he said that, I turned my head to look over at Dave’s desk. There sat Dave intensely staring at his desk, chewing gum, trying not to look at anybody. It was the body language of paranoia. To me, Dave was too self conscious about his alcoholism. He was beyond denial, if he was ever there, and like you Jen, Dave didn’t want to be an alcoholic. I watched Dave for a few seconds and said, “you know Mark, Dave’s a candidate for suicide.” Mark and I looked at each other, and we didn’t have anything else to say. It was not that I was prescient, or that I had some expertise on the matter. Rather, it was that from his posture, from his body language, I perceived a man in torment. In my own ignorance I thought that it would have been better for him to be in denial.
I got to know Dave over the ensuing four years, and when he wasn’t inebriated and paranoid, he was a great conversationalist, a great father, a great human being, and a horrible employee. In 1990, I bought a puppy, a beagle I named Kuki. Dave was “Johnny-on-the-spot” with a book about dogs. He even offered to lend me his dog crate so I could train my new puppy, and he gave me tons of advice. I bring that up because that was Dave at his best. He was like that about everything. I’ve never met anyone who could discuss politics the way Dave could–articulate, non-offending, and agreeably disagreeable. Dave was also all about his little daughter, who was a soccer star, and I heard many tales about her playing and the team she was on.
We had many jokes between us, and there was one line from a joke he told, which I’ve long forgotten, which we morphed into a one liner we repeated quite often when ever it seemed to fit the current situation, “A man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do.” To this day, I am haunted by these words.
There was one thing Dave could not do because of his alcoholism; he could not be a good employee. I’m sure there were other things in his life he could not do, but this is the one we could all see. One incompetent supervisor tried to deal with the symptoms rather than with the disease and placed him on probation and implemented monitoring techniques. None of it worked, but soon thereafter, he was transferred to another unit, and his new supervisor got him into a treatment center.
Dave came back and told people that the treatment center had been difficult, the most difficult thing he had ever done, and he never wanted to do it again. On January 14, 1993, I was awoken by the telephone ringing. It was my dear friend Brian. “Alex, they found Dave.” I was puzzled because I didn’t even know that Dave needed to be found. “What do you mean they found Dave?”
“Yeah, they found him at a rest stop next to his car. He put a bullet to his head, and he left a note behind.”
I got up from bed and grabbed Kuki, and went for a walk. I had nothing to say. It was one of those void moments in life where you sense the hopelessness of a situation, and you have nothing to offer except grief.
I found out later that Dave’s farewell note included the words, “A man’s gotta do, what a man’s gotta do.” I was deeply hurt and remorseful.
I thought long and hard about what I might have said or done to keep Dave from taking his life, and to tell you the truth, to this day, I still don’t know. But there is one thing I wish I could have made him understand, and that is that his life was important to us, and that we preferred our lives with him in it than without him, even if he remained an alcoholic. When he fell off the wagon, he lost all sense of worth, and he felt that by suicide, he was doing everyone a favor. He was wrong.
Jen, in the eighteen years since Dave took his life, I’ve never taken the time to collect my thoughts about him, and reading your blog made me realize that it was time for me to say a little something on his behalf.
Dave, you should never have left us, and I’m sorry I didn’t do anything to help you.