No, I’m not killing myself. I already did that. I’m telling this story with the hope that it may help people navigate through the darkest emotions and come out on the other side a better person for having gone through them. I want to tell of people, tactics, and mindsets that brought me back to the surface and have been driving me ever since. I want to share joy and enrichment. I’m certainly not always happy, but I’ve learned to savor joy and appreciation. Because of my second chance, I feel it’s my duty to be the way I am and to try to help.
There I was, splayed out on the grass in my tan cargo shorts and t-shirt, cuffed and blinded by a policeman’s flashlight. Squinting, my first memory was being told that I “had fucked up now” and my “life was going to be way harder”. Both of which turned out to be true.
For months I had been doing a lot of cocaine, smoking weed, and popping pain pills. In 2004 I had dropped out of college already, been working in the service industry, losing 45lbs of muscle, and not giving a fuck about much other than how I was going to pay my bills or get annihilated. I didn’t think anything about how my actions affected people around me, their thoughts or emotions, or consequences for actions. For whatever reason, I was stuck in my head; escaping my thoughts, emotions, and responsibilities. The changes in my life seemed overwhelming and I didn’t want to deal with them. I was not willing to step up to the plate and own them, so I fell into a self-medicative state. Hah, if that’s what you can call it. Maybe if I had kept track of how drugs were affecting me – what was good and bad. Was it helping me? No, I just bumbled about and lost my mind. Seriously. Lost my mind.
In the fall of that year, I had bought a dose and a half of peyote. 300 years ago a dose would last 3 days, and I can only imagine the effects now. On a Friday night, my roommates and I sat around in our dingy living room drinking beer while discussing the party we were going to host the next night. I stood up and exclaimed that I was going to go on a journey with the peyote and they watched me pour the dust into a pitcher of kool-aid and chug the mixture. I don’t know how long they sat with me, but I had stopped drinking and started to mind melt.
I sat on the couch for an hour smoking camel wides before the effects of the cactus started to kick in. At first, it was subtle but similar to mescaline, in that it dried out my joints causing some intense leg pain. I was used to it because I had taken peyote derivative (mescaline) quite a few times before, but the tell-tale sign of puking right before going into the abyss didn’t happen. So, I was taken aback by getting right into the trip after the leg cramps.
The walls became black. A green laser-looking grid encompassed my vision, and nothing in front of me was visible – no couches, tables, chairs, people (if they were there), cigs…anything. Just black and a green laser grid. Eventually, indistinguishable faces, dragon heads, and human hands started to poke through the grid; all deforming and contorting the grid. Everything was black, but the grid became the objects. I wasn’t scared but was left in a state of awe. This continued for the entire night. I have no idea how long I sat there in my comfy jacket, but I distinctly remember that I felt like I had chosen to stop my heart, and thought I died. I fell asleep.
When I woke on Saturday, sitting in the same place I started my journey, I noticed that I wasn’t dead. Neat! lol. It was time to get ready for the party, and I felt like nothing had happened the night before. So, I put some booger sugar up my nose, smoked some weed, and cracked a cold one with the boys.
We had a huge party and everyone got after it with hardy intent. During the party, an ex-girlfriend came and we went off into the woods to talk. We had a crazy history, but she told me that she wanted to hang out the next day and that she was house-sitting at her uncle’s.
I called her a few times that Sunday and never got a response. So, in my peyote remnant brain, I figured it was a good idea to go to her uncle’s house and surprise her. Even crazier, I thought it was a good idea to use my own house key on her uncle’s front door. Her car was there, but she didn’t answer, so I let myself in. Old house keys. I walked upstairs and heard her on the phone, “Jason is here. I’m scared and I don’t know what to do.” Fuck! I’m fucked up.
So I walked downstairs, grabbed the house phone, walked back up to the bedroom door where she was and called 911. I told them I didn’t know what the address was but I needed help and said it loudly enough for her to hear. I said goodbye to the ex, put the phone back, and locked the front door behind me on my way to sitting on the curb – waiting for the police.
When the boys showed up, they didn’t know what to do, so they put me in a cruiser uncuffed, and walked into the house to see what was up. Several minutes passed, and the girl’s mom arrived. Ten minutes after that, the officer came out. He pulled me out of the car, cuffed me, and told me I was going to be charged with a felony.
I was wrecked. Lost. Embarrassed. Nothing. I already felt dead inside, and this was destroying whatever was left. I had reached out to the police for help and I was getting charged with a felony. I couldn’t understand reality. I was a failure, a horrible family member, scum, the worst friend, stupid. I hated everything about myself, the situation, and people around me. I hated the police. I hated life and whatever was to come.
By this time, there were 5 squad cars lighting up the culdesac. The officers were milling about my car, looking to see if I had done anything to the house, and talking to the residents. I was quietly crying in the back of the squad car while the officer was in front filling out paperwork. With tears streaming down my face, I reached my monkey arms underneath me, pulled my legs through the hoop, and kept my arms in front. I was ready. I was convinced that I was more of a burden to anyone around me than I would ever be a blessing. The world would be a better place without me.
With the officer still in the front of the car, I untied my left gray Saucony and pulled the lace off. Being an Eagle Scout gave me the skill to tie the string around the handcuffs and tie a noose. As soon as the officer got out to talk with the others, I threw the noose over my head, secured it to my neck, said goodbye, and reached my leg up to push the cuffs away from me – tightening the noose. Black.
I didn’t know that you can’t kill yourself by suffocation (because you pass out and go limp before you die). – A rare opportunity to be thankful for ignorance – When I woke up on the ground there were already 2 ambulances there, I was coughing, and my throat burned like the sun. I was back. After the police roughed me up a little for making their lives a bit harder, they cuffed me to an ambulance bed and carted me to the hospital. I stayed there for about a week and then spent a few days at the jail on suicide watch.
My roommate at the hospital shat himself twice daily. There were multiple people that arrived OD’d on heroin that, if they recovered, walked around like zombies afterward. Classes throughout the day, constant monitoring, and forced medications were the norm. The hospital staff was concerned about my heart because of my low bpm. It was not uncommon for me to be in the mid 40’s bpm because of all the sports I used to play, but they were not used to it. I had too many tests to count while there, but I’ll never forget an ultrasound they did on me at 1 am; I watched my heart rate drop to under 20bpm twice. The peyote was still in effect.
The jail was just the start of the horrifying experience. Before getting into the cell, the entire branch was on lock-down because two inmates had saved up their medication and taken them all at once for attempted suicide. They gave me a heavy smock as my only clothing and put me into my solo-cell where the mattress was smaller than me and weighed 30 lbs, there was a shitter/sink, and scratch marks and writing with blood on the walls.
When I was released, I was assigned a probation officer and had to go see him straight away. I was told that I had to do the usual probation tasks like calling a phone number every day and if my color (purple) was said I had to get drug tested that same day (no matter what) and report to him once a week. I was also mandated to see a court-ordered psychologist. The journey through all of this is another story in itself, so I want to jump ahead.
One of my roommates had to get some cat food the same day I was released, so I tagged along with him to Petsmart. While we were there a little girl was pushing around a cart with two beautiful tiny dogs and offering to sell them for $20. I asked my friend to borrow $20 and I bought the gold and white one and we named her Ms. Philly Blunts. The journey to being better started.
The psychologist eventually agreed that I was not schizophrenic (using hallucinogenics can induce schizophrenic symptoms for several weeks after use), but I probably had bipolar type II disorder. Because of my pride, I didn’t want to admit that something was wrong with me, and I fought tooth and nail not to take medication. Eventually, I understood that it didn’t have to be a weakness; I could use it as a tool. With the understanding that I change when I use drugs, I was able to curb my appetite for destruction. I took medication for 6 months or so. Acceptance.
When I was finally able to find a psychologist that the court would agree on, I started therapy. I also weaned off drugs and started focusing on work and mending relationships. When I was in the hospital my closest friends and family would visit. Their tears and looks of concern fired me up. I had hurt them deeply. Responsibility.
My family and friends were crucial in helping me get better. They were there in immeasurable ways, and I cannot thank them enough. Listening, giving tough love, support, and encouragement were just a few of the tactics they employed. I had a lot of making up to do to heal relationships, but I had to focus on myself for a long time before I was able to contribute much back. The mantra, “take care of yourself before you can take care of others” was ringing true. So I was invigorated to make myself able to help others. This meant that I had to start finding ways to get better. Perseverance.
I went back to school, took care of Philly, worked a couple jobs, did my probational duties, and focused on doing the best I could at those and healing relationships. Most of my focus was materialistic, and it took a long time to start working on my being. I felt it was important to be comfortable to get better. I was wrong. Pain + Reflection = Progress
A few times over the years I tried to make massive life changes but failed in keeping the changes. I’ve learned that in order to make lasting changes you have to make them incrementally. Make a change (a discipline), execute it for a while and get used to it, examine if that change is having the outcome you want, and move forward. If it is making the change in your life you want, or positively impacts your life in other ways, keep it and continue to build. Build.
Many people think that I am a happy-go-lucky guy all the time, and in general, I am. However, I have my demons. There are many things I’ve learned to do and be disciplined about, to maximize my output and joy-factor (see my Accountability/Transparency blog post). I want to share some critical ones for anyone who may be going through dark times or who is not feeling good:
-Lean on family and close friends. Be open and transparent through the hard times, because people cannot read your mind. It’s hard, yes, but in the end, it will bring you closer to each other and everyone will win. If you’re in a rough spot, please reach out to me, I would be happy to listen, and if you want, give some advice if I have it.
-Focus on you in a reasonable sense. If you always operate only for yourself you’ll be quite the narcissist, but realize that you have to be happy and healthy before maximizing your output.
-Take small steps and make them disciplines. Focus on your health; eat right first then exercise. You are a machine: Input – Output
-Surround yourself with positivity. Cut out the negative things and people in your life until you can manage how you are affected by them.
-Try to make today better than yesterday. Whatever it takes. Remember that it could always, always, be worse. If you don’t believe that, go do some exploring.
-Recenter in nature. Could be as simple as sitting in the woods.
-Some of the biggest positive changes for me are listed below:
a) trying to be grateful for everything; doesn’t matter what it is.
b) cold showers and using the Wim Hof breathing technique.
c) journaling; I’ve modified the 5-Minute Journal, but it is a great one.
d) doing things for a cause – groups, goals bigger than mine, teams, philanthropy.
e) eating well, lifting weights, and stopping daily drugs.
I know this is pretty much just thrown together, but I’ve felt a duty to give back and try to be a positive impact for those around me since this situation, and this has been heavy on my heart lately. To those that have people that didn’t make it through their dark spot, it is not your fault. For me, it was a very personal decision. Be thankful for your time spent together and know that they would want you to be happy. For those on the edge, don’t. Even if your life could get worse, you will miss out on all that is good. Find something small you enjoy and love it. Use that love to continue to find other things that you enjoy and love them. Continue to grow. You will be better. And you will love.
If you would like to talk about this topic with me please feel free to contact me.