Tuesday, February 09, 2010

The Anatomy of a Suicide - Austin

I am no expert on the subject, but I know the punch-in-the-gut feeling of being caught in the middle, a friend hurting desperately, searching for a way out. He is the saddest drunk I know. He can go for months without a drop, but one beer leads to a 24 pack. I don't know how it is physically possible, but somehow he can down them in about two hours, usually with a harder drink or two in the mix. As intoxication increases, his mood plunges, but always the next drink promises relief. Then guilt sets in -- and he has now sucked back enough courage to take the next step. It has usually been drugs -- prescription or street drugs -- in massive doses. Then my phone rings.

A slurred voice, "I'm not gonna bug you no more, man. I'm gonna do it right this time." He uses a pay phone. He refuses to say where he is. He laughs at my questions, then sobs, "You don't know what it's like, man. You don't know."

The abuse starts then, anger at me, insults and cursing. "Why don't you just butt out and let me die?" He forgets that he made the phone call. He forgets that I have tapped every resource, activating a whole emergency response team each time he has done this. He forgets that I am convinced his life is worth saving.

I'm hard pressed to tell him why his life is worth saving in any way that he can comprehend, especially when he is drunk. I'm hard pressed at times to tell myself why his life is worth saving. But I've watched him grow. I've seen the intervals between crisis stretch longer and longer. I've seen him find joy in life and seen glimmers of hope for his marriage. I am convinced he still has something worth living for, something to give to his family. A one night binge is a poor thing to die for. He is worth so much more than that.

Love for a punch-in-the-gut type of friend is a strange thing. One thing is sure -- it is a verb, not a noun, an action, not some cozy feeling. The following poem expresses truth in ways that prose seems to fail me. Written between crisis that came too close together, with little healing time for either of us between, it is part of a self-distributed collection titled "Let Heaven Weep."

It Feels Like Anger

Love? It feels like anger -- and I'm tired to the bone.
I've been fighting 'gainst the things I want to say.
I really want to shake him, get a message through his skull.
A part of me wants to make him pay.

The crises come farther apart.
It's progress of a kind
and I know that in his way he's trying hard.
But I've walked this path so oft' before
and the cost each time is high
and I wonder -- can I do it once again?

Seventy times seven? Seems that number's getting close,
but God has not yet given up on me.
Don't know what I have left to give.
Already feel so drained,
and the days ahead are shrouded with a cloud.

But love is not a cheap thing,
is not given without cost.
Seems the Cross should be reminder strong enough.
And strange to say -- I believe in him
though the evidence says "NO."
and scores of others have washed their hands of him.

Love? It feels like anger.
Don't look for gentle words.
Look for actions that declare he still has worth.
And stand with me if you will for I sense I'm growing weak.
Yet I long to see him on the healing path.

Though my belief in him grows shaky
help me not let it die.
The God who loves me loves him deeply too.
And if we stand together -- so much stronger than alone
we can find a way to see him through.

Love? It feels like anger
and I'm okay with that.
Not beating myself up with shame and guilt.
I sense that someone's praying, so I'll last another day.
Maybe it will be the one that sees him free.

Copyright Brian Austin


Dolores Ayotte said...

Brian...Thanks for the wonderful article and your heartfelt poem. I can see how difficult this journey has been for you. You're a good friend indeed!

Peter Black said...

A powerful message on unconditional love, Brian.
You never fail to challenge me.
May you be strengthened, and have the joy of seeing this man come through, delivered and transformed.

Janet Sketchley said...

Powerful words, Brian. And I'm saggy with relief -- I saw the post title, started reading the post, and thought your friend was gone. I remember praying for you and him in the past.

Keep standing, praying, and loving so fiercely.

N. J. Lindquist said...

As usual, a deep thought well-expressed.

Nancy Cochrane said...

While I truly enjoyed the story, I wonder if the word 'alcoholic" could be used for "drunk". The word 'drunk" has a judgemental connotation to me.

Just my personal opinion.

rgc said...

Lovely read. Landed here via James Shelley.

Popular Posts