Posted on Sep 1, 2014 in Blog |

Robin Williams’ death highlights the need to connect . . .

It has been almost a month now since news of Robin Williams’ suicide trended and overtook the news coverage.

Every time I hear of someone’s death by suicide, I am brought back to the instant when my sister Gayle heard that her 16-year old son had shot himself. I am brought back to the instant when my niece heard that her little brother was dead.

WVM September 2014 Sharon COMM ImageI remember looking into my other sister’s eyes at those two moments and wishing we could be sharing any other experience but this one. And yet, we knew we were inextricably connected forever as our linked arms lifted Gayle from falling to the floor as her legs collapsed.

The moments that followed were similar to what the movies proclaim: hysterical mother, sobbing families, screams of “Why?”, stunned silence, hushed phone calls to friends and distant family, ‘making preparations,’ waves of grief, and insurmountable anguish drowning each of us as the minute hand ticked.

We don’t know why our nephew shot himself. We don’t know why he wanted to die. We will never know. We just know the pain of life was too much for him to bear. And, he chose the only way he knew, in that moment, to relieve himself of that angst. I believe the same to be true of Robin Williams.

Everyone can surmise, and assume, and ponder. But there is only one person who knew and, I believe, he is now with his Maker, relieved of his torment. In that moment, he chose the only way he knew to be free of the pain and anguish that was too much for him to bear for another minute, or even another second.

Many people initially surmised he was on drugs when he died by suicide. As a fellow recovering addict, I believe he was sober. For me, living life on life’s terms was so much harder to do without the drugs and alcohol.   I was clean and sober the two times I considered dying by my own means.

Robin Williams and I were close in time for our sobriety dates. When he relapsed after 20 years of sobriety, I increased my meeting attendance for a few months, thinking it could just as easily happen to me.

He was one of my sobriety gurus in terms of his honesty and realism. He didn’t put up a façade; he didn’t fake it. People knew he was struggling.

I appreciated his brutal honesty when talking about addiction and sobriety. He never sugar coated it, and he never exaggerated it. He might have exaggerated other topics in his comedic routines, but the hilarity of his honesty is what made us recovering addicts and alcoholics laugh so damn hard.

Every word he ever spoke about being drunk, sober, high, or clean, was completely, authentically true.

I have suffered at times in my life with depression, with addiction, with sobriety, with life. I have wanted so badly to end my pain and heartache I considered dying as the best solution. Obviously, I didn’t carry it out.

But I still remember those instants when I could not reach out to the person in the next room or on the other end of the telephone. I could not utter or whisper another word, asking for help.

I do not know why someone knocked on my door when they did, or why they called me when they did, thus interrupting my plan.

I don’t think it is a matter of luck. I don’t think it is God’s will. I think God accepts us when we decide we can bear no more and ask to come home to Him. I think He presents us with opportunities to change the plan.

I can only tell you what happened for me and what happened for those I know and loved.

When I decided I was sick and tired of being sick and tired, and entered a 12 Step program, I was surrounded by people who loved me until I could love myself. I couldn’t pick up the phone, so they picked me up and took me for coffee, or a meeting.

When I had plans of killing myself, my husband (who had no idea what I was pondering) held me until my tears sent me to sleep. He stayed and was with me when I awoke. He never left my side for those few critical days.

He saved my life, and he didn’t even know it until months later. But he knew I was in pain and he knew he loved me. And the only thing he knew to do at that point was to hold me.

The world is a sadder world without Robin Williams. But heaven is funnier and more light-hearted. I know my nephew is enjoying every show in heaven. And Robin Williams is no longer suffering.

But his family is still suffering. Their suffering will never end until they join him at the end of their own life journeys. If you know a family who has suffered from someone’s suicide, keep in touch with them; especially beyond the first year.

Help them stay connected and know their loved one is not forgotten. Be willing to listen, to be present, and to be available.

If you know someone who has considered suicide, or who suffers from chronic pain, or who looks like they are struggling, call them. Knock on their door. Hold them.

Connect. You could be saving a life.