Life Is Worth Living (Mostly)
by Richard Wallace
I have come to a realization in my early middle age: I can no longer advocate suicide. I know I'm going out on a limb here, but I just can't do it any longer. Not that I'm going to try and talk you out of it if you're committed to doing it; but I have a feeling if you really want to do it you don't let anyone know about it, you just do it. That is one of the main reasons I can't vote in favor of the deed when the subject comes up, it's rarely a genuine discussion and I don't have that kind of free time. People that talk about killing themselves are looking for some kind of response, but usually they aren't completely resigned to the idea of taking their own lives. A cry for help, attention, whatever you want to call it, they are hurting, confused, distraught; but thankfully few of them have finalized a plan to off themselves. So maybe I will try to talk you out of it, but probably I'm going to try and talk you into letting out some of what is eating away at you that you would even mention such a ghastly proposition.
A few months back someone I knew died of an overdose. I know his cousin Isabel and his Mom, but Victor and I were passing acquaintances at best. He was a groomsman in two weddings that I attended, and I used to see him around occasionally, but the only actual conversation we ever had that I can remember started with him explaining some scam he knew how to work trading cheap new videos at the movie store and ended with him showing me a bag of weed he had. He was particularly proud of it, and I sniffed it, and eyed it, and had to agree it was indeed a fine bag of weed. As time went on every time I saw Victor he looked worse than the last. I would hear about 'hereditary stomach ailment' this, and 'partying too much' that, and I was inclined to believe the latter although there really would be no way to tell. If you keep waking up vomiting because of some affliction; basic survival instinct would prompt you to stop ingesting strange and wonderful recreational pharmaceuticals long enough to find out what was wrong with you. Maybe that's just me, but that is all the advice I could offer Isabel when she mentioned that his doctor could not figure out how to help him. "Tell him to stop getting high long enough that they can find out what is wrong with him."
"Yeah, right", she would answer back, I assumed that meant everyone had already tried the obvious approach.
Now is a good time to mention that Victor's Mother and Father were quite fond of prescription meds, some with their names on them and some probably not. His Father Wesley had the mysterious stomach ailment along with degenerate arthritis and some persistent injury that he received disability for, although this weakened, handicapped condition didn't keep him from smacking his wife around from time to time. Nor did it inhibit his desire for weed, crack, and all manner of unprescribed uses of prescription meds. Nick's Mom Layla was on tranqs and I don't know what else, I believe she started on them innocently enough with the "battered wife syndrome" and all; she just happened to get one of those overly accommodating doctors. I can honestly say that in the years that I have known her I don't think I've ever seen her completely sober. Sometimes manic and loud, sometimes bleary-eyed and nearly falling over, sometimes reeeeally close to normal acting, but just not, y'know?
So Victor came by his pill-popping proclivity honestly, as they say here in the country; he learned it at home. People tell me that he was a good student, with scholarship offers and all that jazz -- until his senior year in high school. No alcohol, no weed, nothing. Then, well then he started doing a little escaping on the side. I don't know how much of the violence he witnessed, but I do know that he, his sister, and his Mother were constantly moving in and out of his Father's place. Nobody could get along with Wesley for long. However his partying habit started, Victor slid out of contention for any paid university attendance, but he did graduate from high school. He moved out, back in, out, in, and was planning to move in with his Grandmother to get his life together (or at least get some peace and quiet) when he died.
Like I said, nobody could get along with Wesley for long, Victor's younger sister had moved in with relatives some time before and his Mom moved in and out almost weekly, but Victor found a way to get along with him: They started getting high together. They had access to a stockpile of meds, and weed, coke, crack, and alcohol are never hard to come by, so they bonded. I'm not sure how sad it is for a 40-something-year-old man to be hanging out with 20-year-olds, but that is what went on. That particular February Sunday they were at a friend of Victor's house, listening to music, playing video games, smoking, drinking, eating and snorting pills. The two of them headed home, (God knows which was driving), and when they got home Victor crashed. For some reason, around 4 a.m. Layla checked on him and he wasn't breathing right, so she woke him and called 911. Being 20 years old allows you a lot of things, one of them is the right to refuse the services of your friendly neighborhood paramedics, and all the responsibility that goes with exercising that right. Whether he thought he was going to get into legal trouble if he went to the hospital, or he was belligerent and disagreeable as severely intoxicated people usually are,or if he had intentionally taken lethal amounts of painkillers; Victor killed himself that night when he refused to take that ride to the hospital.
Around 8 a.m. Layla found Victor not breathing, and this time he was in no condition to refuse the paramedics that carried him out of his family home. But he was gone. They tubed and wired him up, and for three days people prayed and cried and hoped and misquoted what doctors had said, and on Friday they signed off on donating what organs weren't too polluted and/or destroyed to be used, and Layla fell to pieces. I found a picture of Victor from the last wedding, and I superimposed it with one from another occasion and had it printed, got a frame and had someone take it to her for me. It was all I could do, I couldn't attend the funeral, I expected a lot of drama that I was not willing to be a part of, stuff involving Wesley the piece of human garbage and the likelihood of his making a scene. Not just that, there were people that I couldn't face seeing, I'm a wimp but I just didn't think I could take that much guilt on parade.
I related this story because I sincerely think that Victor was in very bad shape emotionally, and it makes no difference to me whether he was consciously suicidal at the time. This was debated often over the days that he was physically still alive, and probably still is amongst the family, but I don't see that there is any line there. He was unhappy enough being himself that he spent every waking moment looking for a change of head, so even if he wasn't looking to stop living he was definitely looking to be somewhere else, someone else.
If you want to kill yourself, you will, I can't stop you. But if you have the slightest inkling that life might be worth living, I agree with you 100%; it really is. My life swerves from near-bliss to an ocean of shit and back but I will never deny that it has been a real adventure, and as hacked-up as the saying is, the journey is the reward. Just try doing something else. Get a puppy, get a divorce, get a new job, get a tutor or quit the class. The worst that could happen is better than not being around to see what happens. Don't think you have to settle for anything you've gotten yourself into, there are plenty of people with less going for them that have dug their way out, trust me.