I've never known anyone who's committed suicide.
This, I realized as I sat writing in our car yesterday afternoon, waiting for my husband to finish up his photo shoot. We had just heard The News. I was stunned, disturbed, saddened. I couldn't focus, my brain churning to make sense of the senseless. Through my IPhone, a "Mozart Classical" Pandora radio station played quietly through the car's stereo system. Debussy's "Clair de Lune" was selected as the next track. It's by turns melancholic, yet melodic strains swirled inside my memory bank, triggering an automatic withdrawal. And I accepted. I reclined back into the interior leather bucket seats of the Ford Fusion—the sensible man's version of the Delorean—and allowed myself to be transported back—in my makeshift, cherry red time machine—to my first days in rehab.
October 2011. Early fall. Dark by 5 pm. Darkness everywhere.
On perhaps my third day in rehab, I found myself on my knees, sobbing. I'm not sure how I got there. This was a position I had never assumed. But for two hours I cried, feeling feelings I had gobbled and guzzled away for so long. I could not stop crying, releasing the pain I was in, the pain I had caused, the pain sure to come. From 2 pm to 4 pm I dehydrated, dripping with sweat and fears, missing two hour-long groups. But I was missed. I know this because I would hear the techs hover around my closed (never locked) door; enough time for an ear to press up against the door, before they would drift away. Every half an hour they would come. But they left me alone. Because they understood this was my watershed moment. Quite literally. I couldn't see it yet, but through the tarry black of My Night, Dawn was breaking. I was safe.
[Clair de Lune is French for "Moonlight"'. ]
Against the roaring waterfall of my tears I played Debussy's classic piece. Over and over and over again I repeated the track, with the manic dedication of those craving self-indulgent wails and moans. Stop. Play. Repeat. I had been placed in The Detox room, meant for sleep, silence. I took in the dark, gray walls that enclosed my shivering shift; big bulbous tears dripping off my chin. I loved the color dark gray. When I collected my Oscar, I had always known I would don a gown of gun-metal gray. So, how had I ended up here instead? In a rehab in West Hollywood, mere blocks away from where The Academy Awards are held every year? Me, a wannabe movie star; an actress who flocked to the City of Angels to capture the Hollywood Dream (in a shape of a genital-less, golden man), was now held hostage by a True Hollywood Story played only on cable television.
That October afternoon, sheltered inside a cocoon of my favorite color, I genuinely tried to pray for my soul for the first time.
Today, I prayed for someone else's soul for the first time.
Not by rote, not by Facebook ("Praying!"), but on my hands and knees for someone I didn't know very well, but who was simply divine; an angel to the animals.
S. was a real movie star. Her name should be marque'ed, up in shining lights, a celestial celebration to all she did for animals. She was intelligent, creative, nurturing; doctor, volunteer, friend. I knew her through animal rescue. She rescued the dogs no-one wanted. The ones who were crippled, hurting, literally left for dead. Why does such a benevolent being, so fierce and focused in her love for other creatures; filling them with the very breath of life, to not just survive, but thrive, forget to place the oxygen mask on herself? To ask for assistance, and in the end, just completely forget to stop breathing?
A heart overflowing with love, but in the end, left none in reserve for herself.
I would be lying if I said I never thought about killing myself when I was in the darkest hell of addiction. But no matter how dark it got—deep inside that putrid pit of walls oozing with agony and ache so slippery thick, I could not climb my way out alone—I never quite crossed that line past flirting with suicide into constructive plotting and planning. I never designed a blueprint for relief. A "To Do List" for dying. In that surreal state, these plans provide a glimpse of future freedom from pain; this lunatic's list—what to do before I die—becomes completely sane. For a moment the idea would bring me not really relief, but perhaps a deep breath, a sigh. But I never really wanted to die. I just didn't want to be in pain anymore. And in that, I know I am not alone.
I did not know S. well, but I knew her pain.
But when you cross that line, I don't know that you can ever come back.
In the moonlight, you can no longer live, no longer trusting the break of Dawn.
That afternoon on the floor of rehab, I did everything I thought I was
"supposed" to do to pray. I kneeled on bony limbs tucked underneath a
withering frame. I clasped clammy palms together and emulated a pose I'd
questioned my entire life. I struggled to remember The Serenity Prayer
as I cried aloud to something, someone, anything. And boxed inside walls painted that subversive shade of gray, it began to feel less like living inside a barrel of a gun and more like moonlight—the moonlight of romance, possibility, quiet rustlings in the forest of unknown creatures that excited, rather than terrified. Dawn was coming. I couldn't see it. But I could feel it. I fumbled my way through a prayer I yet knew the words to, and somehow came to believe that there would be a reason to go on.
Debussy's gorgeous piece will always evoke for me the power of prayer.
Will I choose to stay in this pain or will I choose to let go?
I have no answers.
[Frankly, the ones who seem to have an answer for everything are the ones that scare me.]
All I know is that when you're hurting, it's the hardest thing to ask for help.
I have no answers. All I have is the willingness to try what I questioned before.
And somehow, that has saved my life. Day by day.
The Dawn always comes, here or in heaven.
R. I. P. "S."