I have no memory of not hating myself, of not being miserable. Those are my earliest memories. Trying to make sense of who I was, the definition I came up with…I was a monster. Monsters are ugly and monsters are different and predatory and terrible - 'different than’. My earliest identification was deciding that I’d been made a monster, but I didn’t understand why. I didn’t know what I had done wrong, but I did not feel in any way that I could connect or trust people because I wasn’t like them.
I decided at a young age that if I turned out not to be straight, I would kill myself and I knew that at 8 years old. I call it the Peter Pan complex, I tried to look and act like the other boys but I didn’t fit in. I was an effeminate kid; I remember my brother, my twin, coming and telling me the other boys were calling me a fag because I was playing on the monkey bars and not playing football with the boys. So I molded, I played football all through middle school and high school and I could’ve played college ball. I morphed and twisted who I was and put on this grand act. In my world, everything was thought out. Every word I said, every action, the way I sat...It was all thought out. All me trying to make sure no one knew how sick I was, how damaged I was, how different I was.
It was a nightmarish life. I found alcohol and drugs and for a long time it was fun. Then it was fun with problems and then it was just problems. It was oblivion and total escape from reality. I started drinking at age twelve and I had alcohol induced psychosis by 21 years old. It became this obsession to drink more and more and more. I had peers and friends in college, but there was still no connection. Even though I had fun with them and they were friends, I couldn’t have a real friend because I was the monster. If you really knew me, knew what was going on in my head, you’d run screaming.
So when the alcohol stopped working and all of the friends left because they said things like, “we can’t watch you continue to kill yourself”, my solution from the pain was suicide. There was honestly comfort in the thought that I could always kill myself.
I was introduced to recovery. They told me you’re not crazy, just an alcoholic and there was hope. But then I went in, did the work but I didn’t feel better. The final breaking point was sitting in a meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous watching people get better while I wasn’t and the realization came, “You’re just too broken to be fixed.” I walked out of that meeting and thought, “It’s time to go.”
My plan was to jump in front of a train. I heard the train, I lived close to the tracks, I had the note, I went running but I missed the train! It had just passed by. I was so disappointed. I went home and overdosed on an enormous amount of psychotropic medications. Then I got a trash bag, I taped it around my head and waited to pass out. A roommate came home who shouldn’t have come home and found me. If not for that, I’d be dead. When I got to the hospital, the doctors said with the amount of medication that I had taken, I should be dead. They were amazed that I survived. So the fact that I’m alive today is a miracle, it’s a gift. I am 28 years past my life expectancy now because it was an attempt that really should have killed me.
I had to focus on sobriety and recovery. I had to say “I’m going to keep trying,” and that’s my story. I just kept doing the work. It took 7 ½ years. For 7 ½ years I was working emotionally, spiritually and putting tremendous work in helping others. And all these things that didn’t seem to be working really were working when I realized that I was helping other people.
Just showing up and showing people I can stay sober...you can stay sober. Despite all of these outside issues that were so unfair...that I had, not just substance abuse, but PTSD, an eating disorder, sleep disorder, chronic pain...and I could go on and on. I was ‘different than’ but the decision I’ve made is that I am still helping others by sitting in that chair and showing that you can stay sober, you can survive despite all of these obstacles. I am still going to stay around because I have a purpose in life now, to help others.
If you feel too broken to be fixed, I know how that feels. It is a lie. It feels like the truth and that’s where that decision comes that the world is better off without me. I believed that to be true and I was too broken to be fixed. But I now live this dynamic life, filled with fun and excitement and service work and all this stuff that I could’ve never imagined. So it was a lie, the fact that I was worse than everyone, the fact that the world would be better off without me and the fact that I’m too broken to be fixed was not true - you too are not too broken to be fixed.
It Knows No Face Exhibition Opening Fort Collins, CO
Rowdy’s story is a powerful addition to our project, It Knows No Face- Portraits of Suicide Survivors. This project is growing in ways we never could have imagined; touching and changing lives across the country. Join us for our Exhibition Opening in Fort Collins, Colorado on September 6th from 6-9pm at Everyday Joe’s Coffee House. Brought to you in partnership with Timberline Church, UC Health, Imagine Zero, 3 Hopeful Hearts, Safe Kids Larimer County, and Alliance of Suicide Prevention of Larimer County.