Sunday, January 17, 2010

What is my Higher Power?

I may have said before in this blog that I was raised a Christian. My father grew up non-denom Protestant, and my mother is Episcopalian. I was raised an Episcopalian, and was very active in that church for the first 28 or so years of my life.

It would be very complex to explain exactly what brought me away from the church. It's fair to say that it wasn't any one event in particular, and this seems to be true of most people that I have spoken to who left the churches in which they were brought up. My drift began in my early 20s, when certain dissonances between the teachings of the church and what I believed intrinsically became too loud to ignore any further. There were certainly times in my church-going years that I was hurt by "The Church", mostly by attitudes held by those in authority that I thought directly contradicted the church's teachings. I understood that the church is composed of people, and that anytime groups of people gather, difficult politics are inevitable. But over time I came to believe that the main concept underlying all church teachings (and I'm not talking about Episcopalian ones specifically, but Christianity in general) was judgement. People were implicitly, sometimes explicitly, encouraged to judge others, and mistreatment follows. After a time I could no longer participate in something I felt so conflicted about.

It was a few more years before I was able to admit to myself that I didn't actually believe in the God of my childhood. I felt tremendous guilt over my lack of "faith". It wasn't until I finally realized that the only thing keeping me from embracing what I truly did believe was the guilt I felt over abandoning the faith of my parents that I was able to understand what I really believed in. What I really believed in was this: This life is what we have, and when we die that is it. It is up to us to be good to one another, to make life better for all people. We have a moral responsibility to do our part to minimize or eliminate suffering of others whenever we had the ability to do so. Hell is not a place, but rather it is something we create ourselves on earth. Same with heaven. There is a basic goodness to the universe, and we are all born with it.

When I first came to 12 Step recovery last year, I learned that it was a "spiritual program." I was going to have to have a Higher Power in order to work the steps. This filled me with fear and anger. I had only recently come to realize that I was an ignostic: basically, not one who believes there is no God, but one who thinks it's the wrong question to ask. (This is also known as theological noncognitivism.) At the time, I thought I would have to abandon this deeply rooted belief of mine if I was to go any further in 12 step recovery.

Fortunately, I was reading a book by Kevin Griffin called One Breath At A Time, about Buddhism and the 12 steps. It helped me to understand that "God" truly is a concept that is left to the individual, and that my concept of a Higher Power did not need to be Judeo-Christian. The book is specifically about how to incorporate one's Buddhist beliefs into 12 step recovery (wonderfully written and highly recommended for this), but I think even a non-Buddhist in this situation could gain a lot of understanding just about the concept of Higher Power.

There are those people who use the group as their Higher Power, or the doorknob of the room they meet in. I think the doorknob is a cop-out personally, but that isn't for me to define for someone else. The idea, according to the program literature, is simply that you yourself are not your own Higher Power, that you believe in some power greater than yourself, whatever it may be. I can see how the group can be this for someone resistant to any other idea of a HP.

Ultimately, here is what I have come to understand as my Higher Power. I think there is a Power of goodness that is the Universe. I think all beings are interconnected by this basic goodness. It is not a personal God for me: I don't think there is a celestial, mystical or supernatural being who intercedes on my behalf and has a consciousness. Buddha isn't my HP, as he isn't a God. But the Buddhas that have existed, as well as the Bodhisattavas, point the way to the basic goodness and order of the universe. Can an impersonal HP "restore me to sanity"? Yes. Understanding this goodness of the universe, and freeing myself from delusion that separates me from that awakening, is certainly a restoration to sanity. Understanding the dharma, learning the origins of suffering, and discerning the Right Path, all lead to a Higher Power. And it certainly is not me.

Here is what Rev. Tanaka has to say about Buddhists and God. He seems to feel that Buddhists hold an ignostic view of God:
Do Buddhists believe in God?

Before I can answer that question, I must ask, what is meant by “God”? People have many ideas about who or what God is. Until I understand this, it is hard for me to answer. If God is defined primarily as cosmic compassion and wisdom, then some Buddhists (particularly Mahayana Buddhists—see page 47) may be inclined to say they believe in “God.” But that will be personal decision of a modern Buddhist. As for me, I would exercise a great deal of caution, making sure that “God” is clearly defined and acceptable to me as a Buddhist. On the other hand, if God is a supreme personal being who created the universe, lives in heaven, watches over me, and knows my thoughts and actions, then Buddhists clearly do not believe in God.

Then, Buddhists do not believe in anything supernatural?

No, that is not exactly what I meant to say. Instead of a personal divine creator, Buddhists have always spoken of an enlightened reality called “Dharma.”

This Dharma as “reality” is the source for the Dharma as the “teaching” we talked about before (see page 9). The English translation of this Dharma (dharmakaya, dharmata, dharmadhatu, etc.) includes Law, Logos, Suchness, Truth, and Reality. In modern everyday language, this Dharma can be described as Life, Universe, Cosmic Compassion, Life-giving Force, or Energy. I like the word “Oneness” because it reminds us that the enlightened reality (Dharma) is not separate from us. We are actually one with Dharma. It’s right under our feet, but we don’t know it.

Do Buddhists Pray?

I have been reading this great book called "Ocean" by Kenneth K. Tanaka. It is described as "An Introduction to Jodo-Shinshu Buddhism in America." It appears to be out of print, but Amazon lists several used copies. Fantastically, it is also available in a (apparently free) online version. This book is written in a question-and-answer style, and clearly presents a concise introduction to Buddhism in general and Jodo-Shinshu Buddhism in particular.

I read the following section this morning about prayer and Buddhists:


Do you pray?
Yes we do, but not to the same extent or in the same manner as in Western traditions. This is partly because we emphasize meditation and reflection more than prayer. The other reason, of course, lies in the absence of a supreme divine being to whom one can pray.

I understand there are many kinds of prayer in Christianity, including thanksgiving, blessing, intercession and invocation. In the Buddhist tradition,
too, gratitude (similar to Christian “thanksgiving”) plays a vital role in the thoughts and actions of Buddhists. This is especially true among the Jodo-Shinshu Buddhists for whom gratitude constitutes the primary motivation for much of their religious and worldly actions. Similarly, Buddhists seek blessings for the happiness of all beings. “May all beings be happy” is the constant refrain in the Loving Kindness Sutta (or Sutra) that is most frequently chanted as a blessing by Buddhists of Southeast Asian background. Also, the Buddhists do “intercede” on behalf of others when they hear about misfortunes of others such as an illness. Particularly the Buddhists of Southeast Asian background mindfully direct their thoughts to others. “May they get well; may they be happy.”

But our concern for them should not simply stop here. To pray is easy, but a true test of our concern for others lies in our deeds, such as visiting them at the hospital or assisting the family with the chores during trying times.


For many of us who are former theists, the word "prayer" has an unpleasant connotation. It seems this word can actually be expanded to more uses than just "Our Father". I've been trying to work on my aversion to the term "prayer" and references to "God" for some time, with minimal success. I can understand how the word can mean more than the narrow meaning it held in church, but my gut reaction is still aversion.

Many Buddhists prefer to think of these thoughts that Rev. Tanaka calls "prayer" as "meditation." Perhaps this is an Americanization, too. Many American Buddhists (perhaps most) are former church-goers, and left Christianity and/or theism for a reason. Perhaps the word "meditation" is a useful distance from the old connotation of the word "prayer".

[I should note here that "meditation" and "prayer" are not direct synonyms. There are many kinds of meditation, and some of them resemble prayer, while others are exercises in no-thought, so that the directed, specific ideas of prayer would not apply.]

But for me, in my 12 step work, the word comes up a lot, and many people talk a lot about prayer. I really can't avoid it. The word bothers me, but I have to release my aversion to it. I'm not praying to a personal Higher Power, but I do ask for happiness and peace for myself and others. I do give thanks for life and blessings. I do seek greater meaning in life, and try to understand the right path in a given situation. These things are prayer, or meditation. Take your pick.

Unfortunately, the word "prayer" has also been politicized in the United States, as so many other spiritual concepts have been politicized here. People talk about prayer in schools, and those who do are understood to be a certain "brand" of Christian, often those who believe that we live in a Christian nation, "one nation under God", and are intolerant of other expressions of faith or non-belief.

One thing I find difficult at meetings is when the meeting is closed with traditional Christian prayers, like the Lord's Prayer. The words of the Lord's Prayer, while beautiful, speak of a personal God in heaven, who does certain things for those praying. I understand that it is very meaningful for Christians; I was one, once. But to me, its use in 12 step meetings goes against the concept that "God" is defined by the individual, the "God of our understanding." The "God" spoken of in the Lord's Prayer does not resemble the "God of my understanding" at all. Sometimes I don't say it at all. Sometimes I am too weary of doing all the "translation" in my head to make the words coming out of my mouth feel authentic to my own belief. And I admit that I become resentful of the group's forcing their own God of their understanding onto me then.

Yet, I have no problem with the Serenity Prayer. It is a simple and powerful concept, and to me has little to do with defining God or asking a god to do something for me. I say it often to myself in difficult situations, and use it like meditation. Opening and closing a meeting with the Serenity Prayer offers a kind of peace and balance, and helps me achieve mindfulness. It also helps to solidify what I think is an important focus for every 12 step meeting: understanding that we are not personally in control of most things, especially addiction.

I think it is important to make peace with prayer. Prayer, or meditation (if you prefer), is a powerful way to get your mind off yourself and to think more expansively. Being able to pray for others--say, stopping to pray for a person that you resent--can help you achieve mindfulness. It is easier to think of ourselves and others with kindness and compassion when we can get out of our ego and think in the way we call prayer.

I identify as an ignostic humanist these days, but consider myself to be spiritual. I don't appreciate the fact that prayer has been co-opted by those who would consider my spiritual practices to be amoral or immoral or pagan. I do have a Higher Power, which I will talk about in my next post. But making peace with prayer is important for recovery, and I am working on this in my own life and path.

Monday, January 11, 2010

The Monster walks among us

I ought to follow-up on my post about The Bottle. There was not one, or two, or ten, brief relapses. There was one long relapse, starting sometime in September. During that time, I tried to realign my sense of reality. For many years, I have picked up on certain signs of my husband's drinking. When I asked him about it, though, he would deny, so vehemently and convincingly that I learned over time (1) not to ask, and (2) not to trust my own senses. This has resulted in unmanageability of my life.

This time, I made a mental note of the times that I thought I smelled alcohol on his breath, the times I thought he might be lying to me, the peculiar behavior that was different in a familiar way. I confronted him about it a few times, but mostly just paid attention. I would like to say that this was accompanied by a great deal of serenity and working my program, instead of the craziness that I did feel. I never knew what to expect when I came home from work. I found a total of 4 bottles of liquor (mostly or completely empty) in the last 5 months, and I think a great many more were disposed of before I could see them.

I am terribly sad about this. But, we were finally able to have an honest, if painful, conversation about it all last week. My husband is trying sobriety again. I hope he can make it work. I know that most seasoned AA people, as well as those who work in the field of addiction, say that relapse is an unfortunate eventuality for most recovering alcoholics, and that it doesn't mean that all is lost. Each relapse can be a learning opportunity for the alcoholic who truly desires recovery and sobriety. I hope that is the case for my husband.

I've learned some more things about myself in the intervening time, and some things have changed in me. I know how it feels to be lied to, and to know deep down that I'm being lied to even if I'm not consciously certain of it. I know the pain of losing my trust in the person I love most. And I know that I cannot be one of those old women in Al-Anon who works her program and lives serenely and consciously with active addiction for years. I can't control anything about my partner's sobriety, but I can make my own choice about what I am willing to live with.

I was very, very close to leaving this marriage last week, when it seemed that my husband had no desire to be sober and no desire to take any care of himself. He has been getting no exercise, has been vomiting up blood and living with terrible insomnia for weeks. He has profound depression yet has refused to treat it. He seemed to be killing himself slowly, right before my eyes. I couldn't stay to watch that, and felt he was not living up to his end of the bargain in this marriage by not choosing to care for himself.

I hope that his rededication to his program and to his sobriety is for himself, and not simply an attempt to keep me here. It's another thing I have no control over. Only time will tell. It is a little bit easier to give all of this another chance, now that I have a better idea of what my limits and options are. But I am weary, and sad and uncertain.

Addiction and The Wheel of Life

Yesterday's service at our Buddhist temple featured a Dharma talk by our minister's assistant about samsara, the Wheel of Life, and the Three Poisons. She brought in a visual aid, a large mandala depicting the Wheel of Life, very much like the image I found and posted here. The wheel is held up by the god of death, Yama (considered a protector of Buddhism in Tibet.) She described him holding a mirror to those of us locked in samsara, or the cycle of birth and death marked by suffering. The upper part of the picture shows where the bodhisattvas are, those who have escaped samsara and are pledged to help everyone else escape. The center shows the Three Poisons, which are desire or attachment, aversion or hatred, and delusion or ignorance. These are the causes of our suffering.

These Three Poisons are the heart of Al-Anon and S-Anon's concepts of how we are affected by another person's addiction.
  • Desire, or attatchment, is known in the program as our fixation on the actions of others, and our desire to control them in order to control our own fear. We are attached to the idea of how we want the addict in our lives to act, and how we want to act ourselves.
  • Aversion, or hatred, is something easy for anyone who has lived with active addiction to understand. We may not have aversion or hatred for the addict (and if we do, we learn in the program to separate the addiction from the addict, and to see addicts "as sick people, not bad people.") But we do have aversion/hatred for the disease, and for the unmanageability of our own lives as a result. We may have aversion or hatred for ourselves even, as a result of trying to live with addiction. This also speaks to the resentment that we have to deal with. (I think SA and AA deal with the concept of resentment much better than the Anon meetings I go to do.)
  • Delusion, or ignorance, is our denial. Our denial has certainly caused suffering, which we term unmanageability. One of the first things we have to learn in the program is how to see life as it really is, not how we have struggled to believe it is. Interestingly, it is also one of the main goals of Buddhism, to see life as it really is and to be "free from all delusion."

In between our birth and our death, we suffer, and this is inevitable as long as we are locked within the cycle. We suffer because we cannot overcome our desire, hatred, and delusion.

I struggle every day with accepting the reality of addiction in my life. I don't have much difficulty separating my husband from his addiction, but I do struggle with seeing the behavior caused by addiction as something he does despite a desire to do otherwise. I love my husband, and I am proud of the work he has done in the last year to improve his life and his attempts to behave differently than his addictions seem to dictate. But I still cling to the notion that I didn't ask for addiction to be a part of my life, and I am angry at the number of ways I am forced to live with it. It may be true that I didn't ask for this, that it isn't fair that we have to deal with all of the negative consequences of addiction and its associated behavior. But it is still the reality of this life. Wishing for things to be different doesn't make it so.

Fortunately, there is also the concept of impermanence. However I am feeling right now, whatever the circumstances of life are right now, they are not permanent, nothing is. What will follow may be better or it may be worse. I'll still probably struggle with accepting that as reality when the time comes. But whatever my feelings are in a moment, or my life circumstances, these things feel permanent in the moment. I will never be happy again. I will never trust again. I will never life a life without the behaviors caused by addiction. But of course, you don't have to be a Buddhist to realize that this simply isn't true. Life is constantly changing, and one day we will no longer even experience life at all.

While I notice suffering in the moment, it helps to understand that this too shall pass. If I am able to learn to stop clinging to things, good and bad things, if I can see things as they really are and not how I want them to be, if I can free myself from hatred, then I can stop suffering. It doesn't matter what others are doing all around me, and this is the essence of Al-Anon and S-Anon as well as Buddhism. I don't know if it is harder for me than other people. Probably not. But it feels so hard to not desire things to be a certain way. I am still working on it, and still learning.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Bottle

The monster is back.

I don't know how long my husband has been drinking this time. There have been a few days in the past few weeks that I suspected, but I don't feel like I can ask, because they tell me in the program that it's not my business and I have no control anyway. It starts a fight about my asking and no longer becomes about the drinking. And in the end, I am no further along than I was before I asked, so I stopped asking. But this week it became abundantly clear that he is drinking, a lot.

Yesterday I came home from work to take him to our weekly therapy appointment. I knew the moment I saw him that he was drunk. His eyes, his speech, the way he was swaying slightly as he stood, which normally means he is VERY drunk, as usually he is highly functional, and you can't tell he is drinking at all. He was home before me, which means either he didn't go to work, or he drove to work and came home early, which he isn't supposed to do because he lost his license due to the DUIs.

I confronted him without saying my actual suspicion. I hate that I have to do that, that I do it at all. I can't just state the obvious: you are drunk. And he says no, nothing is wrong, nothing unusual, nothing bad happened today, he is fine. I can tell, of course, that he is not fine. Curiously, I can't smell alcohol, though I can smell the gallon of cologne and the toothpaste and mouthwash he used to cover the smell of alcohol.

So I took him to the therapy appointment. The therapist could tell before even seeing him that he was drunk. The "last time" he relapsed (obviously not the last time, but whatever), it was also on a therapy day, and I called her to ask if I should bring him, given that he is drunk. She said she takes her clients however they are that day, and if he could come, it was fine. So this time I brought him. He was staggaring and unsteady. He sat down on the couch with a cup of coffee and misjudged how far the drop was, so he spilled coffee all over himself. We had our appointment upstairs in her waiting room so he wouldn't have to descend the stairs to her office. We talked briefly about the obvious, and he denied that he had been drinking, that day or any day since he quit in January. She suggested I take him to his treatment program where they could do a breathalyzer, so that we could establish what the truth was. He agreed to this, still denying that he had been drinking, but when I got him there, he refused to get out of the car.

I went in the building, which was closing. I found the director, who had been meeting individually with my husband for many months and knows him. I explained the situation. I knew that they couldn't test him if he refused, so I asked the director to come out to the car with me and see him. He did, and talked to my husband for a few minutes. He could tell, as could I and the therapist, that he was drunk, and told him so. Husband finally admitted to the director that he had been back on the bottle for about a week. This was no comfort to me, as he will later just say that he only said it because it was "what you wanted to hear" (his favorite way of revising history), and I knew it had been longer than a week.

He looked like he wanted to say something to me when the director left us alone, and I approached him, but he just pushed me, hard. We got back in the car and he accused me of putting his parole in jeopardy. But even as much of a codie as I am, even I know that that is crap. He made all his own decisions, and for me to ignore them and stick my head in the sand would be at best irresponsible, at worst lethal.

Today at work I was anxious and edgy and nauseated all day. I tried to say the Serenity Prayer to myself to calm myself down. I mentally identified all of my emotions and reminded myself that they are feelings and that they don't last forever. I thought of impermanence and suchness. I tried to stay as sane and serene as I possibly could, which was very difficult. My job is taxing and I have responsibility for the lives of others, so I needed to be as focussed and calm as possible. Knowing that I truly have no control over this situation, that the only thing I can control is myself, didn't exactly help, per se, but it restored me to reality at least.

An alcoholic relapsing isn't necessarily an emergency, though it is a crisis. But this strikes me as a slow suicide. In fact, I was certain when I got home that he would be either drunk or dead. I am engulfed by an incredible weariness and sadness. I honestly don't know what to do next, what my future should be, how to be healthy and sane myself. I don't know if he is acting out sexually along with his active drinking. I don't have evidence that he is, and the only thing that makes me think it's possible is that he is drinking again, and the two always went together before. I don't even know if he still has his job--when I came home today, he wasn't dead, but he was drunk in bed. He denied it, but the half-empty bottle of vodka was under the bed. I don't know if he went to work or not.

I love this man so much, but I don't know how much I can take. It scares me that I might be able to take much more than I should--I already have, actually. He has many, many wonderful qualities. But he is very sick, and he is killing himself. I hope he finds his way out before he succeeds, or before there is no one left around him to care.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

A Year of Recovery: Remembering January

On January 14, my husband was admitted to an inpatient psychiatric unit for 6 days following a suicidal episode. The following day, I drove to the city he was in to see him in the hospital. I didn't know what to expect, what his condition would be. I didn't know if he would be angry to see me or not; the last thing I had heard from him was anger that I had called 911. I didn't know what medications he would be on, or if he was in alcohol withdrawal. I had been in psychiatric units before, but not this one.

I was also very anxious about a number of things. Since he had lost his job, he had also lost his health insurance. How would we pay for all of this, the hospital stay, the ambulances, the ER visits? I had mixed feelings about seeing my husband. I was devastated by all of the things I had learned that he had done prior to my discovering his addiction. I was angry that we had not yet had a real conversation about anything that had happened. I didn't know who he was: I had discovered his secret double life, and I didn't know who I was married to anymore. I was angry, anxious, hurt and deeply saddened.

I arrived in the afternoon during visiting hours. I remember, and will probably always remember, being buzzed through the security doors into the locked unit, and seeing my husband sitting in a day room through glass doors. He was dressed in dark blue scrubs, barefoot and slightly disheveled. He looked up at me, and then his eyes widened like he couldn't believe what he was seeing. He told me later he thought it was a hallucination from the medications he was on. He believed he would never see me again.

He came out of the room and hugged me. He told me he was sorry, and we sat down in some chairs. Not knowing what the food would be like here, I brought some clementine tangerines with me, and they became a tradition between us. I brought them every time I visited him, and we would eat them together.

This time marked the first time that I felt like we truly saw each other for who we really were, and as hard a time as it was for us, it's an incredibly special memory for me. As we talked, all the lies and illusions fell away. He told me everything he could remember about what had happened in the past few weeks, and I started to get a picture of what had gone on. I started to feel some compassion for him, now that we were talking and he was more lucid, even though he was pretty heavily medicated. He seemed to understand that we were in this place because of the addiction and because of all the events that had led up to that point. We had some very heartfelt and honest conversations in that hospital, and for the first time it felt like we might actually be able to come out of this experience together, that we might get better.

This was also the first time that I saw physical signs of alcohol withdrawal in him. They were mild, but definitely present. I feared the major delerium and seizures that I have seen others go through in my line of work, and I talked to the nurses about this a lot. But it turned out that his symptoms passed in a few days, and did not ever progress to a serious enough state that he would need more intensive medical attention.

Although we were not quite out of the woods yet in this acute phase of the crisis, it was a definite turning point for us. I spent that week there, taking a leave of absence from graduate school, and visited twice a day. The rest of the time I read and wrote and tried to take care of myself. I still wasn't eating much, due to nausea and anxiety (I lost 12 pounds that month), but I was exercising and trying to help myself. When he was released six days later, I had told him that I was only willing to work on our marriage together if he moved to the city where I was living, so upon his discharge we packed as many of his things as we could into my car, and we drove home to start our new life together. We think of this as our second marriage to each other.

A Year of Recovery: The Beginning

On January 5 of this year, my husband was laid off from his job. He saw it coming in the weeks before, but didn't want to worry me, so he didn't tell me. I found out on January 6.

On January 7, I discovered my husband's acting-out behavior: the full extent of one affair, as told by the husband of that woman. Over the next several days, I learned more about that one, and some others. We were in different cities because he worked in one and I went to school in another. We were about 400 miles apart. That weekend, I inisisted that he come to where I was, because talking to him on the phone about it was impossible. He was mostly silent, largely due to shame, but also because he was drinking even more once he knew that I knew. He came, and admitted the basics: the drinking, the acting out. Then he slept and went back.

On January 13, I went to my first Al-Anon meeting. I met and talked to a few women there, and got some phone numbers. I remember feeling very numb and confused, but vaguely better after going to the meeting. I was determined to do some things to take care of myself, even though I couldn't eat or sleep. I was constantly nauseated and anxious and near tears or crying. After the meeting, I went to the gym and worked out. I felt a lot better. When I got out of the shower at the gym, there was a voicemail from my husband. He sounded distant and different, and angry. It was a call from jail. He had been charged with a DUI and hit-and-run.

I had no idea what to do at that point. I was hundreds of miles away. I had also just heard about some new concepts, like "detachment with love" and boundaries. I didn't really understand what these things were or how they worked, but I did know that despite all my instincts to do something right then, there wasn't really much I could do at that moment. I couldn't even call him back. So I called some of the phone numbers I had. I didn't know if I should go out there, but I decided it was too late that night to go, or to decide what to do, and even if I was there, there wasn't much to do. Eventually I went to sleep.

The next day, I went to school. When I came home, I received a call from my husband. He told me that he loved me, and he didn't want me to worry, and good bye. Naturally, I panicked. His speech was slightly slurred and very quiet. I tried to keep him on the phone for as long as I could, to figure out what he intended to do. He hung up, and I called him back. I tried to talk to him longer as my mind raced through the options of what I could actually do from so far away. After a few minutes of me questioning him and him telling me I was better off without him, he hung up again. This time, I called 911. I explained the conversation we had had, and asked to be connected to emergency services in the other city. When I explained the situation to the dispatcher, and they told me that they were sending someone out to his address, I hung up and called him back. I was relieved when he answered the phone.

It's very painful to remember this episode in our life. Much of it is foggy in my mind now. I remember being so confused about what was the right thing to do. I had enough knowledge to understand that he had a clear plan and that it should be taken seriously. I knew that none of it was within my control--I was many hours' drive away, and even if I was there I would have to do essentially the same thing, that is, leave it in the hands of emergency personnel until the situation stabilized. As devastated and angry as I was at the time, I loved him deeply, and would have done anything if I could, but it was not within my control.

One of the worst things that I remember about this day and this series of phone calls was that after I called 911, I questioned myself. All the things that he had experienced lately: losing his job, having his addiction exposed, my anger and pain, the accident, the DUI, going to all the terrible things that had come before this. I wondered, would it have been kinder not to call? It is shameful for me to admit this now, because of course it was the right thing to do, and we are both so grateful that help arrived and that I called for help. But at the time I was so confused about everything and all I could see was the terrible pain we were both in. I thought for a moment that maybe he was right to want out of the pain.

Thankfully, this isn't what happened. He called me for a reason, because no matter how much pain he was in, the deepest part of him wanted to live. While I was on the phone with him, I heard a knocking on the door, and heard the voices of police men who came to take him to the hospital. They talked to me briefly once he was secure: he was very inebriated, and not hurt, but he did have all the things that he had described to me as his plan. They took him to one hospital for assessment, and I was able to talk to him there, where he told me he was angry with everyone: the police, the doctor, the nurses, and me. He told me I should have just let him do it, and hung up. I called the hospital a little later and talked to a nurse, who told me he was still very angry and uncooperative, but that they were going to take him to another hospital's inpatient psych unit. He was under a 72 hour court hold for evaluation, which was fairly standard for an episode like this. At this point, I knew he was safe from harm, although I had no idea what the next few days would hold. My next decision would be whether to come see him in the hospital...