Three years ago today, my dad took his own life. I will not stay silent about it. Here’s why:
That is a post I made in a closed Facebook group for people with ACOA trauma (adult children of alcoholics – yes, it’s a “thing”). I had joined the group just two days before – the last day I saw my dad alive. I had been talking with my mom about his obvious downward spiral. He’d been self-medicating with alcohol and Rx opioid painkillers and was exhibiting accelerating signs of “addict” behavior.
After lengthy and emotionally painful discussions with a therapist as to whether an intervention of some sort might save my dad or just cause us to become estranged, we agreed the latter was more likely for various reasons. With that decided, my plan was – at the very least – to take care of myself.
With that plan in mind – the night after talking with my mom – I immediately sought support within the Facebook group, was warmly welcomed, surprised and saddened to hear so many stories similar to my own. The next morning, September 20th, 2014, I began searching for local Al-Anon meeting groups. Shortly before 5pm that day, my mom called – in shock – to tell me that my dad had committed suicide.
We didn’t see it coming. We saw his struggles and had all tried to approach him in various ways, to no avail. We feared an overdose or some other accident, but this? No, never this. I’m sure we all had the same thought: did we do enough? We’ll never know. I have made peace with that. But go back to the top now and re-read that Facebook post. I couldn’t save my dad – maybe no one could – but my words possibly saved one person. I cried when I first read it. I’m crying now.
I wrote that post looking for connection; looking for others who had experienced this kind of monumental loss; looking for something, anything, to confirm I had done enough. How could I possibly know that would save someone’s life?
I’ve since left the group. It seemed that for most, ACOA had become their identity – their path in life, and I couldn’t commit to that road. What I will commit to is my voice. I’ll continue to do what I can to raise awareness and to speak up, knowing that one day, someone may need to hear exactly those words at exactly that moment.
In Dad’s memory, we have established the Philip Lion Memorial Fund
Proceeds from Memorial Funds benefit the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), the leading national not-for-profit organization exclusively dedicated to understanding and preventing suicide through research, education and advocacy, and to reaching out to people with mental disorders and those impacted by suicide. To learn more about AFSP’s mission, research and programs visit www.afsp.org