Suicide, Addiction and Healing

“I am not the hero. I am the one who stared death in the face and taunted it. This story is about giving up. This story is about holding on.” Robert Imbeault

When I first read the candid words of Robert Imbeault, the author of “Before I Leave You: A Memoir on Suicide, Addiction and Healing” I had a physical reaction to them. What my body was responding to was the raw, honest and critical way in which Robert viewed himself. It was familiar and thought provoking -- a way of being that I take comfort in.

“Before I Leave You,” is an important book for our time. If you have a problem with addiction, whether its origins derive from work, sex, alcohol, or are drug-related, if you are feeling suicidal, if you have been sexually abused and are struggling or if you have lost a loved one to suicide, I see this book as an anchor of hope.

Robert Imbeault doesn’t consider himself to be a hero but I do. It takes tremendous courage to share oneself on the intimate level that he does. As I read, I found myself having panic attacks. It brought me back to a time when my brother was struggling with addiction, depression, and a memory that haunted his life. When a person is struggling with one or all of these issues it’s important to know that you can get help, that others have survived the problems you’re facing, that there is a roadmap that could possibly lead you out of your darkness and into the light. Robert’s book “Before I Leave You,” does just that.

Now more than ever it is important for us to lift each other up. Suicide hotline calls have increased 800% in some cases. Eight hundred thousand people each year around the world commit suicide, which means that every forty seconds someone takes their life. That number does not include attempted suicides, which have increased by twenty percent. There were 100,000 deaths due to drug overdoses in 2021 in the United States alone, 750,000 overdose deaths globally and 585,000 premature deaths, which are not ruled as suicides but in my opinion equate to slowly killing oneself.

Thirty-five million people suffer from drug addiction and only one in seven people ever receive treatment. Two point eight million people die prematurely each year globally due to alcohol abuse. The most horrifying fact of all is that out of our global population of 7.9 billion people one in five women and one in thirteen men report being sexually abused as children. Additionally, millions of sexually abused children and adults never report their abuse and suffer in silence. These staggering numbers reveal that our children are in danger and they must be protected at all costs.

When my brother committed suicide, I searched desperately for books to save me from the emotional tsunami in which I felt caught up. The books that I found spoke about the devastation of losing loved ones to suicide but they rarely shared the self-discovery process in detail and if they did it was not through the critical eye that strips away everything, studies the ugly parts and dissects the programming until there is nothing left to hide or run from. Robert’s memoir reveals all the ugly bits and completely destroys the ideology of perfection that our society is possessed with. What you walk away with in his reveal is a look at what’s underneath the addiction and depression, to see that in each of us lies a buried truth. Tread carefully when it comes to your judgment of others. We are all wounded, delicate souls with complex issues and histories. Don’t take my word for it just look at the state of our world.

Robert’s book gave me an even greater understanding of my brother’s lifelong struggle with addiction. When you lose someone to suicide you can’t breathe. You can’t think, feel, or smile without the overwhelming sensation of shame, blame, guilt and sorrow. Your life plays before you like a film. In my case, I fixated on every mistake I ever made in our relationship -- what I said, what I didn’t say, what I did or didn’t do, the beautiful nuances I missed about him because I was judging him so harshly, the times I distanced myself from him because it was too painful to watch him struggle. I spent most of my time being critical of my brother when an open heart would have provided so much more. Losing someone to suicide forced me to look at the ugly parts of myself that I wasn’t proud of, that I always seemed to justify or ignore. When I finally turned myself inside and out and reflected on the truth it was devastating.

It was in this journey of facing my own ugly truth and learning how to forgive that I found my own healing just as Robert had found his. Robert’s book, however, gives you an intimate look at what he was feeling right up to the moment he attempted to take his life. For those of you who blame yourselves or are angry at your loved ones for taking their lives you must realize that their motives were not to hurt but to save you. Most people who want to die feel that they are a horrible burden on their loved ones and they want to release you and themselves from that pain.

“Before I Leave You: A Memoir on Suicide, Addiction and Healing” will help those of you struggling with addiction or other issues to have hope. You will find your own way, your own method of healing and your own understanding of your individual process. Hold on. To heal yourself, to choose life, is a moment-by-moment choice. Know that you are loved and no matter what your circumstances there is a silver lining in the dark cloud you are facing but you need hope.

When we lose one person to suicide, we all lose. When we lose one person to addiction, we all lose. We are here on this planet to lift each other up. I consider the conversation that Robert and I shared on “Behind The Curtain,” to be a treasured moment and I am so grateful for this experience. Robert Imbeault chose life and I hope you’ll do the same. Each of us has a purpose, a unique talent, a gift that plays a pivotal role in enriching each other and our world.