What My Father’s Suicide Actually Taught Me About Selfishness

Updated: Jul 25, 2020

As happens far too often, my father became addicted to the pain medication he was initially prescribed for cluster headaches, and his doctor continued refilling this medication despite it being blatantly obvious that he was abusing them. Not just a few times, but for years. My

father unknowingly joined the 2 million Americans addicted to opioids, a prescription pain reliever that is chemically similar to heroin and produces similar effects. I vividly remember him sitting me down under the bright Florida sun when I was a teen and explaining that he was “trying hard to stop his medicine,” as his voice cracked and tears streamed down his face. But with every attempt, a relapse always followed.

Nearly a decade later, when my (now ex) husband and I moved a few states away, I offered him and his wife a home near us, hoping that a complete change of atmosphere would enable him to conquer his ongoing addiction. Just months after they joined us, my father was elated to learn he was going to become a grandfather later that year. Yet throughout my pregnancy, a grueling reality came to light: my father’s opioid addiction was spiraling completely out of control and only growing worse with time. He no longer had a doctor willing to refill his medication, so he began turning to other ways to find them.

"Little did I know, those words served as my final goodbye."

Seven months into my pregnancy, I told my father I thought it was best he return to Florida, as I was incapable of helping him myself and unwilling to watch him continue to worsen. Little did I know, those words served as my final goodbye. Later that night, my father took his life. The next morning, upon learning the news, I wrapped my arms around my 7-month-pregnant belly and wailed on the kitchen floor. Why did I ask him to leave? Why did I not try harder to help him? If I had never asked my father to move near us, or if I had never asked him to leave, my father would still be here. It was my fault, and now my son would never get to know his grandfather.

These beliefs plagued me, and months later, following the birth of my son, I suffered from severe postpartum depression which left me unable to care for myself or newborn child. And it was there that I learned that my father’s decision to leave had nothing to do with me, and everything to do with his inability to suffer anymore. Many will disagree with me, but I understood, firsthand, the all-enveloping hopelessness that my father frantically yearned to escape. I understood, firsthand, why he would be so desperate to relieve himself of this crippling despair and agony. And from that moment forward, I have never blamed him for choosing to do so. This does not go to say that I agree with suicide. Yet, I refuse to label him as selfish for his inability to continue fighting this tireless battle.

I wish, more than anything, that he had found it within himself to keep fighting and eventually recover from his addiction. I wish he had been around to meet his first grandson, and eventually welcome his first granddaughter a few years later. Yet, I cannot say that I wish he had continued living in his condition simply for my sake, and I pray that he found the peace he so desperately yearned for.

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