This is my friend Steve’s story. He lived the “perfect” Christian life with a wife, baby boy, he was a youth pastor, blogger and ran a radio show, but Steve’s inability to be honest almost killed him… If you relate to Steve’s story and want someone to be honest with, please feel free to reach out to him – firstname.lastname@example.org
For months, I couldn’t take the smell of black coffee.
I tried to drink hot tea and almost threw up.
Last night I had a Benadryl before bed to help with these allergies and I had quite a flashback.
I still can’t force myself to take a capsule of liquid Tylenol.
This is the story of my mulligan. God gave me a “do-over” and I want you to know about it.
Warning: This post contains graphic content and may not be suitable for all readers.
Friday, September 21, 2012, around 5:00pm CST
I woke up in a fog like I’ve never experienced before.
“Where the hell am I? Why is it so cold in here? Who in the world is…wait. That’s my wife and there’s Gigi. Wait a second! Am I in the hospital? Shit! I’m still HERE?!? You’ve got to be kidding me! Am I in some sort of evil dream space, suspended somewhere between life and death? You cannot seriously mean that I didn’t succeed! Do you KNOW how much I took??!!?! Oh this bad. This is really bad.”
I was coming in and out. I remember Gigi saying, ‘Hey bud” in about the sweetest and most fragile tone I’ve ever heard her use. All I could muster was the strength to say “Hey” back.
The next time I opened my eyes, I remember Lindsey standing there with a nurse and her asking me, “Baby what happened? Did you get your medicine mixed up?” I had been taking anti-depression and anti-anxiety meds for some time. “No! I didn’t mix anything up!” I tried to scream, wondering why my throat hurt so bad.
“I tried to kill myself! I don’t want to be here!”
I don’t think I had ever screamed at her before, up to that point. The next thing I knew, she was slumped over against the wall, in a pool of tears, apparently on the phone with her Dad, letting him know I had attempted suicide. I remember feeling nothing. I was numb. I stared out the window of my ICU room. The room wasn’t the only thing that was cold.
It wasn’t only my legs that were numb, apparently it was my heart too. I couldn’t feel a thing.
They found me mid-morning, when I didn’t show up for my out-of-town interpreting assignment. My clients were concerned, and when they couldn’t reach me, they called my wife and then someone called the hotel. I was found, lying on my back, covered in vomit. There was vomit on the bed, on the floor, and it had projected up the wall behind me and covered a massive picture that hung over/behind the bed. Those who found me thought it was a murder scene. Apparently the pink Benadryl pills, along with the tens of thousands of other milligrams of pills I took, made it look like blood. They thought I was dead. I had been there for nearly 12 hours.
I should have been dead.
The next day was my little boy’s first birthday. I can’t imagine what our families must have been thinking. I can’t imagine what his birthday party was like. I missed it. I was nearly dead. I’m so sorry.
After three days in ICU, the doctors decided my liver wasn’t going to fail, and I had regained feeling in my legs, so I was released from ICU and immediately transferred to the psych ward.
The psych ward.
Me. The former worship leader. The youth pastor (I hadn’t been asked to step down yet at this point). The Christian radio host. The blogger. The ministry school graduate. The father. The husband. The outgoing one. The friendly one. The upbeat one. Me.
I was sitting in a wheelchair, headed to the psych ward. And I stayed there for a few days.
Wednesday, September 11, 2013, 5:00am CST
It’s been nearly a year since the darkest days of my life and I am still standing.
Here is what I have learned, after traveling to Hell and back:
- Be accountable to someone. Otherwise, you may find yourself in a real mess.
- No position, title, or amount of success can prevent you from the Darkness. Only God can do that.
- The truth will set you free.
- When you are at your lowest, spending extended time all alone can be detrimental. In my case it was almost deadly.
- Fears grow when you’re all alone. Depression deepens when you isolate yourself. Hope fades.
- Some people will not understand your struggles. Some will never understand your pain. Some people can never “get” your decision to try to end it all. I pray that they never do. Your story isn’t for everyone, but don’t let the ignorant words of a few silence your song of deliverance. Your story must be told, because once you couple that story with the Hope and Freedom found in Jesus Christ, you can overcome any obstacle! It’s your story. Own it.
It’s been a long year. I still have some pretty gnarly flashbacks at times, but I know that I have been forgiven. The messy grace that I’ve preached from this online pulpit for several years has finally found me.
I’m no longer afraid of my demons and you shouldn’t be either. We all have skeletons in our closets, and as hard as it may seem at times, and as loud as they may scream for our attention, there is nothing greater than the power of Love and Grace. Tell your demons to go to hell and remind your skeletons of what they are–dead.
I took a mulligan and you can too.
In golf, a mulligan is a stroke that is replayed from the spot of the previous stroke without penalty, due to an errant shot made on the previous stroke. The result is, as the hole is played and scored, as if the first errant shot had never been made.(Wikipedia)
I am a new creation.
I received a mulligan of my own and God said my mistakes are forgotten and it is as if I had never done anything before.
Our firm decision is to work from this focused center: One man died for everyone. That puts everyone in the same boat. He included everyone in his death so that everyone could also be included in his life, a resurrection life, a far better life than people ever lived on their own.
Because of this decision we don’t evaluate people by what they have or how they look. We looked at the Messiah that way once and got it all wrong, as you know. We certainly don’t look at him that way anymore. Now we look inside, and what we see is that anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life has come! Look at it! All this comes from the God who settled the relationship between us and him, and then called us to settle our relationships with each other. God put the world square with himself through the Messiah, giving the world a fresh start by offering forgiveness of sins. God has given us the task of telling everyone what he is doing. We’re Christ’s representatives. God uses us to persuade men and women to drop their differences and enter into God’s work of making things right between them. We’re speaking for Christ himself now: Become friends with God; he’s already a friend with you.
How? you ask. In Christ. God put the wrong on him who never did anything wrong, so we could be put right with God.
2 Corinthians 5:14-21
September 8-14, 2013 is National Suicide Prevention Week.
Take time today to tell those you love just how much they mean to you. And go the extra mile: smile at stranger. Leave a big tip with your server–heck, write them an encouraging note on the receipt. Open the door for someone. Or even better, forgive your enemies.
Life is short and no one can predict what tomorrow may bring.
Let us be challenged and encouraged to walk in love and help others carry their burdens. Who knows what your neighbor’s burdens may be. Don’t assume that someone who appears to have it all together actually has no problems.
To the youth, parents, and staff of CBC, I am deeply sorry for the massive amount of pain and confusion I caused each of you. I pray that the simple message of “Grace is Messy” that I preached constantly still rings true with you, and that at some point, you can choose to forgive my shortcomings. God bless each of you.
Ben Nelson, you will never know how much that conversation at Starbucks or your actions in the weeks and months that followed meant to me. He restores the wasted years, builds the broken walls. His love replaces fear. His mercy makes us whole. I am not the same, bro. Thanks for believing in me.
“Thank you” will never be enough for those who stood by my side through the darkest hours and the past year of restoration and counseling and therapy. A special word to Michael and Gigi for driving all the way up there to the hospital, for loving me at my worst, for believing you’d see me whole again, and for the countless hours of listening to my craziness. To call you my “friends” doesn’t come close.
Momma, I’m so sorry. I know my attempt took you right back to Aunt Missy’s suicide all those years ago. You’re one of the greatest women I have ever known and I thank you for always being there for me.
Ben Thomas and “Baby Sprout”, you will never know this dark side of your Daddy. I pray that I am forever your adviser, your friend, your counselor, and your defender. I love you two more than words will ever say. You are my joys.
I can never say “I’m sorry” enough and I can never do enough to make it up to my precious bride. I am forever indebted to you for your unwavering love, faith in me, and forgiveness. You are my rock.
If this story has touched your heart in any way, I would be honored if you’d share it with your family and friends. It takes just a few seconds to share this on Facebook and Twitter, or to email it to someone you know. I will not let my past silence the Hope that I have found in Jesus Christ. I am redeemed.
P.S. If you are hurting, scared, confused, and feel like you cannot find the Hope to make it another day, I understand where you are. I’ve been there. If you want to talk, email me: email@example.com If you want to talk to a professional, consider calling the number listed below.
Note: I received this note from my dear friend Christie this morning. She was my client at the time and is the one I credit with saving my life. She said, “I remember this day clearly. You weren’t at work and I asked both the teachers, the interpreter, and The other client if you texted or called. When you didn’t I couldn’t sit tight and felt heavy. I asked the other interpreter to go ahead and reach your boss. That led to the phone call at the hotel. Next thing I knew, I heard that you were brought to the hospital so I knew enough to text your wife. Then Gigi. My goodness I am so blessed that I was persistent in finding out what happened and reaching out to your loved ones. I am still so blessed to have been able to see you at the hospital with Lindsey and Gigi. We only met, but you opened your heart and life to Me. 🙂 You’re so precious; your friends and family. I breathed knowing you were given life again.”
Thank you, Christie!