My friend Wendy told me a story from her time as a substitute host on a local radio station. On the air one evening, she asked: “Have you ever witnessed a miracle in your life?” A man named John called in.
In a calm, confident, baritone voice, John told the audience that by the time he was twenty-eight years old, he had won and lost everything. He was an uncontrolled alcoholic, having been through treatment several times to no avail. His wife had left him and taken their kids, he got fired, and he lost his house.
John confessed that he was going to end his life. He made a plan to drive to a town he didn’t know, pull off onto a side road where he’d never been, and shoot him-self with a borrowed pistol. The day he decided to die, he pulled into the back of a gravel parking lot behind a building he didn’t know.
There, John played with the pistol in his hand when he remembered something one of his chemical dependency counselors—a man he had hated—had said: “If you think that ending your addiction by suicide is the only route you can take, that’s fine. However, have enough respect for yourself to take that action ONLY if you spend one minute—and I mean sixty full, focused seconds—to think about your actions and the outcome. If after that one focused minute you still believe this is the only way, then you’re not making a snap decision, so go ahead and do it.”
John hated that counselor. Hated his voice, his words, and his attitude. . .so it was even more hateful that these were the last thoughts he would ever think. So he decided to do his sixty seconds before shooting himself. Easy, right? Wrong.
Across the parking lot, there was a door that was slightly ajar, and thin light was coming through it. Curiosity destroyed his concentration, and he had to start this one minute all over again. But it was no good. John’s eyes kept darting to the light that was growing stronger as the night got darker and darker.
Cursing himself as a failure even in suicide, John decided to get out and investigate what was distracting him, so that once he knew the source of the annoying light, he could do his full sixty seconds.
As John approached the door, he said, he was about to reach for the handle when it suddenly swung open and a hopeful man appeared. The man gently asked, “Are you here for the Alcoholics Anonymous meeting?” He was.
At that exact moment, the walls came down. This road he didn’t know, in this city that he’d never visited, with a gun that wasn’t his, delivered him to the stoop of the very thing he was running from. John shared with his new friend that he was out of control, had lost everything, and had a loaded pistol in the car.
That night, John started to get his life back. His job, his house, his self-respect, wife, and kids—all because a CD counselor whose guts he hated had spoken the truth into him before he was ready to hear it.
Then John finished the call by saying, “If you don’t think that’s a miracle, I don’t know what is.” And he quietly wished her well and hung up the phone.
John’s truth was that he was an addict, and that his disease was ruining his life. The truth was that John was able to look beyond suicide—an easy out—and work hard to get back the things in his life that mattered. The truth was that he wasn’t helpless. He just needed help.