I was in the Emergency Room of an ARMY hospital, basic training, Fort Jackson, South Carolina. The night before I had ingested nearly 60 pills—a combination of pain killers and Tylenol—and my stomach had just been pumped. The doctor stormed in, asking me what kind of game I was playing.
“I’m sorry, sir, I have no clue what you’re talkin’ about.”
He got right in my face. “Ah, you think I’m stupid,” he spat. “You know good and well what I’m talking about.”
Long pause for dramatic effect, and then he continued. “We pumped your stomach, and you know what we found?”
I stammered, “Well, let’s see, last night we had rice, but, well, we always have rice, and it was some type of chicken dish. I don’t know, I wasn’t that hungry…”
“NOTHING!” he interrupted. “That’s what we found! Not even a single aspirin! You lied to us when you said you took all those pills!”
“No!” I said in disbelief. “I did, I took them all. I had nearly a full bottle of pain pills and a small bottle of Tylenol.”
“Just stop!” he bellowed. “There was nothing in your stomach. You’re a liar!”
I sat in stunned silence. There was no medical explanation for it; God had literally evaporated the poison I intended to use to end my life.
“You said you didn’t go to the bathroom,” he continued, snapping me back to reality, “and you didn’t make yourself throw up last night, so it’s impossible for you to have taken nearly two bottles of pills! You’d be in a coma or DEAD! You would’ve gone into liver failure, and we’d be calling your wife and tellin’ her to start making funeral arrangements!”
‘Round and ‘round we went for ten minutes, he accusing me of lying and me trying to prove my innocence (and guilt). Finally, too frazzled to continue, I gave up and actually did lie to him, telling him I’d faked it, just so he’d stop SCREAMING at me.
“The truth, at last,” he smiled. “Halle-freakin’-lujah! Why did you fake suicide?” he asked. “Was it the ARMY?”
My eyes dropped to the ground, and I prepared myself to tell him the whole sordid tale.
“Yes, sir. I’ve been having terrible pain in my back, and my legs have been going numb,” I began, but he cut me off with a grin.
“GREAT! I knew it,” he laughed, and walked out. He was almost clicking his heels as he exited the room. “I knew it knew it knew it!” he sing-songed. In the hallway I could hear him tell the hospital staff, “Welp, he gave it up. The boy’s a liar.”
After sitting by myself for a few confusing minutes, a nurse finally came in. She was older, with silver-rimmed glasses and her hair up in a bun. She reminded me of my Grandma Weddle.
“C’mon, son,” she smiled. “Let’s go.” It was the first kind face I’d seen in weeks, and I was happy to oblige. I followed her down the hall and up the elevator. My head was dizzy from the last events of the last 12 hours, and after walking for what seemed like years, I finally spoke up.
“What’s happening?” I said as I stopped walking. “I mean, this whole thing has just been crazy, and I’m tired and want to know what on Earth is going on. Where are we going? Can I call my wife?”
She stopped, put both hands on my shoulders, and asked, “What’s your name?”
“Rob,” I said, nearly in tears from the stress.
“Ok,” she said gently. “Rob, I’m taking you upstairs, to 7-West (the wing where they took soldiers whose cheese had slipped off their cracker, aka “the booby hatch,” or “the nut house”). You’re going to talk to the Psychiatrist first, and then they’ll get you a bed. They’ll start drawing up your papers and you should be out soon, dear.”
“Out?” I said. “You mean…”
“You’re going home,” she said. “You’re going home.”
While I’d never said these words (due to my semi-strict Christian upbringing), I mumbled, “Oh my God,” and started trembling as I burst into tears. “Oh my God, I’m going home.”
All those phone calls to my wife, Laura, fighting back tears which would fall in streams once she handed the phone over, and I heard the voice of my beautiful, two-year-old daughter, Jessica. All the confusion and loneliness and depression and pain I’d suffered, and finally, I was going home. Even as a writer, I can’t find the words to describe the relief I felt. It was like my whole body, soul and spirit let out an exhausted sigh, and then relaxed.
When I got to 7-West I slept for nearly a whole day, and then called Laura and told her the good news. I didn’t care that the discharge I was getting would be listed as “general” instead of an “honorable.” I had survived a complete mental breakdown and a suicide attempt, and was finally going home. My dad sent me a postcard which read, “You gave it your best shot, son, but your body didn’t cooperate. Now it’s time to come home.”
Two weeks later, my mom drove Laura and Jess to Kansas City to pick me up at the airport. When I saw them from a distance, it felt like a dream. I fell into Laura’s arms and have never left.
When people ask why I’m a Christian, the best way I can describe it is to tell them, “God is my Father, and Jesus is my Savior. My Father’s house is home for my soul, and I’m never leaving. I’m home.”
You see, just as the pills I’d ingested literally vaporized in my stomach, so does our sin disappear when we ask the Lord for His forgiveness. The Bible says He tosses our iniquities as far away as the east is from the west. He casts our transgressions to the bottom of the ocean, never to be seen again.
He’s my heavenly Father, and He saved me when most of the world didn’t care if I lived or died. That’s why I serve Him. Jesus loves the losers, of whom I was chief.
“God, You alone rescued my soul from the grips of death, my eyes from weeping, and my feet from slipping. Now I will walk at your side in the land of the living (Psalm 116:8-9).”