Letters to the Editor: An Activist Gone Too Soon

I am in long-term recovery, and for me that means I have not consumed alcohol for almost 11 years now. Recovery has given me purpose and hope for the future, while helping me regain stability in my life. Additionally, I have lived with chronic depression for most of my adult life, and know others who also struggle with this.

Many find help and healthy relief through various means. The downside of living with and recovering from these conditions, is coming to know people who are not as fortunate – many of whom are no longer with us.

Last week I was troubled and saddened to learn of the passing, by his own hand, of a younger man for whom I had a great deal of respect. No, I don't know all the circumstances. I did not know him well; we were “Facebook friends” and we chatted there a couple times. I first became acquainted with him through a wonderful biographical video posted by an organization whose general purpose I wholeheartedly support.

At his passing said organization publicly commented and included the following:

   “We know he would not have left us if he didn't have the confidence that we will     continue to forge ahead with our mission.”

Great, guys. Way to take a tragedy and make it All About You.

I cannot fathom anything more tasteless than taking the suicide of a younger man of promise, and turning it into a commercial for the success and strength of your organization!

Mein Gott! So, basically, you're saying that if your group were struggling he would have lived, but because you all are so Fabulous he was comfortable taking his own life?

The more I think about this, the more upset I get. I'm going to have to go to the beach and meditate, or go to the animal shelter and look at puppies or something.

Folks, when a person is in such immense psychic pain that ending life seems the best option, I can assure you that the thought “you guys are all set, thxbi” does not occur. Trust me on this one.

Now, for some this hearkens back to events from earlier this year regarding a controversial “free but not free/public but not really” social event. In the aftermath of that controversy, the organization simultaneously issued an apology of sorts with a new advertisement that said “No Apologies.”

There's a Twitter hashtag for such behavior: #SorryNotSorry

You always learn more from listening than from talking. Shortly after that event, I was at Starbucks in WilMa, and as I waited patiently I overheard a member of this organization say that the group did not have centralized messaging, and that anybody in the organization could publicly speak at any time on behalf of everybody else.

Perhaps that is what happened here.

A final, personal plea as I close. My mind has gone to dark places many times over the years. Too many times. Those who live with – or have lived with – substance abuse or depression know exactly what I mean.

If you are in anguish, if you think the only solution would be a drink, or a drug, or the end of your life… You are mistaken! You're wrong, please believe that.

But asking for help can be scary. Trust me that the help will come. It did for me, and it will for you, too.

James Oaksun

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