In 2014 I found myself in a nightmare. In the throes of drink dependency, alone, ashamed and merely existing.
Overcome with emotions you feel woefully unequipped to deal with, the brain seeks possible solutions to end the anguish. I can honestly say in that moment, suicide felt easier than facing up to the mess I called my life.
As selfish as it might sound, I didn’t want to take this journey on my own. If I could just explain why I was making this choice, to almost absolve myself of my sins so to speak, then maybe my loved ones wouldn’t be left with so many unanswered questions. I had always known the number for Samaritans but never had the courage to call.
Right there and then however, the appeal of a stranger to unburden myself upon seemed so much easier. And that was the best decision I ever made.
After many years struggling with alcohol dependency and mental health issues, I had managed to alienate myself, from not just family and friends, but society in general. Everyone had heard my drunken rhetoric countless times before, so when it came to me genuinely needing to talk, not unexpectedly and for their own sanity, my calls went unanswered.
In retrospect, it was the best thing that could have happened, speaking to someone. Just like one of those feel-good movies that men of my generation cry at, but say “I’ve got something in my eye”, as if tears threaten our masculinity, this story has a fantastically happy ending.
Now as a Samaritans volunteer, I have been fortunate enough to turn my life around, and I can trace my success back to that conversation back in 2014. Since then, I have worked with the charity and most recently taking part in ‘The Big Listen’ video. Samaritans are embarking on this 24-hour fundraising initiative today [24 July], not just to raise money to maintain the emotional support service, but more importantly, to emphasise the importance of volunteers listening to people.
I wanted to be part of this fundraising initiative. For me, it’s not about being unique, or standing out from the crowd, it’s about being part of something that looks past pre-conceived stereotypes and encourages the person inside to blossom.
The simplicity of communication saving people’s lives is mesmerising in itself and refreshingly uncomplicated. Would truffle oil really make a soup already full of complicated flavours any better, or do we just need some crusty bread to enhance an already fabulous starter? The humble art of listening and talking has ended wars, freed civilisations and saved millions of lives, so it should never be underestimated.
Listening – it’s simple and it’s good, and we can all benefit from using it in our daily lives.
For more information about how you can support Samaritans The Big Listen, go to https://www.samaritans.org/media-centre/big-listen.