Today, I'm happy to introduce you to my fellow blogger and friend, Robert from Real Money Robert. Yes, he did attempt suicide and overcame alcohol abuse and depression. Trust me. If you think the title gets your attention, wait until you hear Robert's account. It's one heck of a story.
The power of the human spirit never ceases to amaze me. Robert's story is an excellent example of the strength of the human spirit. So many of our problems come at an early age. Those years shape who we are. If the experiences during those years are traumatic and we don't address them, the long-term effects can be damaging.
On the other hand, if we address those scars and wounds, they can make us stronger and better people. That indeed describes how Robert dealt with his demons.
It reminds me of a line in one of my wife's and my favorite TV shows, Criminal Minds (don't judge me!). Rossie (Joe Mantegna) is, one of the FBI behavioral agents offers a brilliant nugget at the end of one of the shows. Here's what he said.
“Our scars tell us where we've been, but they don't have to define where we're going.”
Before I let Robert tell his story, I want to point you to a couple of my favorite articles from his blog.
Be sure to check out these posts.
With that way too wordy intro, here's Robert.
Tell us a little about yourself.
Well, let’s see. I’m almost 31, and just last year got married to my beautiful wife, Heather. Between the two of us, we have five amazing kids ranging in ages from 5-15. They keep us busy. If that wasn’t enough, we’ve also got three dogs, and a whole flock of chickens and ducks. Heather is trying to add goats into the mix this year too, so we’ll see how that goes.
On a personal level, I enjoy the outdoors and get out in the wilderness as much as possible. Hunting and fishing are passions of mine, and I love being able to help put food on my family’s table with these pastimes. I also love to golf, although with the craziness of the family life I don’t get out much these days. I also really enjoy volunteering as a coach for my kids in their youth sports league. It’s really exciting watching them all develop at all of the things they excel at.
Tell us a little about your career path.
To say the least, my career path has been a little unorthodox. My first wife and I found out that she was pregnant right at the end of our junior year in high school. That flipped the script on my plans at the time. My oldest daughter Nicole was born prematurely during our senior year in high school, and through the support of our families, we were both able to complete high school as planned.
I had always been a hard worker, holding my first job delivering newspaper at the age of 11. Trust me, I give my kids a hard time about this all the time, haha.
So, when we found out we were having a baby, I knew I had to support my young family. Over the summer before Nicole was born, I worked as many hours as possible at two jobs, saving up in preparation for her to come into this world. Then, once I graduated, I found a job at a local factory, working entry-level stacking newspaper inserts. On my days off, I’d work hours at the local shoe store and at JCPenney to bring in as much money as I could to support my family while my first wife was attending college.
Once she graduated and got a job, we were finally starting to get secure enough that I was able to quit my two side jobs and focus on my career. By this time I had already been promoted a couple of times and was making a decent wage in the factory, but factory work wasn’t what I had my eyes set on.
I was working the night shift at the time and decided it was time for me to get my college degree. I enrolled in an online degree program and put in the work to obtain my Bachelor’s degree in just three years. That took a lot of sleepless nights and days, especially considering that I now had three young children by the time I enrolled.
After I finished my degree in business administration, I was able to secure another promotion as the production scheduler for my facility. I’ve been in this role for five years now, and I really enjoy it!
You told me you went through an incredibly tough period several years ago that included divorce and depression. Tell us what happened?
Yes, once I wasn’t working all of those long hours, I was spending more time at home, which was great to be able to spend that time with the kids. But after a short while, I realized that I was no longer in love with the woman I married. A lot had changed since we were youngsters still in high school and I had matured to a level that she did not. I decided that it was time to move on.
A lot of guilt came with the situation. I was not one to talk much about my feelings, so I just buried these feelings inside.
Meanwhile, my first wife and I were both functioning alcoholics. It wouldn’t be unusual for us to drink an entire bottle of whiskey or vodka in one day. Later on, I found that I was self-medicating and numbing my emotions with alcohol. Not a healthy habit at all, and I’m lucky to still be here today.
Things all came to a head during one particular week. I remember it pretty vividly even though I was drunk.
My first wife and I were back together trying to make things work at the recommendation of the pastor and others who were trying to guilt me into staying with her. It was a Sunday, and I was feeling terrible about things. My ex and I got into a huge fight, and I ended up punching through one of the doors in the house. Later on, I found it that I broke my hand in the process.
Not my finest moment for sure! My feelings inside were starting to boil over, and I didn’t know what to do with them.
That Friday, I was drunk again, my ex and I were fighting again, and I decided to drive to speak with the pastor and let him know where my head was. No one knew we were drinking to this extent, so he listened to what I had to say, and sent me on my way, recommending I keep working on my marriage. But that wasn’t what I needed. I needed to step away and take some time to focus on myself. I would get that chance, but not in a way that was good for anybody.
Two days after that talk with the pastor, it was a cold Sunday morning, and things were heading south in a hurry. My ex was passed out in the bedroom after drinking vodka all morning. The kids were playing in the living room. I was in my bathroom, sobbing uncontrollably, wondering how I had let things get to this point. I had a bottle of whiskey on the floor next to me, but this time, it didn’t help push back the tears and the guilty thoughts.
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Thoughts of suicide
I had never really had any thoughts to harm myself until that day. Never once had I even thought to intentionally harm myself, let alone everything else that was about to go down. But I picked up my pocket knife, and three times cut across my wrists as I watched the blood drip. I felt so much guilt and anguish that I felt like I deserved to be hurting. I felt like this was my punishment for all of the things that I had done and the people that I had hurt.
As I wiped up the blood, I decided that this wasn’t going to be enough. It was time to take action. I told the kids I loved them and I’d be back a little later, and I left, got in my truck, and drove to my best friend’s house. Unfortunately, she wasn’t home at the time, so I parked in her pole barn and closed the door behind me.
Intoxicated, depressed, and with incredible guilt on my shoulders, I rolled the windows down and decided to send her a message. It was very cryptic, and I’m happy she knows me well enough to have been able to decipher the message.
My phone was buzzing in the center console as I lay with my head on the door, sobbing, waiting for it to end. Luckily, she figured out what was going on and sent help. Another friend of ours pulled me out of the truck, took me to the hospital, and I finally got the help that I needed.
For further reading:
From Suicide Attempt to Inspiring Women to Love Life
That had to be an incredibly difficult time. What steps did you take to get through all of that?
Yes, it was the absolute worst moment of my life – a true rock bottom experience for me. But that rock bottom opened my eyes to a renewed focus on myself and my health and well-being.
Immediately following my attempted suicide, I spent ten days in an inpatient therapy program and another two weeks in all day outpatient therapy. That few weeks set the foundation for me to come out the other end of this as a changed man.
While I was there, I learned tools, skills, and methods that would work for me and my personality to help get me through times when I was feeling down, or angry, or whatever other emotions I had going on. I learned how to cope with my emotions and open up and talk about them instead of bottling them deep down inside. And most importantly, I learned that I needed to stop living to make everyone else happy and I needed to focus on myself! I spent so much time and effort pouring myself into everyone else that I lost sight of who I was and what I wanted. And that put me on a path to a very dark place.
I also had the support of my best friend. She was one of the few people that recognized that I needed time to put my own needs first, and she helped me through that process. Oh, and that best friend eventually became my wife!
How did that experience change your life?
As I mentioned above, that entire experience made me realize that sometimes you need to put yourself first. You can’t pour water out of an empty pitcher. I love to help people, and by helping myself, I was able to get back to being the happy, outgoing, fun-loving person that had been lost for so many years. And in turn, I’m able to continue to help others now that I’m in a better place.
What financial consequences did those early years have? What did you learn from them?
Oh man, I don’t even want to know how much I spent on alcohol over the last few years of my previous marriage. Plus, I had thousands of dollars in medical costs from the inpatient and outpatient therapy program.
I made a lot of financial mistakes in my first marriage. Those financial mistakes cost me over 300,000! But most of all, I learned that I have to prioritize the things that are important to me, the most important being my family.
What encouragement would you give others dealing with divorce and depression?
No matter how bad things seem, there is always a way out. There is always going to be a light at the end of that tunnel. You just have to have the courage to seek out that light. If you dwell in the tunnel for too long, eventually a train is going to come through. So take action, seek out the light, and get yourself the help you need so that you can become happier.
That last part is so important.
Seek help. It’s ok to need help sometimes. Talk to someone. Share your feelings. Let them know what you’re going through. A professional will be able to help give you the advice and accurately assess your situation to determine what it is you need.
Don’t be ashamed to reach out for help.
Thank you, Robert, for your courage and transparency in telling your story. I know it has taken you a long time to be able to share it with others. I know your telling it offers hope and encouragement for anyone who has or may still be dealing with similar issues.
They say depression is the silent killer. Many people who suffer from it don't know they do. Others are afraid to talk about it due to shame. Sadly, there is still a stigma around depression and mental illness. You and others who tell their stories can pull back the cover and shed some light on the darkness many people suffer with silently.
If you're one of those people, take Robert's advice. Get help. Tell a trusted friend or family member. Call a counselor. If you don't know where to start, talk to your doctor. They can introduce you to someone.
Fred started the blog Money with a Purpose in October 2017. The blog focused on three primary areas: Personal Finance, Overcoming Adversity, and Lifestyle. During his time at Money with a Purpose, he was quoted in Forbes, USA Today and appeared in Money Magazine, MarketWatch, The Good Men Project, Thrive Global and many other publications.
In April 2019, Fred, along with two other partners, acquired The Money Mix website. To focus his time and energy where he could be the most productive, Fred recently merged Money with a Purpose with The Money Mix. You can now find all of his great content right here on The Money Mix, along with content from some of the brightest minds in personal finance.