Here’s how bad life can get and still be recovered into a state
of profound happiness:
In the summer of 1994, I was 35 years old, broke, getting divorced,
fighting over the custody of my daughter, and depressed – by
all of that and by the after-effects of a serious head and neck injury.
I lived, hilariously enough, right next to a huge chicken farm. If
you’ve ever driven by a chicken farm in August, you know that
you don’t want to live next to one in an un-airconditioned house.
On the 9th of August, I walked out in a funk, through the funk,
to get the mail. In the mailbox there was yet another fat envelope
from lawyers – papers I had to deal with myself because I
couldn’t afford a divorce lawyer and was foolishly and badly
representing myself. I went inside and opened the envelope to discover
that they were looking for detailed financial records from when
I was in the second grade, or something equally delectable to lawyers,
and I went down into the basement of the house, where my papers
were stored, to try to locate the information.
As I stood at the file cabinet I looked down, where there sat a
box full of vitamins and herbs. In it, on top, was a huge bottle
of a very strong prescription pain medicine that had been given
to me for the chronic pain that I suffered after my head and neck
injury. I thought, “If I took all that, I wouldn’t have
to deal with this anymore.” And just as spontaneously as that,
I went upstairs, drank it all down with water, wrote a note to the
friend whose house I was sharing, and locked my dog out of the basement,
where I lay down and died.
My friend’s video shoot got rained out some time later and
he came home and found me. I don’t have anything funny to
say about this; it was a dark moment for him and I’m amazed
that he’s still one of my best friends ten years later. He
called 911, an ambulance came, and they took what was now my corpse
to the emergency room. If you really love details, you can read
the E.R. admission report here. It’s scary.
My physical body was revived after many efforts with a shot to
the heart of adrenaline and the repeated use of defibrillators in
the E.R. I had no brain activity, however, and my family was called
and told that I would not come back. It was recommended that I be
unplugged from life support. My family declined this opportunity
and got on airplanes to come to Boulder.
I spent six days in a coma with no measurable brain activity. During
that time, I cannot tell you where I was, but I can tell you that
I was mostly not aware of myself or anything else. When I was, the
one thing that I knew was that I could not communicate with my daughter
from there. The pain of this is beyond my powers of description.
At some point, I traveled in some fashion to some place where I
met and had a telepathic conversation with my grandmother Cincie,
who had died 14 years earlier. She made it clear to me that there
was a place for me there, and that there was a place for me here.
She indicated that either would be fine, but gently suggested that
I could come back here to complete my responsibilities. The gist
of it was that I was given an opportunity to come back, and I took
It sounds like a happy ending, but I came back into a very bad
situation. My body was a wreck. My brain chemistry was so screwed
up that it took many years to work out. The main nerve to my left
leg had died, and that leg and my left buttock withered to almost
nothing during the three weeks that I was in intensive care. The
doctors treating me could not tell me whether it would regenerate
or not. (Happily, it did, and it’s widely agreed that I have
a nice butt now. I can also run and climb and play, but it could
easily have been otherwise).
“Depressed” is not an adequate word to describe my
spiritual condition. I could not sleep at all and was in terrible
pain. I felt as though I had a blowtorch running on the bottom of
my foot for two and a half years, an effect of the death and regeneration
of that nerve in my left leg.
I got out of the hospital and things got worse. I couldn’t
sleep, night or day, and was in agonizing pain. No medication touched
this pain. Ten weeks later, never having slept, I went through my
divorce trial; after two long days sitting for ten hours in a court
room, I was in such physical pain that I picked up a bottle of tequila
after dinner and began sipping on it. I had never been a big drinker
in my life, but sometime in the night, I’d drunk enough tequila
that I passed out, a relief for which I was grateful – at
the time. What it led to was years of daily alcohol and prescription
A depressed man, in pain, full of alcohol and drugs, is a danger
to himself and everyone else. And that’s who I was for years.
I saw the inside of more jail cells, psychiatric hospitals, drug
and alcohol treatment centers, and therapist’s offices than
I care to recall. I almost didn’t emerge from a lot of them.
I was always depressed, often insane, sometimes violent, and completely
scary to myself and others.
Many things that were done to try to save me, and that I did to
try to save myself, were helpful. But ultimately what returned me
to happiness were the simple practices I discuss in Be
Happy Now, and those are available to anyone, anywhere,
at any time, free of cost.
The point of this story is to tell you that any life – any
life – can be recovered and turned into a good and positive
and happy life. If I came back to happiness – and friends,
I have come back to happiness – then anyone, anywhere, under
any condition can find happiness again.