themighty logo

When You Have to Call 911 for a Suicidal Parent

Editor's Note

If you experience suicidal thoughts or have lost someone to suicide, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741.

As a child you are inspired by the superheroes on television and the magic you read about in your favorite storybooks. But above all, the true invincible heroes in your life are your parents. When you fall down and scrape your knee, they’re at your side before you can cry. When you rip up your math homework in a fit of anger, they are the first to calm you down. When your beloved pet passes away, they are there reminding you everything is going to be OK. You are certain they will always be this way, always there to help and protect you.

For some people this may prove to be true, but for others, the older we get the more human our parents become. The “juice,” clearly alcohol. One drink turns to two. In time neither they nor you know what to do. Your parent is no longer quite as cheerful, that bold laugh has been replaced by a soft weep that sends them off to sleep. They are in a state of pain you can’t quite understand, but you do your best to love them all the same. After all, their pain only shows its face after dark and in the mornings. Your parent is still the person who came to your rescue when you thought the monster in your closet was going to get you.

We want to be our parents’ children forever, but a time will come when we go off to college or move on to purchase our own homes. We worry because we know the alcoholic and suicidal thoughts still fester after dark, but even so, we remain hopeful. The first few days, weeks and months are a challenge. You find yourself calling home every chance you get. Every time your parent picks up things seem OK. You talk about the family, the new job offer and the upcoming date with your cute co-worker.

You have a few days off and decide to surprise your parent with some flowers. You’ve spent so long missing them and you can’t wait to return to your childhood home. You put your key in the door, shaking with so much excitement you can hardly turn the lock. The flowers fall to the floor as you notice your parent slumped over the couch with a bottle of alcohol in hand. They are sobbing uncontrollably. You do your best to calm them down and find out what’s wrong, but things are far worse than you ever could have fathomed. In seconds the hysteric cries turn to apartment-rattling screams. The crying, screaming, throwing of things. A scene far more frightening than any monster in your closet ever could have been. You try to hold them tight and tell them everything will be OK. Once they did this for you and it made everything better.

No amount of hugging or talking can cure a deep rooted addiction, but you’d never give up on this person that protected you. Finally, they look you dead in the eye and scream on and on about how badly they want to die. They continue to cry, slamming into walls, fumbling around the housing looking for a way to end their life. You want to cry with them, but you have to be strong for them as they were for you. You hide their car keys and remove any weapons in sight. There is nothing more you can do, they just won’t listen to you. So you make a call you never imagined you’d have to make.

The police enter your childhood home, the house more crowded than it has been in ages, but still you feel so alone. The handcuffs go on, the screaming gets louder. More police and even paramedics. The stretcher chair arrives and off they go. First a hospital to drain the alcohol then a psychiatric ward to analyze the root of the problem as well as the alcohol addiction. They will only be hospitalized for a few days, but those days feel longer than the months you spent away from your loved one. When you pick up your parent from the psychiatric hospital things won’t quite be the same. They are not gods, magical beings or superheroes. They, like yourself, are flawed individuals who just got lost in their emotions.

The days, months and years to come after this day will be a challenge, especially if they deny they have a problem. Still, you will give it your all and meet with the doctors, push for therapy and pray they agree to go to the local AA meeting or even rehab. That strong person you grew up admiring is still in there, and though at times they may cry or relapse we will continue to fight for them. The road to recovery may seem impossible and at times you may think your parent is gone, but they’re in there, still loving you. No matter how hurtful their words, how difficult it is to see them fall further into addiction, we will continue to fight.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Photo by Eddy Lackmann on Unsplash