James Giles spared his family the grief of him dying after an unsuccessful suicide attempt, but it was on purpose. Anyone who attempts suicide needs to consider the possibility they might live.
“If anybody considers suicide just think of the possibility you just might survive,” he said.
Giles’ story of addiction and attempted suicide appeared on the Banner editorial page on Wednesday.
He told his story again Saturday morning during a drug-awareness forum at Hiwassee Mental Health Center.
He began abusing drugs at age 14 and continued for 18 years, but he has been clean and happy for 13 years because he realized there is another way.
“There is another way, believe it or not,” he said. “You’ve just got to get sick and tired of being sick and tired. You’ve got to come to the realization that you have to take life by the horns and live it or you lay down and die.”
At the age of 43, he has the health of a 70 year old.
“I don’t know how much longer I have left, but the rest of my life, I’m going to set back and grow old gracefully,” he said.
His mother, Lynda Denham, offered her own story of guilt in a letter read by licensed professional counselor David Webb.
“It is the nightmare we never expect,” the letter began. “One day you wake up and realize your child is addicted to drugs. Once I accepted the fact that Jim had a problem, I made it all about me.
I lived with huge amounts of guilt, wondering what I had done to my son, how had I failed him? It had to have been a result of a broken home and really bad parenting.
That word is: Guilt.
After much self-recrimination, meetings and counseling over the years I came to realize that it did not matter how or why or who's to blame, it only mattered that we get help.
In my eagerness to help Jim, I probably made the biggest mistake ever. I enabled him. I made excuses, I gave him money and I bought him cars to reward him during times of soberness. There were many broken promises over the years and I knew that each one was the ‘turning point’ when he would wake up and become the child I knew.
I was so determined to be the mother I thought I hadn't been. It was a long time before I realized I alone could not make it all better. Each time he ‘slipped,’ I was devastated. His siblings berated me for allowing him to manipulate me into believing he was going to change (because I still thought he and I could control the addiction). I was determined that I would not desert him.
You grow a child next to your heart for nine months and that bond is never broken.
Jim abused his relationship with his siblings and parents to get his way. He thought he was different and that they judged him wrongly. He allowed himself to become disassociated and indifferent to the attitudes we had. He took our concern and advice as a measure to control him and made excuses for his actions.”
That word is: Denial.
After years of arrests, hospitals, lost jobs and unsavory characters, we began to see and recognize the patterns of self abuse. We went through the highs and the lows.
It came to a time when it was a relief to answer the phone and be told he was once again arrested for public intoxication of inhalants.
It was a relief because it meant for a day or two, he was safe, and warm and fed. God bless the Cleveland Police Department!
After one of his journeys into the abyss he attempted suicide. He had become estranged from his family and siblings. He felt no one understood him or cared if he lived or died. I cannot describe to you the desolation we felt when we heard of this.
His maternal grandmother and I headed immediately to the hospital, where we were told that he would recover but might never walk again. I finally realized I could not do it on my own just because I wanted it so badly.
It was time.
I prayed for strength and guidance. I had to let him go. It was the hardest thing I have ever done, but do it I must. I surrendered him over to God. To this day I feel that Jim was delivered of his addiction through Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Savior.
I take no credit for his recovery, I am just thankful that he has become the person he was meant to be. He faced his demon and grew through the conflict, to be worthy and thankful for God's Grace.
Was it easy? I don't know, but I do hope that his miseries and experiences may someday guide another confused and angry person down the road to victory.
A very relieved and thankful mother.”
Giles tried rehab programs for all of the wrong reasons during 18 years of addiction.
“I went to rehab programs to get what I needed out of them; if I needed shelter, if I needed food or if I just needed companionship because I was alone. Nobody knew how to control it. I did not know how to control it and this went on for 18 years,” he said.
After 18 years, he decided there was on sure-fire way. In October 2000, he drove to McDonald, climbed to the top of a utility tower and jumped.
“I got high before I jumped, read a little bit of the Bible and asked the Lord to have mercy on my soul,” he said.
He woke up a couple of days later in the hospital with two broken ankles, a fractured lumbar vertebrae, a broken orbital socket and additional injuries. It was then that he understood the impact of his reckless life on those around him, especially his loved ones.
“My mother and my grandmother were standing over me crying. I’d never seen them in that condition before and that is really when the realization of 18 years of me doing drugs — how selfish, inconsiderate and self-centered I was,” he said. “I never thought about the consequences it was having on my family, my loved ones, people who were praying, people sitting up nights wondering where I was or what I was doing, if I was dead or in jail for killing someone — I came to the realization I was doing it to myself and to my family.”
Giles was embarrassed and ashamed when he began “getting clean.” He had no self-esteem — nothing. But, he also recognized the road he had traveled and it was time to choose a different route or die.