The Puzzle

The psychiatrist enters the room. “They tell me you want to end your life. Can you tell me why?”

I lower my head and murmur, “I’m already dead inside. I just want to finish the job.”

The morning of November 8, 1997, I was holding a bottle of prescription painkillers in my hand with a six-pack of beer in front of me to wash them down. My world had collapsed. I was in my second loveless marriage – one more failed attempt to fight my alcohol-fueled life of promiscuity, as well as other self-destructive behavior. I was empty inside and hopeless. The emotional pain was excruciating and I wanted it gone.

Before I could twist off the child-resistant cap, something compelled me to pick up the phone. Little did I know I was in the midst of divine intervention. The call I made was to the AA hotline and resulted in my being taken to a psychiatric hospital.

During the admissions process, they went through my stuff, searching for items I could use to harm myself. They confiscated my toothbrush, comb, cigarettes, and lighter, but what made the most impact was the removal of shoelaces from my sneakers. For some reason, having to walk around in loose shoes made me realize how sick I really was. While being escorted to my room, we passed the recreation room. I observed a man putting a puzzle together and I hoped that maybe, just maybe, this commitment would do the same for me.

I was transferred to the rehab ward several days after surviving the painful process of detox. I emerged from the fog, and the journey to recovery began.

After my first year of sobriety, I divorced my second husband. He had continued to drink and I knew that, if I stayed, I would eventually surrender to temptation and end up right back where I was before hitting bottom. I didn’t want to die.

AA not only showed me a new way of living, it reintroduced me to God. It was at an AA meeting I met my current husband. After we had married, we continued to be active in AA but it didn’t seem to be enough. It took a while, but we finally realized we needed AA, but also a strong faith community. Since my husband was Catholic, we started attending mass and both felt like we were finally home. I was baptized on April 15, 2006 – but the blessings didn’t stop there.

A year later, divine intervention struck again. I felt compelled to attend a Faith in the Spirit seminar, even though I had no idea what it was. A woman gave testimony on her abortion experience and how it affected her life. As she spoke, my tears flowed. It was as if she was speaking directly to me. That was the first time I heard about Rachel’s Hope After Abortion healing retreats, but I knew by the aching in my heart that I needed to sign up.

Although sober and on the right spiritual path, there had always been something hovering over me like a dark cloud. That dark cloud was the pain, regret and self-loathing I had kept buried in the deep recesses of my soul for over 30 years.

I had never mourned my children, even the one I miscarried. I never acknowledged their existence at all. My abortions propelled me into the darkness of alcoholism and the reprehensible behavior that resulted. I drank to be free of the emotional pain and slept around for what I thought was love and acceptance. Rachel’s Hope gave me the emotional and spiritual tools to forgive myself and ask forgiveness from God and my children. I had never connected my abortions to any psychological or behavioral issues. The puzzle was finally solved.

I am blessed and privileged to now be part of the Rachel’s Hope family by co-leading retreats. As women enter the retreat house, I see in their eyes the same unrelenting shame, remorse and self-hatred that I carried for so many years. I also witness a miraculous transformation and watch them leave with a renewed spirit and something they haven’t had in a very long time: hope.

About the Author | Patti Smith

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