My mother shined her headlights on the body, but he didn't budge. My stepmom called 911.
I met Craig at a dinner party in 1999. We were both in committed relationships and met through mutual friends. I was 23 and he was 28. Through a crazy turn of events, we began a relationship in August of 2000 and stayed together until his death in June of 2011.
When we met, we got along really well. We both grew up in New Mexico and had similar senses of humor. Craig was funny, sensitive, charming, sweet, smart, TALL and into me. We were working in a bar, so naturally there was a lot of drinking and flirting, during and after shifts. Employees always stayed after closing, drinking some more and being debaucherous, so before you knew it, it was 4 or 5 am, the sun was starting to rise and those birds would not stop chirping.
We had many nights like this. We both liked to drink and party. It wasn't the ideal way to begin a relationship, but it happened. And I don't think either one of us expected it.
Our relationship was a series of peaks and valleys. The highest of highs and lowest of lows. The beginning was exciting, as many relationships tend to be. Even though we never married, we definitely had a honeymoon period. And we learned so much more about each other; he loved Lambrettas, gardening and writing and we both loved the movie La Bamba.
Throughout the course of our relationship, we'd watch the movie with the captions on (everyone does that, right?), run lines, quote it and eventually even named one of our chickens Connie Jr. after Richie's sister in the movie.
Craig had a son from his previous relationship, who lived with us 50% of the time. He was a great dad. He read to his son every night he was with us. That always melted my heart.
We loved to do things together as much as possible. We totally became that couple who was always together they may as well start dressing the same. We didn't. Usually. And IF it did happen, it totally was not planned.
We loved to marathon hours of awesome TV shows and movies. We loved the shit out of our pug, and all pugs. He loved to cook and encouraged my love of cooking as well. That quickly became one of our most cherished ways of spending time together. I started a blog. We tried to fix up our home on a little-to-nothing budget. We painted the rooms wacky colors and re-did our gross bathroom. We took holiday photos with our animals.
We planted trees, gardens, and raised chickens together, we even wanted to keep bees. There was talk of mini-goats as well. We had dreams of having a micro-farm in our backyard. We desired one another more than ever AND despised one another, at times, on levels I didn't think were possible. We had the dirtiest-most-amazing-can't-go-into-detail-it's-way-too-crazy-to-mention-EVER-kind-of-sex, and we laughed together more than I have ever laughed in my entire life. We were so incredibly close. And at times, gross.
Once, I was certain I was getting/growing(?) a hemorrhoid and I was mortified! Craig decided he wanted to inspect the area for me. You know men and butts. Anyhow, he confirmed it was, in fact, a 'roid and proceeded to name it Prince, since it was "purple and tiny." He also insisted on regular check-ups, you know, to make sure The Revolution didn't decide to show up and join Prince for a surprise concert. I still smile when I think of his clever ways to get at that ass.
We truly loved each other and wanted to have a safe environment for his son, who lived with us half the time, in which to grow up. And I wanted to have a child of our own, eventually. But like a lot of couples, we had problems at times.
We'd go to couples therapy to try and learn new ways to communicate better, but I grew up watching my parents verbally abuse each other so it was very easy for me to react with yelling, screaming, name-calling, sometimes hitting, to try and get my point across in the heat of an argument. It still hurts like hell to know that his son witnessed us fighting at times.
We separated when we were told we had to. But, it was never for very long. We couldn't stand to be away from one another, and in those times, we did our best to start fresh and appreciate each other and this life we were so desperate to have together. It'd work for a while, then we'd get comfortable and slip back into old routines and nasty habits. We'd argue, ignore each other, then we'd always come crawling back for more. It was very unhealthy at times, and we both knew it.
But, sometimes even love, perseverance and the greatest of times are not enough to battle the combination of depression, co-dependency, alcoholism and the secrecy and shame that can come with it. Especially when two people are going through the darkness at the same time. When one person is in denial about everything and the other is ready to checkout, it's like trying to claw your way out of quicksand when you realize something needs to be done, something needs to change. It's so exhausting and painful. You start to wonder if any of it is worth it anymore.
In late 2010, early 2011, Craig was going through a particularly rough patch in his life. He'd gone back to school, took his time and eventually graduated from UNM in 2010. He felt pressured to attend law school, so he took the LSAT. He had extreme anxiety already, so coupled with studying for this test and other private things he was going through and had gone through, he was a wreck. He was drinking heavily and started on anti-depressants sometime in late December.
We went on a mini road trip in March with the pug in the hopes of cheering him up. We drove to the Billy the Kid museum in Southern New Mexico and had a great time together. Looking back, Craig seemed lost in thought a lot of the time during the trip and I can't help but wonder what was going through his mind, even then. I will never know for sure, but it seemed like he was mulling something over.
Sometime in April, Craig started talking about having thoughts of suicide. He really felt it was a side effect of the anti-depressant he was on and decided he no longer wanted to take it. He/we should have consulted with his doctor before stopping, but he didn't. He could be very stubborn at times.
I hate myself for admitting this, but I also thought it was just the medication because I'd never heard him talk that way. I never in a million years thought that he would ever do anything to really hurt himself. Yes, he had always been a little on the wild and reckless side, but I also knew he loved and cared for us, his family, and I assumed that that'd be enough to get him through.
After talking about it for a while, he convinced me he was going to be OK, that it was just something he was going through. I wanted nothing more than to believe it so I left the subject alone. I was in total denial that he was really feeling that low. To this day, I regret not looking further into his situation rather than believing him.
In May, at Craig's suggestion, we got four new chicks to add to our flock. I remember him saying, "It'll be good to have something to keep me busy." I thought it was a good idea, too. He was always at his best when he was nurturing others, even birds. His moods changed drastically throughout the month, and I thought it might be the meds leaving his system.
Again, I know I should have paid more attention to what he had been on and maybe even did a little research, but I was in major denial and I didn't. That is something that I will live with for the rest of my life.
In early June on a Saturday night, I was in our bedroom watching a movie and getting ready for bed. We'd been arguing all afternoon and I was exhausted from all the yelling and crying. About 1:25 am, Craig came into the bedroom and told me that he loved me. I was crying and told him how much I loved him, too, and how tomorrow would be better. Those were his last words to me. I love you. He left the bedroom calmer than I'd seen him all night, walked into the backyard and ended his life.
It all happened so quickly. I didn't hear the gunshot, but the barking of my dogs is what drew me outside. Finding the person you love more than anything that way is indescribable. Surreal. The thought of him feeling so alone and desperate in those last minutes still to this day breaks my heart into a million pieces. I remember every detail of that night clearer than I wish were possible. I would give anything in the world to change the events of that day, to be able to change a lot of things about our relationship, honestly.
Needless to say, I sort of lost my mind. I was in shock. Was this really happening? The life I was living with my best friend and lover, regardless of how imperfect it could be, was over. And it seemed to happen in the blink of an eye.
How was I supposed to go on without him? I never imagined I'd have to start my life over at 34 years old. Who the hell was I without Craig? I spiraled into a depression so deep that I wanted to literally die. I thought of ways for it to "accidentally" happen (car crash, overdose, hit by a car) so I wouldn't feel badly about leaving people who loved me behind. I dreamed of dying. I longed for it.
We'd told each other many times that it would be impossible to live without one another and here I was, the one left behind to test out our little theory. All I wanted was nothing more than to have Craig back and to have this horribly vivid, yet cloudy nightmare be over. Everything was so hazy but crystal clear at the same time.
After a few months, I moved out of our house and found a new place to live. I started an intensive therapy program, attended SOS meetings and eventually went back to work. There have been many dark and lonely days since that night back in 2011. No showering-or-eating-just-drinking-straight-out-of-the-wine/whiskey/vodka-bottle-black-out-wasted-kind-of-days. Days where I would only get out of bed to let my dogs outside.
But there have also been days where I see glimpses of light and hope for my future. Some days, the light is clouded by feelings of guilt for wanting to move forward. That is something that I continue to struggle with. And something that I continue to deal with in therapy every Thursday.
With so many issues to work through, I am thankful to have such a great therapist who is committed to helping me figure out who I am without Craig. I'm doing all of the hard work, but it's comforting having her to guide me.
I've also stopped drinking. It's challenging, but I am 70 days in. I want to drink all the time and never again. But when I reflect on my life with Craig now, without the booze, it's a tiny bit easier to think back on it and enjoy all of the great memories and love we shared instead of all of the pain he, we went through.
I've always been aware that alcohol was a way to mask pain caused by deeper issues, but I also know he would be proud of me that I am trying to work through my shit without it for the first time in my life. I know he would want me to be happy. He'd want me to move on, to have a child and a healthy relationship.
I still want for him all of the good things I now want for myself and not knowing if he's getting them, wherever he/his soul may be, is a hard pill to swallow. I still miss him so much, everyday. But I like to believe he's somewhere amazing, riding a Lambretta around while holding our beloved pug (who passed away in Oct 2102), looking down at me and his boy from time to time with nothing but love. There is no proof that he isn't doing that, right?
I also like to believe that he has finally found peace. That's helped me to be able to find a little bit as well.