I can’t, not alone

Good morning faithful reader – 11/10/2021

My name is Bob Cristello and my son Anthony took his life in August of 2017 at the age of 35. I say this to claim my seat and to renew my membership in a club that no one wishes to be a member of.

People in our rooms often ask me, “How do you do it”? My answer is simply that “I can’t, not alone”. Now, believe me I honestly gave it my best effort and I was a good soldier. That is something my grandfather, and our family in general because that was how it was in the 1960s, used to say to me when I was a little boy. Being a good soldier was important. I suppose that is why I grew up to become one and honestly, the only good feeling I had about being a soldier was serving my country. That is how men were expected to be, at least in the eyes of everyone who taught me about life.

Two years after the death of my son, I found a private contract that allowed me to work from home, long before the world had a pandemic and caught up to my lifestyle. That lifestyle was remaining behind closed doors, wearing shirts, ties and gym shorts on a good day and the commute from my bedroom to the laptop on the nightstand was particularly difficult on the best of mornings. 18 months ago I stopped working, a year ago I moved here to Vermont, 3 months ago I was in the hospital because they thought I was having a heart attack even though I knew it was just a panic attack. In February of this year I went to my first online group. 7 weeks ago I publicly declared I would get a job and I did, which I lost a week ago. The same company just called me and offered me more money, to work for a client of theirs in Los Angeles yesterday and I will be interviewing today. This morning, I am speaking to a group of parents who have lost their children to suicide and I have made a conscious decision to carry a message of hope.

Now, how did I do that? I say it again, I didn’t do it, not alone. You helped me, by being a member of the same club that I belong to. The club where the invitation is written in your child’s death. The club we all hate so much we don’t even give it a name and there is not even a ribbon that is specifically for our special brand of Dante’s Inferno, at best we have to share our ribbon with other groups. Now, that should make you angry enough to get up and start a blog of your own, but that is a discussion for another day.

I also wish to briefly touch on another way that I am not alone, but I always hesitate at this point before continuing. I hesitate simply because while we are all on this journey together, we do not experience this journey in the same way. Like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, we find others along our way, we demystify what seems like magic and we find that everything we ever needed was always inside us and there is no place like home. Yes, I am invoking the conversation about the spiritual component of our program.

I personally believe in something beyond myself, something that is greater than I am beyond my understanding. I do not wish to foist my views upon you, but I have experienced miracles in my life that I cannot explain. I believe I have been given a 5 second miracle, nothing too divine but it is enough. I never got to choose in my life. I didn’t choose to be sexually molested at 13, I didn’t choose to be a soldier, I didn’t choose to be a single parent, I didn’t choose to be a drug addict and I sure as shooting didn’t choose to be here. Today, I have a choice and I have 5 seconds to claim it. That is my miracle, and I am truly grateful to bear witness to it. Your miracle may be different, but I do encourage you to seek a spiritual component to your program though there are others who do not share that particular view.

I came here hopeless, lost and alone. I started a second family late in life, long after my sons were raised without a mother in their lives. Now, late in life I wanted to raise a child with a loving person and my daughter is now 8 years old. My family needs me in the land of the living and all I want to do is give in to my grief and seek to grieve more. But I can’t do that any more, I am too angry and I hope you find the miracle of anger that is borne in the purpose of making a difference. When you find that, you will have grown beyond the anger of the death of your child and embraced the lives of your brothers and sisters in grief, and find new meaning as you pass your message of experience, strength and hope to others.

Tomorrow, I may be in here weeping. But, you will be here and I will not be alone. For today, I can be strong and speak my piece and give testimony to the life of my son. I much prefer that to mourning for his death for he lived his life every single day and only faltered once when there was no one in the darkness to catch him. I am in the darkness now, and I will catch you. I have no choice, for one day you might catch me. So that is how I do it, not alone, but together.

My name is Bob, thank you for letting me share today.