And if I die before I wake… That works for me.

Over the half dozen, or so, times I sat suicide watch on him, during his several different hospital stays, this was the first time the mystery man was awake and able to hold a conversation. And, I told him so, adding, "What's your story man?"

When I go to sleep, I pray I don't wake up.

I settled in for an a lengthy narrative. But, the mystery man was also a man of few words. And, only one tone of voice. "When I go to sleep," he said, "I pray I don't wake up."

You are not alone

The responder who needs help is not alone. Everybody loses the picture, once in a while.Take the good advice you would give someone else, and talk with somebody.

If you are depressed, having alcohol or drug problems, anger, insomnia or other disruption in your life, be a member of your own team.

Do you have access to peer counseling? Is there an employee assistance program? Take the first step.

All the other times I had seen him, he had been "John Doe", as in " We have no idea who this guy is." Found "down", on the street -- alcohol poisoning. BAC of point 03-something.

The man is good at what he does.

I can also be a man of few words. I said, "I'm sorry to hear that."

He may have been thinking, "I see you're apparent sincerity. I'll raise and call." Clearly though, his turn to be puzzled. He asked, "Why?"

"You have people I care about you that you don't even know. You and I have spent more than 70 hours together. I can't begin to count the doctors, nurses, techs and clinical assistants who have cared for you. And, all of us have invested ourselves hoping things will go well for you." (Full house. Read 'em an' weep.)

What followed was a sincere account of how a once prominent citizen had stumbled and fallen, time after time, with chronic alcohol abuse. His career was ended. His marriage… well… She threw him out… and kept his dog. When he ran out of booze, he switched to somewhat less palatable alternatives -- Sterno (in the form of "squeeze), and hand sanitizer. The honesty caused him pain.

I have learned to avoid offering examples of " it could be worse." I took a chance, this time, to lighten the pressure. At least you didn't do what Homer Simpson did. He told the folks at an AA meeting that he was once so desperate that he had broken into the football stadium and ate dirt from underneath the bleachers. They cast him out.

"Are you a 'friend of Bill W'," he asked? I told him "no", but that I had an appreciation.

We chatted all night. He announced he had one more recovery in him and he couldn't afford another (occurance of) drunk. He had me order a big breakfast.

The rest of the story is a mystery.

[The above is de-identified and is presented for training purposes. --ed]