I remember that cold January morning just like it was yesterday. January 7, 2015. I woke up at 7:00 am and started writing because I had several pages under a heavy deadline and needed to get them wrapped up before that evening. My landline rang at 8:00 am and I expected my estranged husband to be on the other end of the line telling me he was sorry for being so angry and ‘messing things up once again’ when he called the night before. This was our daily call every single morning.
On January 7, 2014, my husband moved back to Missouri to live with his family. Our marriage had physically ended many months prior to his departure, and when he finally boarded his bus from downtown Johnson City headed to St. Louis, I was relieved, yet sad.
I would no longer have to spend hours in the middle of the night bundled up inside my Suburban with my kids because my husband had once again gone through his nightly drunken rampage. I would no longer have to worry that he was going to burn our house down while we slept. Not on purpose, but due to passing out drunk while he was cooking or because he dropped a cigarette down into the couch again. I can’t count the times I had to physically put a small fire out because he was passed out. I suppose God was watching over the kids and I and woke me up in time to douse the flames with water to prevent the house from burning to the ground with us in it. No more watching him blow every penny from his paycheck on bottles of vodka and gin.
Along with all the negative things he put my kids and I through, he was also a man with a kind heart. He was mentally screwed up as he had been deeply hurt by so many things in his life that he just didn’t know how to properly deal with his feelings. So, he drank the pain away every single night. No matter how happy he may have been with me or with my children, he just could not move forward from his past.
Every single day of our time together before marriage and during the brief time we were married before we split up for good, my husband told me he wanted to die. He wished nightly that he would die before he woke up. Imagine being on your honeymoon and your new husband telling you that he loved you, but that it didn’t change the fact that he was one day going to kill himself. I tried to convince myself that he would get over those feelings and eventually be okay. He wasn’t ever okay.
He confided in me hundreds of times that he had been sexually abused by a male family member when he was a kid, and those memories tormented him. He had children and never got to see them. Of course, this was because when he was with their mothers, he drank and treated them horribly.
In 2012, his three-year old daughter (Mia Caito) was murdered. She was beaten to death by his ex-girlfriend’s new boyfriend, 22-year old Julian Gates of Belleville, Illinois. This shattered him just as it would any parent but deeply hidden under the grief a parent will feel when their child is murdered was the guilt he felt because he wasn’t there for his daughter. He told me he never tried to get her, and he never took time to even try to visit her when her mom took her away from him.
We met shortly after Mia’s murder and I uprooted my kids to move to Missouri where I would work for a newspaper in St. Louis and be there for my husband. I think part of me wanted to cure him of his grief and the horrible life he seemed to have. Trust me when I say, you will never “cure” another human being and you cannot turn someone’s life around.
A person must want to turn their own life around, and unfortunately, no matter how many times my husband claimed he loved me, or said he wanted to be a better person, he was never willing to take the steps to find his way to the right path.
So, on January 7, 2014, Lawrence Caito and I separated permanently. We both knew that our marriage had ended many months before, but it took a while for that to sink in and for both of us to accept the fact. After he was gone, he called me every day, sometimes two or three or more times in a day.
Our daily phone calls were always the same, and I do mean the same every day for that year after we separated. He would call me at around 8:00 am to tell me ‘good morning’ and to tell me what he planned to do that day. In the evening, he would call me at maybe 10:00 pm or 11:00 pm to tell me he missed me and the kids. Our evening calls were usually the longer of the daily calls, and with every evening call, he went from being nice and telling me he missed me to raging and being hung up on.
You see, my then estranged husband would start drinking just before he called me every night, and the longer we talked, the heavier he drank. Of course, he never admitted he was drinking when I would ask, but I knew him well enough to know when he started slurring his words, the call was going to turn dark and end quickly.
About six months before his last phone call to me, he admitted that he had started shooting up heroin with his brother and his girlfriend. He was staying on a couch in their basement, getting high and of course, drinking heavily. Many times during those last six months he called me while walking down a street in Belleville, Illinois when he was so drunk he needed me to guide him via the phone back to his brother’s house.
I used to beg him to check himself into rehab, but of course he would not do that. He didn’t want the rest of his family to know what he was doing. He did his best to hide it from them, and I assume he was convincing when he told them he had quit drinking even when he was still getting drunk every night. I called some of his family members several times to try to let them know he needed help and I was told he was fine and that they would know if he had a drinking or drug problem.
You see, an addict knows how to hide their addiction from even those closest to them. For a while anyways. When I met my husband in person, I had no idea he was an alcoholic. I didn’t know he had been drinking every day until one night when I moved the couch in our downstairs rec room and found what had to be at least 200-pint bottles of vodka and gin that he had been drinking nightly after I went to bed or when I went to work overnights.
I won’t go into the details of our life together after that moment, but I will say that finding the mountain of hidden bottles was the beginning of the end.
The Waiting Game
This is what I call the last year of my husband’s life. You see, every night during our regular phone calls, and often during the times we spoke during the day, he told me he wanted to die in his sleep. He said he prayed for death to take him every night before he would go to sleep.
Six months before his last phone call to me, he said he had Hepatitis and that he knew he got it from sharing a needle with some woman his brother knew when they were using heroin together. He was scared his sisters would find out and he didn’t want them to know.
He started taking pain pills a couple months before his last phone call. He said he had a prescription for Oxycontin and that a friend was giving him Lortabs as well. I told him so many times that he needed to stop taking those damn pills because he drank too much, and they were dangerous. His response was to tell me that he hoped they would be what put him out of his misery eventually and help him to sleep forever.
Every day, I waited on the phone to ring and to hear a voice telling me he was dead. Every day, I expected him to take his last breath.
No, I did not want him to die. I wanted him to get better. I wanted him to get help from a professional and I wanted him to realize that life was worth living. I wanted him to feel loved and I wanted him to know he could move forward in life and that he did not need to feel guilty about Mia dying. I. Wanted. Him. To. Stay. Alive. Unfortunately, we don’t always get what we want in life.
The Last Conversation
On January 6, 2015, my husband called me at around 10:00 pm as he had every night since he got on the bus that took him back to St. Louis on January 7, 2014. We talked for around three hours, which was the typical time that we talked each night.
During this phone call, he started sober as he always did and told me he missed me and the kids. I told him we missed him as well and I asked about his day. The conversation consisted of us talking about life I general, things he wanted to do and places he wanted to go.
He said he hated being in Belleville at his brother’s house. He told me he had a heroin problem now and he couldn’t stop, but he didn’t want anyone to know. He said he wanted to move to TN where I was currently living, and I told him I would help him if he wanted to start a new life.
He got upset when I told him that even if I helped him, it was still over between the two of us and there was no chance of us being together as a couple again. I told him I still wanted a divorce because the marriage was over. Yes, I loved him but no, I was not ‘in love’ with him the way a married woman would love her husband.
This was said well into the phone call and well into him drinking his bottle of liquor. So as usual, he slurred that he hoped he would die before he woke up. He told me I would be sorry if he died because I was such a cruel person because I wouldn’t give him another chance with our marriage.
Was I cruel? This is a question I’ve asked myself so many times since that final phone call. I just don’t know whether I was cruel by distancing myself from a man who just could not get things right and who would not put forth the effort to even try, or if he was the cruel one because he put his alcohol, drugs and anger over the past before my children and me. Maybe we were both cruel to some degree.
Our call bounced back and forth that night between him being upset and telling me he was definitely going to die that night just so he could haunt me the rest of my life and make me feel as shitty as he felt about life, to him telling me that he wanted to move to TN and remodel my basement so he could stay busy with his hands and get better. He was such a confused man who just didn’t know which way to turn anymore.
At some point during the call, he asked me to put his favorite movie on. “It’s a Wonderful Life” was his favorite and it was the movie we watched on our first date three years before.
I went to bed that night at around 1:00 am, my usual time for bed after our nightly phone calls. As I had every night for the last year, I wondered what would happen if I woke up and found out he was gone. I put those thoughts out of my mind and I drifted away to sleep while watching George Bailey as he went through his life in Bedford Falls.
On January 7, 2015, I woke up as usual at 7:00 am and started getting the kids ready for school. I dropped them both off at their schools and rushed home to get started with work. I had a massive deadline to meet that evening and quite a few articles to write. My phone rang at 8:00 am and I expected it to be Lawrence calling to apologize once again for getting drunk and cussing me out and being hateful on the phone the night before. It was a wrong number.
At 10:15 am on January 7, 2015, my landline phone rang again, and I recognized Lawrence’s sister’s number on my caller id. I assumed it was Lawrence calling from her house. It wasn’t.
This was the call. THE CALL. That dreaded call that for a year, I knew was going to come.
My husband’s brother and children had found his lifeless body in their basement. His family said they thought he had a blood clot because he told them he was in an accident a few weeks before and had hurt his knee in the wreck. He lied to them because he wanted them to think he had a legitimate reason for taking his pain pills. This was something he told me almost two weeks before he died.
I told his sister he died of a drug overdose and she said I was wrong.
Three weeks after he died, I got the coroners report. Cause of death: Opioids (Heroin), Fentanyl and alcohol.
Life After Death
My husband committed suicide. He told me before we hung up during that last call that he was going to shoot up and drink himself to death. He wanted to die. He prayed for death from a God that he said he didn’t believe in and a God he said he hated because he blamed God on every bad thing he had ever gone through in life.
Was it just an overdose? He knew what he was doing, and he knew what the end result of shooting heroin was going to be. We had discussed it so many times and he said he was doing heroin because he knew that one night, it would be what brought him the permanent sleep he wanted so badly.
For such a long time, I felt guilt about his death. I asked myself over and over every “what if” imaginable. What if I had let him stay? What if I had never said I wanted a divorce? What if I had tried harder to get him to go to rehab? What if I could have convinced him God loved him? What if I could make him see that I loved him? What if I had called his sisters and screamed to make them understand he was drinking heavily and shooting up and popping pills? What if I could have stopped him somehow? Too many what if’s.
Survivors Guilt and Moving On
It took a while to finally realize that there was nothing I could have done to change the things he chose to do. No matter how much I may have at one time loved him, no amount of love in the world can make an addict stop getting high. He was gone before I ever met him, but I was one of those women who thought I could change him and “make him better” just because I was me. What I didn’t realize was the fact that he needed to want to change his own life. He needed to want help because nothing would have helped him if he wasn’t going to try to get better.
Life goes on after someone dies from an overdose, even when the person chose to overdose so they wouldn’t have to go on living another day. Survivors guilt is real, and it can bury itself deeply inside of a person. My own guilt turned me into a recluse who gained a crazy amount of weight and became a bitter, untrusting person. It is time now however to put this guilt in the past where it belongs and realize that it wasn’t my fault that he chose heroin, pills and booze over living in a world with people who loved and cared for him.
Some may argue and say he died due to an accidental overdose. I knew this man and I know what he wanted, and trust me, he wanted death to take him. He chose very carefully how to end his life and he chose heroin because he knew it would eventually kill him. As he told me once, he did heroin and took the pills and drank each night so he could drift into death and even he would never know exactly when it was going to take him, but one day, it would and he would be happy and at peace finally.
He has been gone for three years now and it’s time for me to choose life even after a suicidal overdose took the life of a man that I once loved. I work every day of the week and I stay busy and best of all, I live my life and do everything I can to make sure my children have all that they need. This doesn’t mean that I have forgotten him or that I don’t care, but it does mean that I’m no longer living in the past where I felt guilty about his choices.
Please Seek Help!
If you or someone you love are considering suicide, please don’t. Life is a crazy thing to go through and it’s not always easy at all. Sometimes, it feels like the worst of the worst is piled on our shoulders and it can seem pretty unbearable, but guess what? Life is also beautiful and magical and if we just try to see even the smallest bit of happiness each day, life eventually gets better and pretty soon, the darkness will fade away and all will be well again.
Please speak to a professional for help if you’re having thoughts of suicide or if you have a problem with drugs or alcohol. Trust me, no matter who you are, someone out there loves you and needs you to be alive.
Evanescence – Bring Me To Life