Choosing to Live:

Stories of Those Who Stepped

Away from Suicide


Cliff Williams

Stories by thirty-four people who attempted suicide, told in their own words, plus accounts by twelve others about what it is like to be in despair and later to find something to live for.

Aleema, who fell into prostitution for a time, found a job as a singer for a band, presented herself as good and whole for several decades despite the painful memories of her youth, and who finally could forgive herself.

Orlando, who was rescued from drowning in Mexico by a nearby fisherman, and who now is a counselor treating people who, like himself, were bullied as children.

Anne, who tried to kill herself after her father shot himself, and who, fifteen years later, has acquired the peace of knowing that she is loved and accepted after living decades with shame and self-betrayal.


Foreword by David T. George, M.D.



Harmony: “I Am a Mistake”

Overwhelming Stress:

Aleema: Raped, Sick, Fired

Drake: Alone in the Woods

Garrett: College Pressure, Gender Identity


Orlando: Raped by Classmates

Luke: Taunted and Everything Else

Hannah: Teased and Beat Up

Not Good Enough:

        Cara: Lost Identity

        Dakota: Working on Self-Esteem

Painful Memories:

        Nolan: Haunted by the Death of a Child in War

        Penny: A Slow Death

        Louise: Trying Life in a Different Way

Teenage Stresses:

        Pixie: Black Cloud of the Family

        Nathan: “No, You Are Not Depressed!”

        Rose: An Inner Strength

Ups and Downs:

        Randy: Crashing Again and Again

        Eva: In and Out of Hospitals

A Strange Impulse:

        Emilee: Eight Years Old

Parental Abuse:

        Robyn: Like a Pack of Hyenas

        Catherine: Looking for a Normal Life

Depression and Anxiety:

        Bryan: Lonely and Miserable

        Aaron: Dreading Every Little Thing

Breakup of a Significant Relationship:

        Theresa: “I Deserved to Die”

        Mark: Losing Everyone

Wanting to Die, Wanting to Live:

        Logan: Ambivalence

Lack of Support:

        William: Estranged from Family

        Marissa: Feeling Abandoned

Shame and Addiction:

        Joseph: Using Drugs and Alcohol to Escape Shame

A Dysfunctional Relationship:

        Dese’Rae: Feeling Trapped

Suicide of a Parent:

        Anne: Searching for Herself

Medical Conditions:

        Kyle: Brain Injury

        Edward: Emotional Disability

        Olivia: Winter Gloom

In Hospice and Dying Anyway:

        Margarita: “Why Should I Keep Living?”

From Despair to Hope: Twelve New Voices

“When I Was Suicidal”: Twenty-One Responses

How to Deal with Someone Who Is Suicidal


Epilogue (not published in the book)

The first two stories, by Harmony and Aleema, can be read on amazon.

Podcast of Harmony: "I Am a Mistake" on YouTube read by Scott Stewart from pages 3-5 of Choosing to Live. Listening time: 8:20  (© 2017 by Charles C Thomas Publisher)


"Suicide is a complicated subject and the reasons are never clear for any occurrence. But this book offers a window into the trauma and despair that can lead to someone considering suicide and taking action to kill themselves. 

"I am trained in several suicide intervention, prevention, and postvention programs and strategies, and in my opinion the book validates what is taught in these courses.

"It may be upsetting to read, but I do think it is a hopeful book, overall. It shows that suicidal ideation and attempts can be overcome. It shows that meaning and purpose to continue living can be found, even through the darkest valleys and even in the face of death itself. Suicidal individuals, suicide attempt survivors, suicide survivors (those left after a suicide), caregivers, and many others should find the insights into the many, many reasons and circumstances that lead a person to try to use suicide as the way out of their pain and suffering, to be informative and helpful."  – Mark Kubo, Goodreads

"I was particularly interested in this book, as my first husband took his life. I wanted an insight into what it's like to lose someone in such a way. . . . What a truthful, insightful, complex, caring book this was. I would recommend it to any health professionals, families, survivors of suicide, and all those contemplating suicide. It touched me in my soul, and helped me make some kind of sanity out of an insane action."    – L. R., Amazon

"I have known a few people who have committed suicide and found myself asking, Why? What would make them take that route? This book gave me insight as to why. It was very eye-opening."   –V. Nunez, Amazon

Amazon rating: five stars

From the Introduction:

This book is for both the living and the dead. It gives voice to those who have succeeded in their attempts to kill themselves—Janine’s mother, who could not live with herself; Marshall’s father, for whom the stress of living became too overwhelming; and Ilene’s husband, who could not endure the memory of having had to kill innocent villagers in Vietnam or himself be shot by superiors. (I have changed these people’s names.)

This book is also for the living. It is for parents who have a child who is depressed, mentally ill, or suicidal. It is for teenagers who have been bullied or treated badly by their classmates, or who have been dumped by a special friend. It is for therapists who want their patients to know about others with similar feelings. It is for psychology students and professors who want a first-person account of a subject they may know only theoretically. It is for children of abusive parents, for adults who are in desperate circumstances, for those who are afraid to talk about suicide with their suicidal friends, for the tens of millions who have attempted suicide, for those who think about the meaning of life. Last, this book is for those who are now thinking of killing themselves so that they can know they are not alone and that there is hope.

From the foreword by David T. George, M.D.:

Choosing to Live offers people who are struggling with suicidal thoughts the opportunity to meet other people who have been in their shoes. Some were caught in the whirlwind of family dysfunction and felt unwanted or unloved. Some were bullied and made to feel like they were insignificant. Some were sexually abused and saw themselves as damaged or disgusting. But all struggled with similar feelings of hopelessness, emotional pain, and darkness. Each person’s story serves as a source of encouragement and speaks with loud voice to all people who struggle with suicide that they are not alone!

Most importantly, readers will be encouraged by the reality that although the people they will meet in the book struggled, each one managed to dig their way out of despair. Some realized that the problem was not so much that they wanted to die as it was that they didn’t know how to live. Initially they viewed talking as a waste of time—what good could it do? But according to the peoples’ accounts, therapy helped them find new roads that they never knew were there. Some stopped running from the past and gradually cut the chains that were tied to self-doubt and the hurts of rejection stemming from failed relationships. Some needed a safe place to regroup and were hospitalized. Some found medications to be a life-saver. But I think it is fair to say that, in spite of all the pain and challenges, everyone was glad to be alive. They realized that suicide is a long-term solution to a short-term problem. Having a vision for CHOOSING to live provided the switch to turn on the light at the end of a dark tunnel.

David T. George, M.D., is a practicing psychiatrist in the Washington, D.C., area. He is board-certified in psychiatry and internal medicine, Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at George Washington School of Medicine, Senior Clinical Investigator at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (a division of the National Institutes of Health), and author of Untangling the Mind: Why We Behave the Way We Do (HarperOne, 2013). 

All names have been changed (except for Cara and Dese’Rae).

About the author: Cliff Williams holds a Ph.D. in philosophy from Indiana University. He is is Emeritus Professor of Philosophy at Trinity College of Trinity International University and is the author of a number of books and articles.

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