The 57-year-old detailed how he once tried to drink himself to death. “There were winners and losers in life, and clearly I had lost the game of life. I convinced myself that the easiest way to deal with the guilt, the shame, the unaddressed trauma going back to my childhood would be to drink until my body broke down,” he began.
“So I stole some jewelry from my godmother, hawked it, got a little pile of cash and checked into this hotel called the San Pedro, a grade above a flophouse. I then went across the street to the liquor store to buy a couple cases of — I’ll never forget it, Popov vodka had come out in plastic bottles and I remember asking for a third case just because it would be light enough to carry upstairs. I never actually broke into the third case. I started drinking around the clock and blacking out,” Andrew continued.
He added, “I couldn’t tell you whether it was three or five days later, but I woke up one morning and the tension, the Ace bandage that had been tied so tightly around my entire life just wasn’t there. I felt a desperate need to reach out to someone. I called my friend Clark, who was shocked to hear from me. He came down and got me out of there. Unbeknownst to me, he was already planning my intervention.”
When speaking of his treatment at Hazelden Betty Ford in Center City, Andrew shared, “My whole life, I thought there was nothing bigger than me, which was pointed out to me many times during those first couple weeks in treatment. All I had to do was look at my own story. My best thinking and acting had gotten me to this horrific place in my life where I had bottomed out, crashed, almost died — and wanted to die.”
Andrew further elaborated on suicide when recalling fellow chef Anthony Bourdain’s death. “Several weeks after Tony’s death, we had the Aspen Food & Wine Classic. Kat Kinsman, who started an online group called Chefs With Issues, organized an awareness raiser for chefs to talk about this and to let people know if they’re struggling there are options. Several of us in the food industry who are in recovery helped facilitate that meeting. Then several weeks after that meeting, an Aspen bartender and line cook killed himself,” he began.
“When I heard about it, it made me angrier than I have been in a long time. Here we have the attention of a nation focused on the deeply sad loss of a treasured icon, and it should be the church bell around which we all go running to convene to solve this problem as best we can and to provide resources and help so that other families, other friends, other people don’t have to find themselves in this same situation,” Andrew added.
“Unfortunately, I know a lot of people who have killed themselves. It’s not an instantaneous thought, feeling and reaction. It is something that is evil and pernicious that’s inside of you. It just underscores how much help we need to give everyone. “
He continued, “Can we save everyone? No. I didn’t have to go to my intervention and get on that plane and go to Hazelden. If I hadn’t, I would have wound up dead. We’ve lost a lot of people who, when you investigate the stories of their lives and learn what was really going on, were thrown a hundred life jackets just like me and kept tossing them back. I’m especially sensitive to this because I know that if I hadn’t put on that last life jacket, I would have been one of those anonymous deaths like that bartender in Aspen.”
Andrew concluded, “Even though there’s a voice in your head that says, ‘I can’t do this. I shouldn’t do this,’ you can and you should. It’s a must. Because if you’re not sharing that thing, it will continue to grow and have power over you. And eventually, that voice in your head will tell you something very dangerous.”
If you or anyone you know is battling suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.