This story includes graphic descriptions of a suicide attempt. If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide or is in emotional distress, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK(8255) or at suicidepreventionlifeline.org.
NOTE: This story was originally published on Feb. 2, 2021. On Wednesday, Drew Robinson was named to the San Francisco Giants’ Triple-A roster. He likely will make his 2021 debut this weekend in his hometown of Las Vegas.
ON APRIL 16, 2020, Drew Robinson woke up, spread peanut butter on a cinnamon-raisin bagel, pulsed a green smoothie, sat at his kitchen table and finished writing a note that would explain to his family and friends why he had decided to end his life. He had spent the past month alone in his house, confined by the pandemic and quarantined in his own mind. He hated his life. He hated that no one knew how much he hated his life.
“I hope eventually that you guys will realize that no one could’ve seen this coming to prevent it because of how hard I try to hide it,” he wrote, “and that it’s no one else’s fault.”
He apologized — to Daiana, Darryl, Renee, Britney and Chad, the five people he loved the most. The ones who knew him best and still couldn’t see the sadness suffocating him. Even they believed the avatar Drew had created: a Major League Baseball player, handsome, charming, funny, with an easy laugh and a big smile. Drew was living his dream and wanting to die.
Guilt commingled with a sense of peace when he signed the letter: “I’m sorry. Drew Robinson.” Now he could get everything ready, tidy up the remnants of the last 27 years. He started to clean the house. He wanted the place to be spotless, as clean as when he moved in. His family would have enough problems after this. He wouldn’t burden them with another.
His final hours melted away. Around 5 p.m., Drew felt a rush of adrenaline. It was time.
He grabbed his handgun from the nightstand. He placed the note on the most visible place possible, the kitchen counter. He jumped into his truck, planning to drive to a nearby park where he had settled on doing it. But that felt wrong. He tried another location. He decided he didn’t want to die in his truck. He drove home.
Drew sat on his living room couch. He poured himself a glass of whiskey and then another. He stopped. He didn’t have an alcohol problem and didn’t want anyone to surmise otherwise. His thoughts crashed into one another — about what it would look like and whom it would affect and who would find him. He was alone, alone until the end. At about 8 p.m., in one uninterrupted motion, he leaned to the side, reached out to the coffee table, lifted the gun, pressed it against his right temple and pulled the trigger.
That was supposed to be the end of Drew Robinson’s story.
Over the next 20 hours, he would come to realize it was the beginning of another.
“I’M HERE FOR a reason,” Drew Robinson says. It’s six days before Christmas 2020. He’s feeling thankful. He wants to tell the world what happened — so he can heal, and maybe so he can help others heal, too.
The reason, Drew says, is because “I was supposed to tell a story,” and not just the story of what happened. The real story — the important story — is what happened after: every minute he’s alive, moments good and bad. It’s not some sanitized version where a man is saved and happily ever after is the outcome. It is raw and beautiful and ugly and melancholy and triumphant and everything in between.
He knows there are a million questions. Such as: How did he live for nearly an entire day with a giant hole on the right side of his head, and another wound where the bullet exited on the left side, with no medical attention? Few people survive self-inflicted gunshot wounds to the head. Even rarer are those who emerge with clarity, purpose. Drew’s words tumble out deliberately, confidently. He recognizes how lucky he got. How he’s still vulnerable. How he needs therapy and medication. How it is OK to not be OK.
He knows that sometimes life is like a vise, unrelenting, cranking tighter and tighter. He knows how crippling that can be. He knows that there is a burgeoning mental health crisis in this country, that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that 11% of American adults surveyed in June considered suicide, that suicidal ideation among 18- to 24-year-olds was at 26%. He knows this is difficult to talk about. He knows it’s even more difficult to suffer through. He knows because he lived it.
“This was a huge sign. A huge, painful sign that I’m supposed to help people get through something that they don’t think is winnable.”
“I was supposed to go through that,” Drew says. “I’m supposed to help people get through battles that don’t seem winnable. It was completely supposed to happen. There’s no other answer. It doesn’t make any sense. It was supposed to happen. …
“I’m free now,” he says. “I shot myself, but I killed my ego.”
Don’t mistake that for glorifying what he did. He does not. More than anything, Drew wants to tell his story to help others recognize the awfulness of suicide. He didn’t need 20 hours on the verge of bleeding out. He didn’t need the titanium in his head and the cerebrospinal fluid leaking from his brain. He didn’t need his family to see what they saw, to go through what they went through, to spend every day wondering if he’s really OK, if he’s going to do it again. The pain of a death by suicide or attempt is not limited to one person.
Every day now offers him a chance to help repair what has been broken. Himself. His family. Anyone who hears his story. So Drew is back lifting weights in his garage, taking swings in the batting cage, getting used to his new normal, intent on making baseball history. He’s writing for the first time in his life. He’s standing in front of a mirror, staring at himself, at scars visible and invisible, at the new contours of his face, a face he wants the world to see no matter how it looks.
“How can I go through this and not find a way to try to help other people or impact other people’s lives?” he says. “Just have this happen and just move on with my life the way I was before? There’s no way. This was a huge sign. A huge, painful sign that I’m supposed to help people get through something that they don’t think is winnable.”
Drew is convinced that he’s meant to do something. That much, he now knows, was clear when he opened his eyes and realized he was still alive.
AT JUST PAST 8 p.m. on April 16, Drew looked around, and he was confused. What happened? Why am I still here?
He saw blood everywhere. He wanted to wipe it up. Get off the couch, he told himself. Maybe someone will want to keep it.
The E60 documentary, “Alive: The Drew Robinson Story,” is streaming exclusively on ESPN+. Watch now»
He lay on the hardwood floor. Thirty minutes passed. He held his head, tried to stem the bleeding. He grabbed a dirty towel. It didn’t help. He decided to shower. When he stepped in, disorientation hit. He slipped and smacked his head on the handle, square on the entry wound. It still didn’t hurt. How? Why?
He curled in a ball on the shower floor. The water ran over him. He dried off and collapsed on his bed. The blood in his mouth turned his stomach, so he returned to the bathroom. He didn’t want to throw up on the carpet. More cleanup for his family.
As he bent over the toilet, his head struck the porcelain. He peeled himself up and tried to brush his teeth.
How ridiculous, he thought. Guy with a hole in his head brushing his teeth. Instead, he glugged mouthwash to drown out the taste. He shoved toilet paper up his nostrils to keep the blood from dripping down his throat.
Back to the bedroom. It was around midnight, four hours after he pulled the trigger. As Drew closed his eyes, he thought: This is where I’m going to die.
DREW ROBINSON GREW up on the outskirts of Las Vegas, on a street called Magic Moment Lane. He was Renee and Darryl Robinson’s youngest child. His sister, Britney, was six years older; his brother, Chad, four-and-a-half. Drew was a mascot and a punching bag, a tagalong and an annoyance, the archetypal little brother who just wanted attention and love.
He would sneak in a neighbor’s doggy door to steal treats for the Robinsons’ menagerie of pets: dogs, cats, iguanas, even a caged rat. He would hide in cupboards, the washer and the dryer, anywhere he could contort his little body. He would strip off all his clothes, run outside, hop on a bike and start riding. Nothing made Britney cringe more than when a friend would say, “Your brother’s naked again.”
When he was 7, Drew went to Walmart to buy his mother a ring. It was made of chintzy metal and glass chips and cost $7.77. Renee wore it until it fell apart. She brought the scraps to a jeweler, who made her a sturdier version she still enjoys 20 years later. Every time she slips it on her finger, she thinks of her mischievous boy.
When Drew bought the ring, Renee and Darryl were divorcing. It devastated him. He remembers asking himself questions. Is there something wrong with me? Why is Mom so mad at me? What did I do? He never relayed a single one out loud. The Robinsons didn’t talk about those sorts of things. They rarely even hugged. They just lived, one day to the next.
“The CDC reported 11% of American adults surveyed in June considered suicide. Suicidal ideation among 18- to 24-year-olds was at 26%.”
“We all were not very good at handling our emotions,” Drew says. “And that caused a lot of stress and internal struggles. I think we all had this idea of a perfect family and things like that. When it didn’t live up to that, we really questioned everything we were doing.”
After the divorce, the Robinson family splintered. The boys went to live with Darryl. Britney stayed with Renee. They found common ground in one place: the baseball field. Chad grew to 6-foot-5 and was considered one of the best prep right-handers in the country. Drew was undersized but skilled, smooth, natural. Almost every weekend, the Robinsons gathered at a baseball tournament, putting aside any animus to support the boys.
Chad, who was drafted by Milwaukee in 2006, set a near-impossible standard, and yet Drew considered anything short of it a failure. He craved perfection. He made varsity at Silverado High School as a freshman, played some as a sophomore, hit a growth spurt before his junior year and turned into a prospect: 6-foot-1 with a powerful left-handed swing and the ability to play shortstop and the outfield — the best player at Silverado since his brother.
He was popular. Girls loved him. He loved them until the next one came along — until he met Daiana Anguelova. He was about to graduate from Silverado. He was asking a mutual friend to sign his yearbook. Daiana was there. Drew didn’t want to be rude, so he wondered whether she wanted to write something. She did. “You’re a cutie,” it said.
Long before that moment, she had told another friend: “I have to meet him.” There was something magnetic about Drew, even if it wasn’t an obvious match. He could be loud, bombastic, always trying to look and act cool. Neither Daiana nor the world could see Drew how he saw himself — not as the jokester but as the joke.
Drew would talk to himself in the first-person plural, as if there were an ever-present companion who shared in his misery.
“When something would go wrong,” Drew says, “I’m like, ‘Why is this happening?’ The voice in my head would answer, ‘Well, of course it was happening. It’s us. That’s just how your life goes. You don’t get to enjoy these things.'”
OVER HIS LAST two high school seasons, Drew was one of the best players in the historic Vegas-area Class of 2010 that included Bryce Harper, the first pick in the draft, and Kris Bryant, who would play in college and three years later go second overall. The Texas Rangers chose Drew in the fourth round with the 136th pick. He received a $198,000 signing bonus.
He arrived in Surprise, Arizona, in the summer of 2010 with some clothes in a Walmart bag and a pair of spikes. He didn’t have a glove; he had borrowed a friend’s in high school. On reporting day, he showed up in a white T-shirt, basketball shorts and flip-flops. His roommate, Jhonny Gomez, told him that he needed a collared shirt. He hadn’t brought one. So he borrowed a teal Abercrombie & Fitch polo from Gomez and wore it for the next four days.
Being a professional baseball player isn’t only about playing baseball better than everyone else. It’s accelerated adulthood. It’s an 18-year-old paying bills, managing disappointment, navigating politics, forging relationships — figuring out how to live in a universe designed to weed out the weak.
Drew’s brother already had lived this reality. The 4:30 a.m. wake-up calls for workouts. The bus rides. The arm surgeries. By this time, Chad’s career was sputtering, and he would spend a half-decade kicking around independent ball only to find out this game he loved just wouldn’t love him back.
Had Drew and Chad spoken more, Drew would have known how pro ball worked — how its physical elements paled compared with its mental toll. But talking wasn’t their thing. Drew would have to navigate the harsh learning curve on his own.
“I will never forget that. That was the first time something went off where I was like, ‘Is there something deeper?'”
Baseball exposed cracks in his facade of stability. His adoration for the game vacillated. He would love baseball one day and loathe it the next. In 2011, in his second season, he batted .163 in low-A. Despite the struggles, Texas moved him to a full-season league in 2012, and he excelled. His family followed Drew’s career ardently. He and Daiana continued to text every so often, but she was in college and he was too baseball-obsessed for a relationship.
Daiana hadn’t heard from him in months when a message pinged on her phone in the middle of a biology lab. It was the end of the 2013 season. Drew had conquered High-A. He wanted to see her when he returned to Las Vegas. They met up and realized they were ready for one another. The instinct that had pulled her toward him was right. He was funny, goofy, a perfect complement. She was everything his family wasn’t. When baseball’s inherent self-doubt surfaced — why is that guy moving up and what am I doing wrong and am I good enough — she tried to eradicate it.
It wasn’t easy for Drew. He tried to lean on Daiana as he floundered at Double-A in 2014 and as he excelled at that level in 2015. All of her support couldn’t wash away his self-doubt and insecurity. Out of nowhere, he broke off the relationship.
“He said, ‘I don’t know why you like me,'” Daiana says. “I was so shocked. In my head, I was like, ‘What do you mean, you don’t know why I like you?’ I will never forget that. That was the first time something went off where I was like, ‘Is there something deeper?'”
She thought they were going to get married, and just like that, it was over. He projected his flaws on her. He saw her compassion — Daiana brought food and water to parties to ensure her friends didn’t get out-of-control drunk — as weakness.
“She’s the most selfless person I’ve ever met,” Drew says. “So anytime there was any little hint of me being not happy, she wanted to help. Because I was so closed off, I didn’t want that. So it pushed me away from her. I pushed myself away from her.”
The worst parts of himself were ruining the best thing in his life, and he eventually had the perspective to recognize that. He asked to get back together. She agreed. Then he broke up with her again. The cycle was vicious. She tried to empathize, rationalize. She tried to see in him what he couldn’t see in himself.
AT 7 A.M. on April 17, Drew woke up, and the pain finally hit.
When he moved, pieces of his face shifted. He considered getting the gun and trying again. He decided to shower. He didn’t fall this time. He returned to the bed, slipped in and out of consciousness. Hours went by. He heard his phone buzz. He didn’t bother looking at the messages.
The pain worsened. He tried to sit up but collapsed onto the floor. He was thirsty. He mustered the strength to stand. He lurched into the kitchen, filled a cup with water and, to help with the pain, swallowed one Tylenol.
He walked by his coffee table and saw his gun. He grabbed his phone instead and walked toward his room. On the way, he stopped in the bathroom and looked at his face. It was unrecognizable. The bullet had mangled his right eye.
He thought about baseball — if anyone could play with one eye. He wondered if thinking about the future meant he was trying to survive. He found a box of Band-Aids and used some to cover the wound. He started asking questions, different ones than before. That single Tylenol pill — was it some subconscious message that he wanted to heal?
He looked at his phone for the first time. He opened a text message.
“Okay to use your garage?”
There was another. It had arrived an hour after the first.
The messages were from Darryl. He had been at Drew’s house, working out in the garage. He never opened the door to the inside of the home.
“I DID IT.”
That was the text Drew sent to his family after Jeff Banister, the Rangers’ manager, told him he made the 2017 Opening Day roster. This was the dream. Everyone flew from Las Vegas to Texas for Opening Day. Over the years, Darryl and Renee had learned to get along, so they sat together with Britney and Daiana, who wasn’t going to miss this moment, even if she and Drew were no longer together. Chad joined friends in the outfield seats and crushed beers.
Drew got two at-bats in the Rangers’ third game. Seven days later, he was demoted to Triple-A. This is life for someone who spent seven years in the minor leagues, who played a utility role instead of laying claim to a position, who lived on the fringes of the sport and needed to perform every year, lest he be called too old, too unproductive, too anything. The game is cruel for infinite reasons, and this was just another.
He returned May 28 and was sent down May 29. He got called up June 24, started at Yankee Stadium on June 25, hammered a home run for his first major league hit and was demoted June 26. The Rangers summoned him again July 7, and he remained with the team for the rest of the season, hitting .224/.319/.439 with six home runs and playing six positions.
Finally, he wasn’t just a cup-of-coffee big leaguer. He was 25 years old with power, versatility and perhaps a future. Not just in baseball but with Daiana. That offseason, they reconciled and got back together for a third time.
Although Drew acted like he belonged, he still felt otherwise. The companion’s voice was unrelenting. It had accompanied him from childhood to adulthood. “It was totally paralyzing,” Drew says. In the clubhouse, he questioned every answer he gave to reporters. On the field, he second-guessed minutiae — how he stood during the national anthem, how he looked running to his position between innings. At home, he wondered why Daiana bothered with him.
Why does everything suck? Why is this happening to me? Is there something I’m doing wrong? Why can’t you just be real with everyone and let them know how much you hate yourself?
The questions intensified.
Is it even worth it? Is my life even worth it?
He broke camp with Texas again in 2018. He played in 22 of the Rangers’ first 27 games. A hip injury hampered him. The Rangers sent him down, brought him up, sent him down, brought him up.
In December 2018, they traded him to the St. Louis Cardinals. He decided this would be a fresh start. He proposed to Daiana. She said yes. They set a wedding date: Nov. 14, 2020.
Drew made the Cardinals’ big league roster out of spring training, but a week into the season, he was sent to Triple-A. He returned on March 31, played three games, then was sent back down. He returned again April 15 and was demoted again April 16. Up April 22, down April 23. He never made it back. He hurt his non-throwing left elbow and needed surgery. On Aug. 28, 2019, the Cardinals released him.
The companion’s voice grew louder. Drew grew more depressed. His suicidal ideation intensified. He understood he needed help. He started to see a therapist. He read self-development books. He wanted to see himself the way he believed everyone else saw themselves. “I thought this is the best he’s ever been,” Daiana says. “… I was like, ‘Wow. He’s doing things for himself that maybe he’s been needing to do for so long.'”
After surviving a suicide attempt via gunshot wound to the head, Drew Robinson is attempting to return to professional baseball. Jeff Passan joins ESPN Daily to discuss his exclusive reporting on Robinson’s journey. Listen now»
The San Francisco Giants signed Drew to a non-guaranteed minor league contract on Jan. 6, 2020. In an early-spring meeting with manager Gabe Kapler, president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi and general manager Scott Harris, he said: “I struggle with self-confidence a lot.” The group thanked him for his candor, but the positivity that exchange bred was fleeting.
Even as Drew continued therapy sessions, they didn’t rid him of his worst thoughts. His frustration with himself multiplied. He was trying, truly committing, embracing vulnerability, but even if Daiana and others saw progress, he saw stasis. Drew didn’t recognize that this is typical — that mental health is an ongoing process, improvement not necessarily linear. He was chasing a panacea that didn’t exist.
He worried he was destined to end up in the minor leagues again, and he didn’t want to put Daiana through that life. He worried he wasn’t good enough for her. That he never would be. Drew called off the wedding.
The awful questions compounded and led to another: Who would care if I’m gone? When he couldn’t answer that, either, he started to plan his death.
Drew went to a gun range in the Phoenix area. Every shot birthed another question. Could this be a real possibility? How would I even do it? Where would I do it?
No, he told himself. That’s too extreme. Just talk to someone. We can do it. Just talk to someone. Find anyone, even if it’s a surface-level conversation. Make a joke. Have a light moment. No. Nobody wants to hear it. Nobody needs to hear it.
Then, on March 12, COVID-19 shut down the baseball world.
Drew returned to Las Vegas, to an empty house, to loneliness, to not knowing who he was. A week later, he went to a gun store to purchase a weapon. He returned March 30 to pick it up. He had no distractions, none of those surface-level conversations or jokes or light moments. He couldn’t go to the stadium, couldn’t meet with friends, couldn’t go out. Just him and his thoughts that had built up for two decades.
He wanted to see Daiana. She said no. After the latest breakup, she vowed to prioritize herself, her own well-being. That meant boundaries. When Drew reached out, she was straightforward and to the point. No small talk. No questions about how he was doing. When he asked if he could have Ellie, one of their goldendoodles, she said no. The dog would keep them connected, prevent her from moving on. If she couldn’t make a life with him, she needed one of her own.
The days felt like forever. Friends checked in with Drew. They wanted to plan something for his 28th birthday on April 20. He ignored them.
On April 13, Drew met with a woman who had a litter of puppies. He found the perfect one. He petted it, cuddled it. Then an awful feeling washed over him. He apologized. “Sorry,” he told the woman. “I can’t take this dog.” He left in a rush, noticing the confused look on the woman’s face.
“She had no idea,” Drew says. “How could she? I couldn’t take the dog because I was planning on killing myself.”
AROUND 3:30 P.M. on April 17, Drew was sitting in the same spot on the couch where he had shot himself. On his coffee table were his gun and his cellphone. He picked up the pistol with his left hand. He held the phone in his right hand, the numbers 9-1-1 punched in. He could pull the trigger. He could tap the green dial button.
He kept contemplating, his mind racing. He thought about Daiana, Darryl, Renee, Britney and Chad. He thought about baseball. He thought about the past 20 hours. How? Why? Am I trying to survive?
If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide or is in emotional distress, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK(8255) or at suicidepreventionlifeline.org.
It came to him, he says, in an instant. I want to live, Drew told himself. He didn’t question it. He couldn’t let the companion in, not now. Before he hit send on the phone, he swiped back to his home screen, opened his camera app, switched to selfie mode and took a picture. He wanted to memorialize the moment he chose life.
Drew called 911. It was 3:44 p.m.
“I need an ambulance,” he said. “I tried to commit suicide last night, and I made it through. I think I detached my eye maybe. I can’t open my right eye and I have a huge hole in my head and I’m in a lot of pain.”
“What’d you do?” the dispatcher said.
“I shot myself in the head,” Drew said.
Police in the area rushed to his house. Six cars descended on his house.
At 3:51 p.m., police kicked down the front door. They were afraid this might be an ambush. A guy shoots himself in the head and lives for 20 hours? No way.
At 3:52 p.m., a cop asked: “Why’d you shoot yourself?” Drew replied in a whisper: “Because I hate myself.”
At 3:53 p.m., an ambulance arrived.
At 3:57 p.m., a gurney carrying Drew was loaded for transport.
At 3:59 p.m., it pulled away, toward UMC Trauma Center.
At 4 p.m., another cop shook his head and said what everyone else was thinking: “That’s crazy that he’s still alive.”
THAT NIGHT, Chad’s phone buzzed. It was a text, three words, from a friend who had played high school ball with him and Drew: “Is Drew OK?”
Chad assumed so. But that was a weird question. He texted Drew’s phone. No response. He called. Nothing. Chad texted the friend.
“What do you mean, ‘Is Drew OK?'”
The friend’s reply was vague — he’d heard there was an accident. Chad didn’t understand. What kind of accident? A gunshot wound, the friend texted. He had been told by his uncle, Drew’s former agent, who had heard from someone with the Cardinals, who had been told because Drew was on their insurance.
Chad called Britney and asked if Drew was OK. She asked what he meant. Chad told her about the text, that something might have happened with a gun. Britney broke down. She couldn’t keep the secret any longer.
A few hours earlier, when she was driving home from work, she got a call from the hospital. She picked up and was told she was the emergency contact for Drew Robinson.
Britney happened to be approaching the highway exit for UMC Trauma. She said she’d be there soon. No, she was told. Nobody can visit because of COVID-19. She asked what happened. She was told Drew had requested the hospital divulge no details. Only that he’s alive and breathing. Fine, Britney said. Put him on the phone.
“I’m meant to be alive, Chad. I’m meant to be alive. I’m meant to be alive.”
Drew’s memories of those hours after he arrived at the hospital come in bits and pieces. Getting stitches to close the hole in his head. The pain meds that made him woozy. And the phone call in which he asked Britney not to tell anyone. She tried to get details. She asked what happened. Drew said he didn’t want to talk about it.
In the background, Britney heard a nurse ask for his phone and wallet. She told Drew she would swing by his house to get them.
“No,” he implored her. “Don’t go to the house. Promise you won’t go to the house.”
After the call ended, Britney didn’t know what to do. She called a cousin with whom she’s close. They wondered whether Drew had hurt himself. Britney told her boyfriend she needed to come over. That’s when Chad called. After Britney told him what she knew, Chad hung up, dialed the hospital and requested to be patched in to Drew Robinson’s room. Drew picked up.
“What the hell is going on?” Chad said.
“Who is this?” Drew replied.
The two rarely talked. Neither could remember the last time they had hugged. But when Drew realized it was his brother on the phone, he had something important to say. He ignored Chad’s questions and kept repeating the same five words.
“I’m meant to be alive, Chad. I’m meant to be alive. I’m meant to be alive.”
SURVIVORS OF SUICIDE ATTEMPTS, particularly ones as violent as Drew’s, have a wide range of outcomes. The combination of physical and mental trauma typically requires a rebuild of the body and psyche that can take months or even years. When the fog of anesthesia lifted and Drew awoke from his first surgery, he felt love — for the blue blanket warming him, for each breath that filled his lungs, for his family.
Never before had he felt compelled to say he loved them. He’d done so out of habit, passively, reflexively, because that’s what you’re supposed to say. Now, to live like Drew had, one day to the next, in a no-man’s land where past, present and future blend into an existence aimless and unending, was no longer enough.
Drew was determined that his after was going to differ from his before. This was his chance. To be what he always wanted and never could. To fix himself. His family. Others. The compulsion — to love, and to share that love — was instantaneous.
He is, it turns out, someone who needs to communicate. Spiritually, through meditation. Reflectively, through the written word. Interpersonally, through conversation. Drew chatted up every doctor and nurse who explained to him the damage the bullet left in its wake and how jagged it would make the path forward. He asked them when he could get his cellphone and call Daiana and Darryl and Renee and Britney and Chad and everyone else he should’ve been talking to in the first place. He had so much to tell them, and it would feel corny and cheesy and so unlike him, unlike what he was. And that was OK.
“People that love you want to hear it, and if you don’t have people that love you, therapists want to hear it. So many people in this world are willing to help anyone going through these things. You’re never alone.”
“I never will hold back from asking or telling someone, even if it’s something simple,” Drew says. “Hey, this little thing’s annoying me today. Just tell them. They want to hear it. People that love you want to hear it, and if you don’t have people that love you, therapists want to hear it. People want to help you. Professionals want to help you. So many people in this world are willing to help anyone going through these things. It might be a specific situation that makes it feel like you’re alone, but you’re never alone.
“Think about it. Not everyone can do it. So if not everyone can do it, but some people can, that’s just like having a strength. So why can’t it be a strength? Why can’t it be something people are proud of? Hey, I reached out to someone today, I told him how I felt, and I felt really good. Why can’t that be a strength?”
He had found that strength in experience, in those 20 hours, in the minute details he somehow remembered, in the consideration he gave to his family, in the idea he could come back to play baseball, not just to see if he could but to show others that dreaming is more necessity than folly.
AFTER A RESTLESS NIGHT, Britney and Chad woke before sunrise to tell their parents what had happened. They drove to Darryl’s house first.
“Before I tell you what I’m going to tell you,” Britney said, “just know that right now everything’s OK.”
“Drew shot himself,” Britney said.
Darryl, who was lying down on the couch, leaped to his feet. He accompanied them to tell Renee. Around 8 a.m., they reached her house. She was on her front porch. Chad told her to sit. Britney explained. Renee broke down. They talked for hours. In the early afternoon, Darryl, Britney and Chad decided to go to Drew’s house. Renee stayed behind.
“They said it’s something a mother doesn’t need to see,” she says.
They entered through the garage. They weren’t prepared for what they saw. Britney started to look up phone numbers of hazmat cleaners.
“No,” Darryl said. “We’re cleaning it.”
Drew liked to say he and his father couldn’t be any more alike, and in some ways it was true. Neither spoke much. Both hid emotion. Darryl was a mason, his hands calloused from decades of laying brick. Discipline, drive and work ethic were his defining features. Darryl had regrets. Over the leeway he’d given the boys and the chaos of the divorce and not doing something as effortless as reminding them every day that he loved them. He tried to be a good dad. He usually was. But there were moments he failed. This was not going to be one of them. No way was he going to let a stranger into his son’s house to see the vestiges of his worst moment.
Darryl scoured the walls. Chad wiped the floors. Britney handled the towels and pillows and blankets. She borrowed an industrial carpet cleaner from her office. For two hours, they were on their hands and knees, cognizant they couldn’t erase their reality, determined to scrub as much of it away as they could.
Because of COVID-19 restrictions, no one could visit Drew at the hospital. So through all this and for days to come, Drew remained there, alone again. Darryl called every day at 6 a.m. sharp, right as the nurses changed shifts, to see how he slept. Britney played gatekeeper. There was a password to connect with Drew via phone. She determined who received it. Doctors called her with updates on his recovery. She carried a notepad everywhere and wrote down messages and questions from family and friends. After talking with Drew, she would send a group text with that day’s update.
Daiana received Britney’s messages. They weren’t enough. She still loved Drew, regardless of how many times he broke her heart. And if she couldn’t see him, she would find a way to get as close as possible. Every night, she packed Ellie and their other dog, Brodi, into the car, drove to the hospital and parked in the darkness. She would pull out her phone and send Drew a text — simple messages, like what she did that day, how the dogs were. There would be a time for serious conversations, time for answers. For now, this was what she had to offer someone who in a less vulnerable instance made it clear he needed her there with him. This would tell him unequivocally: I am.
WHEN IT WAS time to go home, Drew asked Renee to pick him up. He had spent 12 days at UMC and another five at a psychiatric hospital, which was mandatory for suicide survivors. Drew didn’t feel as if he belonged there, but he didn’t dwell on it. That’s how the old Drew would have handled the disillusionment.
At the mental health facility, Drew had worked on a vase that he gave to Renee. He apologized for the catawampus paint job. He still hadn’t conquered his lack of depth perception. The ride was mostly quiet. Not because it was weird — he says it felt like his mom was picking him up from a game — but because both knew where they were going. Outside the new front door of his house, Renee paused. “Are you ready to go in?” she asked.
The rug was different, the coffee table in the wrong place, the couch shifted back more than usual, but it looked like home. Drew needed to figure out if it still felt like it. He walked toward the couch and sat in the same spot where he shot himself.
“I wanted to feel it again,” he says. “I wanted to feel the power. I didn’t want to feel the bad side, I wanted to feel the power. I’m still here.”
It wasn’t just the couch. He wanted to see everything. He went into the bathroom, stared at the shower. He surveyed the bedroom. He studied the planks of the floor, even the one with a bullet hole. When Daiana, Darryl, Britney and Chad visited him at the house that night, he walked them through the 20 hours, step by step, detail by detail. They said nothing. Drew could see the distress on their faces. “No one understands how I made it through,” he says. “No one has to.”
He said they could ask him anything. So they did.
“What could I have done?”
Nothing. It was my responsibility, not yours.
“How come I didn’t know?”
Because I was good at hiding my sadness.
“Why did you do it?”
Drew didn’t have a good response to this one. He remembered what he told the police officer: I hate myself. And sometimes that’s all it takes.
He wanted them to forgive themselves. While he was in the hospital, he had a similar conversation with Renee. He reassured her that this wasn’t her fault. That it wasn’t anything she had or hadn’t done. Drew absolved her of the impulse to cast blame on herself. However many times she yelled at him as a child, whatever awful things she said about Darryl, he forgave her.
He promised Daiana that he would’ve done what he did even if she had let him take Ellie. He told Darryl that he was good enough — that he was everything Drew wanted in a dad. He thanked Britney: for the collateral damage she took during the divorce, for being the glue of the family, for everything she’d done the previous two weeks and all the things he knew she’d do going forward. He reminded Chad that he’d always be there for him. That their shared experiences mattered. They grew up in the same environment, struggled the same struggles. If Chad needed to talk, if he wanted to hang out, Drew would be there.
That hit Chad hard. He was the older brother. He was supposed to be the protector. And here was the tagalong, the little pain in the ass, consoling him.
“And that,” Chad says, “is when I realized how strong he really is.”
That wasn’t what Drew will remember most about that night. It was earlier, when he and Chad first saw one another. They locked eyes. Each saw the other open his arms. They leaned in and embraced. They squeezed one another. Neither cared to let go.
“That’s the first one since we were kids, huh?” Drew said.
THE HUMAN EYE is a strikingly resilient machine, harder than it seems to the touch, surrounded by bone and muscle and fat, set back in the orbital cavity to provide ample protection from everyday life, but not direct impact from a 9 mm bullet that exits a handgun traveling upwards of 750 mph.
When the bullet entered Drew’s head, it almost immediately ruptured his right eyeball. It continued across the orbital wall and through the ethmoid sinuses, the hollow areas around the nose. It fractured his frontal sinus, causing the leakage of cerebrospinal fluid, which poses significant infection risk. It missed the sinus’ major arteries, which, if struck, could have caused catastrophic bleeding. The bullet whistled past his left orbital floor and out above his left cheekbone, millimeters from ruining his other eye.
“How that happened I have no idea,” says Dr. Tina Elkins, an ear, nose and throat surgeon and assistant professor of otolaryngology at UNLV. “I have no clue how it missed and didn’t injure that eye.”
Doctors had worked wonders putting Drew back together physically. The first surgery was to save his right eyelid. The second replaced the shattered bones. The 1-inch-tall-by-1¼-inch-wide hole in Drew’s head offered the perfect entryway for Elkins. She used three 0.6-mm-thick titanium plates and 14 1.2-mm self-tapping screws to fashion a new eye socket. The procedure took about two hours and returned most of the symmetry to his face. The third was to fix the fracture in his sinus and stem the leakage of cerebrospinal fluid, which, if untreated, could have led to meningitis, brain abscesses, chronic headaches and other associated pain.
Drew’s right eye was beyond repair. The bullet shredded its insides and severed the optic nerve. On June 11, UMC Trauma scheduled a fourth surgery, an enucleation — the removal of Drew’s eye. Dr. Shoib Myint replaced the eye globe with an implant, which left room in front for a prosthetic eye.
For 22 years, Myint has been an oculofacial plastic surgeon, a specialty of ophthalmology that requires a deft touch in two regards: with the eye itself and the surgery’s aftermath. The results of most medical procedures are obscured — covered by clothing or on seldom-seem body parts. The eye is a focal point of human interaction, a lodestone for other eyes, and the psychology of losing one can be devastating. How Drew reacted to his astonished Myint.
“He’s the only one in my career that I’ve had of dealing with enucleations — I’ve done an awful lot of them — who has come out in this state of mind and who has some sort of conviction, some sort of purpose,” Myint says. “I admire him for doing that.”
A few months after those first surgeries, on Sept. 3, Drew drove about 20 miles to his old neighborhood, near Magic Moment Lane, to visit Janet Chao, an ocularist who runs Prosthetics Advancement Lab. She makes eyes for people without them. The process takes a few sessions: first to take an impression of the eye socket, then to use acrylic and shape the prosthesis, which isn’t spherical but instead fits over the globe Myint implanted, like a colossal contact lens.
Two days earlier, Drew had spent hours in a chair at Chao’s office as she stared at his left eye and used oil paints and fine brushes to replicate its colors on the prosthesis. Her artistry was evident in every minute detail — the tiny black fleck in his hazel iris, the ring of light brown that encircles his pupil. She had used microscopic red thread to copy the pattern of his blood vessels. Now, it had been heated and cured and glimmered with all the life of his left eye. Drew lifted his right eyelid and inserted the prosthesis. It fit perfectly.
He wore it home that day. His family greeted him there. He beamed. Everyone did.
“It represents my new look on life,” Drew says. “Even though I have one less eye, I haven’t seen things this clear my entire life.”
THEY WANT TO believe it. They want so badly to believe it. They want everything Drew says to be true, every smile to be real, every laugh to be genuine, every inspirational-poster-worthy chestnut to be rooted in reality and not another veneer. For two decades, he hid his pain. His family fights the thought that he might be doing it again.
It’s all so fresh, so fragile. They hear him say thank you for things that seemingly don’t warrant gratitude. Thank you to a bad day, because it helps him better appreciate the good ones. Thank you to being late, because it’s a reminder to leave earlier next time. This is his process. Drew’s family knows the facts. Suicide-attempt survivors are at a significantly higher risk of future death by suicide. They live in an America in which an estimated 1 in 4 adults suffer from a diagnosable mental health disorder.
“I don’t have it all figured out, but I’m working on it,” Drew says. “It’s not something that you just achieve. You don’t just achieve self-growth. You don’t get to a point where you just have it and you don’t have to work at it again. It’s not like a tool that you just get and you just have it forever. You don’t get to a point where, ‘Oh, I’m happy today. That’s it. I’m going to be happy for the rest of my life.’ It’s the same way in the opposite. ‘I had a rough day.’ That doesn’t mean the rest of your life is going to suck.”
Between the good days and the bad, most end up about the same. He typically wakes before his alarm. He calls in Ellie and Brodi, who have stayed with him since the early months after he left the hospital, and plays with them — “get a nice vibe going for the day.” From there, he goes into the kitchen, drinks a jug of water, returns to his office and meditates for 20 minutes. Then to the garage for a morning workout. He’ll come back in to eat breakfast. Even though he lost his senses of taste and smell after the surgeries, Drew is learning to make more than just oatmeal. He wants to cook for others.
In the afternoon, he tries to make at least three calls — to connect, catch up, ask questions, talk about how he’s doing. He’ll work out again, either in his garage or at the batting cages or at a field, before returning home to listen to music or watch TV or spend time with his family. Before he goes to bed, Drew pulls out his journal. Sometimes he’ll write a page or two, sometimes just a sentence. Either way, every entry ends with the same eight words.
I LOVE MYSELF, AND I LOVE MY LIFE!!
He talks with therapists multiple times a week. He understands that antidepressant use is a treatment to balance his brain, the same way some people with diabetes regulate themselves with insulin. He gets plenty of sleep, exercises like mad, monitors his nutrition. With the help and encouragement of former Giant Hunter Pence, he meditates. He occasionally works at a construction site with Darryl or drives Postmates to scratch together some extra cash and occupy his time.
Drew doesn’t see this as his regeneration alone. The Robinsons started to heal together. They hear Drew talk about the future and are hopeful. They listen to his struggles, and it eases their minds that he’s not hiding. They’re not, either.
Chad talks openly about seeing a therapist. He started almost two years ago. The arc of his baseball career had left a lingering dissatisfaction he needed to address. “It’s helped me a lot,” he says, “but I still have a lot of work to do, and that’s one thing that Drew has helped me understand. He said something a couple months ago maybe, because as athletes, we’re only worried about the end game. We don’t notice the short, small victories.”
Britney was diagnosed with anxiety and depression in high school. For years, she has tried to remind herself that she’s enough and wished those around her would do the same. “Communication in my family has never been a good thing,” she says. “Me personally, I’m not afraid to express my feelings. I’m just like, ‘Oh, yeah, you guys get it all now.'”
Together, the Robinsons met with Dr. Shana Alexander, a clinical psychologist who is the Giants’ employee assistance program director, for a family counseling session over Zoom. If you need to talk more, she told them, please call me. The next day, Darryl did. “I try not to show weakness or show my emotions to anybody,” he says. “And I was able to do it to her on the phone because no one was around.”
Another night, Britney was talking with Drew about her early 20s. Her bad boyfriend. Her drug use. How she started to research suicide and thought about the method. How she envied Renee’s cousin’s daughter, who had died by suicide.
“You just feel helpless. Like nothing,” Britney says. “My thing was I just felt like it would be easier for my friends and family for me not to be here. So they didn’t have to deal with my ups and downs and with the issues of my brain, because something’s wrong with my brain. I am pushing it onto other people. And that’s what I thought: It would be better without me.”
It sounded so familiar to Drew.
“Every scenario, I would think of my mom finding me and I just couldn’t do it,” Britney says. “I just, I couldn’t do it. It breaks my heart because I know how awful of a feeling it was. And to know that he felt even lower than what I got to — I couldn’t imagine being there. I just, I really couldn’t imagine that because it’s such an intense feeling.”
In the months after Drew returned home, Britney’s responsibilities faded. She was used to taking notes and screening calls and sending texts that everyone awaited. As Drew sought his purpose, she was losing hers. Suicide attempts leave behind the sort of choppy wake that can waylay even a person with years of therapy and proper medication.
Britney wound up finding comfort in an unexpected place: the words of the person she had spent all those hours supporting.
“I’m not going anywhere,” Drew told her.
IT HAS A CHANCE.
That’s what they all thought when the ball left the bat Oct. 21. For the first time since he lost his eye, Drew Robinson was taking batting practice outside. Behind the plate, capturing the moment on video, was Jake Hager, a 2011 first-round pick. On the mound, throwing batting practice, was Sam Sadovia, a local baseball coach. In the outfield, shagging balls, was Johnny Field, a big leaguer in 2018. Though Drew’s swing looked no different than it had when he was in the major leagues — the aggressive bat waggle, the leg kick with a knee bent to nearly 90 degrees, the one-handed finish — none of his previous 30 or so swings had yielded a home run. This one sent the ball hissing toward right-center field at Las Vegas Ballpark, the Triple-A stadium where local pros go for offseason hitting sessions.
“Get up,” Field yelled.
For the past three months, Drew had taken every swing indoors. On July 29, he took the first whack at this new reality. He wore a patch over his right eye and hit off a tee. Sadovia, who calls Drew “my third kid,” immediately thought to himself: He’s better with one eye than I am with two. As days and weeks went by, he kept improving. He started hitting high-velocity fastballs. He faced machines that threw curveballs and sliders, and he handled them fine. Now the challenge was doing it at a real stadium, and the ball was climbing.
“Get up,” Hager echoed.
Drew’s relationship with the game is complicated. It was his old purpose, and as much as he won’t blame the sport for April 16, he can’t absolve it, either. So to go back, to reenter the world that pushed him toward his worst impulses, is perilous. He knows that. He also knows he is in a better place to handle it.
He no longer needs baseball in an elemental way. This is a test. Of his strength and resolve and willingness to flirt with failure. Hitting major league pitching with two working eyes is extraordinarily difficult. Doing so with one, and the rear eye at that, only increases the degree of difficulty. Only one man has lost an eye and played in the major leagues: Whammy Douglas, who threw 47 innings for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1957.
Myint, the eye surgeon, says that the binocular vision two eyes provide matters for up-close depth perception. But hitters typically decide to swing when the ball is about 45 feet from home plate, where depth-perception issues, Myint says, would not necessarily manifest themselves. And because, as a baseball player, Robinson’s brain has already exhibited a unique ability to track high-speed movement, the aptitude he had been showing in all these batting-practice sessions, Myint says, could be very real.
“Get up,” Drew said, quieter than the others.
All these years, the physical part came easy to Drew and the mental part vexed him. With this one batting practice home run, he could reverse that trend. If he weren’t as mentally strong as he is now, there’s no way he’d be able to do this physically.
“Let’s go-o-o-o-o,” Hager bellowed.
The ball snuck over the fence. Drew took a slight skip and jogged to first base. He stopped there. He’d save the full trot for a game — on the off-chance that someone might offer him a chance to play it again.
DREW REMAINED IN touch with the Giants after getting out of the hospital. It wasn’t just Alexander, the clinical psychologist. He texted with Kapler, the manager, and Zaidi, the baseball operations president, and Harris, the GM. He’d send pictures of himself with his new eye and videos of himself deadlifting 415 pounds and taking swings. In early May, when people around baseball honored front-line workers, Kapler put pieces of tape with the names of Drew’s nurses at UMC on his jersey.
In the fall, Drew asked if he could speak to the Giants’ players and staff. World Suicide Prevention Day was Sept. 10. Playing baseball was important, but it was fungible. If Drew was going to help others — not just those in his circle but every struggling soul he could reach — telling his story, he thought, was the most impactful way. The Giants welcomed the idea.
He arrived at Oracle Park on Sept. 9, the day California wildfires turned the sky orange. He was nervous. He wore a mask with a Giants logo. He did not wear his prosthesis. The players, coaches and other staff gathered outside. Alexander introduced him. He grabbed the microphone.
“First, I just want to say thank you for everything,” Drew said. “What I’ve been going through the last couple of months has been the most powerful experience in the most positive way. The lessons I’ve learned from what I’ve gone through is something I want to share.”
He told them he wanted to read a reflection he wrote. He warned the group: “It’s a little heavy. But I want you guys to know that this is something that’s important to me.” Drew took a deep breath and started to speak.
“April 16, around 8 p.m., I attempted suicide and shot myself in the head. A day later, April 17, around 4 p.m., I dialed 911 myself in an attempt to have my life saved. Later that night, not only was my life saved, but it was reborn and restarted.”
Drew spoke for about seven minutes. About the importance of talking and the need for others and how he intended to give baseball another shot. He saw people crying. Some were thinking of family or friends lost to suicide. Others wept for him.
“I remember having this thought in my head: That is the toughest guy I’ve ever met,” Giants outfielder Alex Dickerson says. “Not just physically but mentally and how brave he is to be doing what he’s doing.”
Drew’s words resonated with Dickerson. Baseball had trifled with his emotional well-being for nearly a decade. Like Drew, he reached the big leagues around his 25th birthday. Injuries sidelined him for two full seasons. He didn’t know if he would ever return. The Giants acquired him from the San Diego Padres in 2019 and gave him full-time at-bats. In 2020, he batted .298 and slugged .576. He was one of the best hitters in the National League.
After Drew finished speaking, Dickerson pulled him aside. They reminisced and realized they had played one another at a high school tournament in 2007. Drew connected with others as well — about baseball, about struggles, about what it means to be alive.
“He demonstrated the power of vulnerability and made it look so simple by just talking,” Alexander says. “He encouraged people to just connect with one another and talk more. And that in itself was a huge barrier that we broke bringing him in and showing players that we’re all susceptible to mental illness. We can all struggle at times. It doesn’t matter who we are, how wealthy we are, how athletic we are, how perfect our life seems to look. It’s much more than that.”
This was why Alexander joined the Giants last year: to emphasize the importance of mental health the same way organizations typically do physical ability. Drew’s speech to the team was a perfect example. And Drew left San Francisco that day feeling content: If this was the last thing he ever did with the Giants, he felt good about it.
“I remember having this thought in my head: that is the toughest guy I’ve ever met. Not just physically but mentally and how brave he is to be doing what he’s doing.”
Giants outfielder Alex Dickerson
On Oct. 22, the day after he hit the outdoor home run, Drew panicked. He had missed a text from Kapler. “You awake?” it said.
When Drew called, Kapler told him that he had spoken with Zaidi and Harris, and they all agreed: He needed to remain with the organization. They cared about him. They wanted people like him around. They believed he could still play major league baseball. The Giants were offering Robinson a contract with an invitation to minor league spring training. He wouldn’t be in the same clubhouse as the big league players. There wouldn’t be any guaranteed money or a roster spot. But he would get the chance to work his way there.
“This opportunity wasn’t just given to Drew,” Zaidi says. “He earned it. He had a great camp with us last spring, and he’s amazingly managed to look outward and be a big contributor to the organization even as he’s had to work tirelessly to get back on the field. We’re proud he’s a Giant, and we’re excited to see him compete for a job in camp.”
Drew doesn’t remember what he said. Just that he fumbled over the words and couldn’t thank Kapler enough. He was going to play baseball again. When he looked in the mirror April 17, saw the hole in his head, realized his eyeball was in pieces and thought about baseball — it wasn’t fanciful.
This time, he didn’t share the good news with a three-word text. He called everyone — Daiana, Darryl, Renee, Britney and Chad. He thought of what it would be like to see them at the field again, to celebrate with a family that actually feels whole.
“Even if he doesn’t [make it], he has so much more to say and do in his life,” Darryl says. “We’re all learning from Drew right now. To be better people.”
IN MID-NOVEMBER, a familiar feeling seized Drew. Something was off. It started with a skipped workout, then a missed meditation session or journal entry. Being alive takes so much, and the pressures of this routine, of the new expectations he had set for himself, were converging. His mind started to race. He told himself he was being lazy. He wasn’t putting in the necessary work to stay healthy. His self-talk sounded like the companion. If I can’t do the work, why would I deserve happiness? If I can’t even do enough to earn happiness, what’s the point? He didn’t leave his room for a day, then two, then three.
“I just felt like the world was ending,” he says. “I had my first passive suicidal thought, which really scared me: ‘I wish I was successful.'”
No. That’s what Drew tried to tell himself. No. This time, he knew he had the tools. He understood what he needed to do. He called Daiana into his room. He looked her in the eyes. And he said: “I think I’m battling depression right now.”
“Even though I didn’t want to hear it, I was so thankful,” Daiana says. “It’s the first time he’s ever said something like that. Just so open and honest about how he’s feeling instead of me wondering what’s going on.”
“I don’t have it all figured out, but I’m working on it. You don’t just achieve self-growth. You don’t get to a point where you just have it and you don’t have to work at it again.”
Uttering those words helped. Drew spoke with friends and family, with his therapists. The sadness slowly abated. He returned to his routine. Daiana’s reminders were a salve. He needed to give himself grace on the days he falls short. To know it’s OK not to be OK. To keep talking.
“Most people in this situation, when you tell them what happened, think, wow, that’s great. He survived,” Daiana says. “Nobody realizes the things that come with it. It’s not like you survive such an extreme thing and everything is perfect. You’re starting over. The past isn’t gone.”
Not just for Drew, either. A couple of years ago, Daiana was reading a story about obsessive-compulsive disorder and felt a burst of recognition. Anxiety had tormented her for more than 15 years, and suddenly she had a name for the feelings she’d experienced. She had never talked in much detail with Drew about it. He had his own problems. Daiana didn’t want to encumber him. Then came April 16.
“Him sharing his story has made me become more comfortable in talking about it,” Daiana says. “I know I’m not fighting alone anymore.”
The weeks since have gotten better for both. They enjoyed family time at Christmas. Drew fell asleep at 10:30 p.m. on New Year’s Eve and Daiana laughed at him for it. Last week, Drew took live batting practice against Chasen Bradford, a big league pitcher from 2017 to 2019, and walloped a home run on a sinker. There are days good and bad, moments high and low, and almost always Drew and Daiana are with each other to celebrate the former and weather the latter. Both know not to look too far ahead.
Looking back, though, there’s a specific day Drew can’t forget. It was just before the depression hit. He and Daiana were at a park. Drew was supposed to catch fly balls, except another friend who came along wasn’t very adept at hitting them. Daiana volunteered. She choked up on the bat, tossed the ball in the air and took a whack. Drew coasted over, caught it and bounced it back to her. She swung and missed three times in a row and they both laughed before she started grooving them. She would hit; he would catch. She would give him something; he would return it. It was a perfect day on what was supposed to be a perfect day: Nov. 14, their wedding date.
“In a weird way, I had peace,” Daiana says. “It wasn’t the right time. I wasn’t in the best place, and he wasn’t, either. I didn’t go back and think what if. We were just living. And it was OK.”
DREW STILL CAN’T pinpoint exactly what caused him to hit the green dial button that day, but the clues always have been there. In the hours before he pulled the trigger, and throughout those 20 hours that followed, his thoughts constantly converged on his family, on Daiana. On who would find him. Who would have to clean. Who would blame themselves. How they would go on without him.
Reminders of April 16 are everywhere. Drew kept the shorts he was wearing. The towel that absorbed so much of the blood. The note he wrote. His family removed the plank of wood where the bullet had lodged and had it turned into a necklace for him. Chad has the gun. Drew isn’t sure what he wants to do with it. He could toss it into the Grand Canyon or destroy it with an acetylene torch. For now, he doesn’t really think about it.
In the nightstand that once held his gun, Drew keeps a small jewelry box with a keepsake inside. It’s the bullet that burrowed through his head and changed his life. Sometimes he’ll remove it from the box, roll it between his index finger and thumb, use it to remind himself where he was and where he is.
“I look at this thing and think, I’m stronger than you,” he says. “I’m stronger than what I thought I was.”
If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide or is in emotional distress, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK(8255) or at suicidepreventionlifeline.org.