Editorial: Safford City Councilor Chris Taylor resigns: Comes clean about drug relapse

Contributed Photo/Courtesy Chris Taylor: Chris Taylor has suspended his campaign for Congress and resigned from his position on the Safford City Council to focus on his recovery and his family.

Editor’s Note: The following is written by Chris Taylor and informs of his decision to resign from his position as a member of the Safford City Council. The column also details his recent relapse and the events that occurred Feb. 19, resulting in his hospitalization. At its Monday night meeting, the Safford City Council will discuss whether to appoint a replacement for Taylor or just leave the seat empty until the election in August.

Chris Taylor

Column By Chris Taylor

Today I have resigned my seat on the Safford City Council effective immediately.  It has been the honor of my life serving the amazing citizens of Safford, the only home I’ve ever known. I’ve always worked tirelessly to be accessible and responsive to the constituents that elected me. I thoroughly enjoyed representing the community. Especially those individuals who felt left behind or left out of the decision-making process. I held myself to a very high standard during my time in office. I dedicated myself to complete honesty and transparency and never ignored a single constituent request. 

Unfortunately, my addiction recovery and close relationship with God recently took a back seat to other endeavors including my relentless pursuit of perfection and ambition. With the absence of my recovery and spirituality, which has always been the bedrock of any successes in my life, the expectations I placed on myself became unrealistic and the resulting stress was overwhelming and simply became too much to handle. This lead to relapse behavior and soon my dormant addiction roared back to life. Very quickly I was already stuck in the insanity, bound by the chains of addiction once again. Unable to pull myself back. 

Over the next few months, I took my family for granted and jeopardized their safety and wellbeing. I let go of the things that I loved most and was most passionate about; my performance with the Fire Department, my position on the City Council and my campaign for United States Congress. I lost the trust and admiration of the community and caused a lot of pain to a lot of people. 

I’ve always had a very difficult time identifying and vocalizing my true exact feelings and emotions. Because of that shortcoming, when I announced I was suspending my campaign after relapsing and overdosing, I ignorantly and incorrectly stated that I was not ashamed. Of course, I was ashamed. I’d be inhuman if I didn’t feel immense shame, guilt, and embarrassment. 

What I really meant to convey to the world was that I would not hide from what happened and I would not let that shame stand as a barrier to complete honesty and accountability for my actions. When I said, “I’d cooperate with authorities on any matters arising from my relapse and overdose.” Taking responsibility for my actions is what I meant. Shame, when used as a motivation to change, can be an incredibly positive thing. I realize and understand the anger that many people felt after reading the police report of the events that transpired the night I overdosed and was revived. In the spirit of complete honesty, transparency, and accountability, I wish to address this topic. 

“The Night The Old Me Died For Good”

At approximately 10 p.m. on February 19, 2020, I was holding my 4-year-old daughter and rocked her to sleep while my amazing wife did the same with our 1-year-old son. I carried my sleeping daughter to her bedroom and laid her in bed pulling the covers over her body and kissed her forehead goodnight. 

At 10:15 p.m., I went into the bathroom and locked the door. Hopeful and determined that this would be the last time I ever used heroin. “I’m better than this, I escaped this bondage once before, when I had nothing to live for. Surely I could do it again now, with so much to live for. I have everything. This insanity ends now!”, I admonished myself resolutely . . . “Well, it will end tomorrow,” my addiction overruled me. Locked in the bathroom, I’d be in and out quickly so my wife wouldn’t suspect a thing. I used the drug the same way I have many times before, using the same amount I always have. 

Almost immediately I knew something was different. The heroin rushed to my brain in seconds and hit me like a lightning bolt straight from the sky. My vision went blurry and my heart jumped out of my chest. The room started spinning. Panic, despair and crippling fear set in. I desperately tried to control my breathing and attempted to stay conscious while this passed. I hyperventilated, and then my right hand began involuntarily seizing, followed by both legs. My vision went completely black and I made a last-ditch effort to scream for my wife to help me. 

Before I could get the scream for help out of my mouth, I slipped into unconsciousness and fell backward like a ton of bricks. The very last thought in my head was, “I’m dead. I’m abandoning my innocent family. My little girl who worships the ground I walk on. My baby son who already at 1-year-old emulates his father and is completely dependent on me. My beautiful angel wife who had miraculously entered my life 6 years earlier at exactly the right time. After I changed my life and when I needed her most. Way back then she saved me, giving me a reason to live. Giving me unconditional love and support. Giving me a family of my own to care for and raise. She’s been my rock, my redeemer, my everything. 

As my lifeless body laid there on the cold bathroom floor, my heart had only a few more beats to give. Everything was completely black. I have absolutely no recollection or memory of what transpired next. Only total darkness until I woke up later in the Emergency Room. 

The following is my wife’s account of the events that night as told to me numerous times as we process this traumatic event together in a healthy way. 

At 10:15 p.m., Sarah heard the thud of my 195-pound body hitting the ground. She knew, or at least she feared the worst. She had become aware that I was struggling a few weeks earlier and I convinced her I was getting help and then I successfully hid it from her until this incident. 

The baby was asleep so she placed him safely on the recliner and rushed over to the bathroom door to call out to me. Nothing, no response. She dialed 911 while running to the front door to prop it open, so when the paramedics arrived they could come straight in. As she spoke to the dispatcher she ran into the bedroom to put tennis shoes on so that she could attempt to kick the locked bathroom door open. After several tries she finally got the door open and found me unresponsive, still convulsing, bleeding and with vomit on my mouth and on the ground around me. 

At this point, minutes had passed since I hit the ground. My lips were blue, my body already changing colors. Then my body went completely still. She counted my very shallow breaths to the dispatcher and then informed them she couldn’t find a pulse anywhere;  My heart was no longer beating, the shallow breaths not getting the necessary oxygen to my brain. Heroically, she remained calm and listened to the dispatcher walk her through the lifesaving steps. She started chest compressions but no avail. Undeterred, she kept trying relentlessly to revive me. Finally, it appeared to work. I gasped for air and took a deep breath seemingly coming back to life.

As I jumped up off the floor, she looked into my eyes. There was nothing there, completely blank; soulless. I ran into the hallway and she tried to stop me. I pushed her to the side so I could get into the living room. I looked totally confused and unaware of who I was or where I was at. She yelled at me to just sit down. The dispatcher then informed her that the ambulance had arrived. I rushed to the doorway and tried to shut the door when Sarah intervened and yelled to the paramedics, “Help me!”  She meant, “Help us! Help Chris.” Not, “Help me from Chris.” I then pushed her to the side again and tried to shut the door before the paramedic (who was also an off duty police officer, and a really good friend of mine) could come inside. 

He forced the door open and then tried to tackle me because he justifiably believed I was trying to hurt my wife. When he attempted to tackle me, I instinctively defended myself but of course, in that unconscious and hypoxic state, I was no match for him or anyone. He held me to the ground until on-duty police officers arrived moments later to help him. The whole time I was struggling with them I was yelling, “Help me, Help me!” The paramedics then administered a strong sedative to subdue me and then they administered the life-saving drug Narcan to reverse the effects of the Heroin overdose. I was then transported by ambulance to the emergency room.

The police report is thorough, as it should be. Other than a few parts that aren’t entirely correct, it is mostly true. No, my wife wasn’t holding our baby during the incident. How could she revive me and do all that with the baby in her arms? She couldn’t and in fact, she didn’t. Also, from the time she revived me and I jumped up off the floor until the time the paramedics arrived and brought me under control was around 30 seconds or so. The report and following news articles made it seem like a hostage situation or that my wife is a battered woman and that I’m some kind of menace to society. 

I won’t minimize one ounce of the traumatic experience I inflicted upon her, the love of my life. But until this unconscious incident, when I apparently pushed her to the side to get passed her in a narrow hallway and then moved her from the doorway to close the front door, I have never laid hands on my wife. I’ve never even yelled at her in 6 years of marriage. I have also never once been violent or physically hurt anyone. The fact that I might be facing charges of domestic violence against my sweetheart and eternal companion and aggravated assault on my good friend, the paramedic, is absolutely devastating. I would never hurt anyone much less two people that I love, admire, and care about. 

The following is the honest and true account of what I experienced between the time I hit the ground and then woke up later in the emergency room. 

 I remember being in a deep sleep surrounded by darkness. With the overwhelming feeling of hopelessness and despair. Somehow, I was fully aware that I was dead or at least dying and I refused to stop fighting to live. Suddenly a horrifying dark cloud surrounded me and enveloped my entire body, rendering me completely helpless and paralyzed. In my mind, I was frantically struggling to break free, desperate to live. The strength of this unknown force was so powerful. It took every ounce of energy to fight it off to the point that every muscle in my body reached muscle failure. As I reached pure exhaustion I could not fight any longer. I conceded the fact that I was dead.

 I thought to myself, “You are finally here, you finally hit rock bottom.” I was keenly aware of the ramifications of this harsh reality. I could no longer minimize or rationalize anything. Horrible thoughts raced through my mind, “My family would have to go on without me and I wasn’t in heaven, that’s for sure. My loved ones would most likely try to cope with the tragic loss by believing I was in a better place. But of course, I wasn’t.” I’m not sure where I was but it felt a whole lot like hell to me. This sobering realization is the last thing I remember from that experience. 

As I began to come back to consciousness in the emergency room I felt peace and comfort. The exact opposite of the darkness I had experienced earlier. The first thing I saw was my father on the right side of the bed, gripping my hand. He has always been the first one by my side whenever I’ve fallen in my life and he’s always right there to celebrate my triumphs as well. In my 33 years on this earth, he has never once abandoned me, as I had just abandoned my children. On the left side of the bed was one of my church leaders who happens to be a neighbor, a lifelong friend of mine and a police sergeant. He told me what happened. I felt immediate shame and guilt. I cried and apologized profusely. How could any of that have transpired? I’ve never ever been out of control of my body. It was the scariest thing I’ve ever had to confront. 

But I have confronted it head-on in complete humility. Through this experience, I’ve learned so much about myself and have already grown more than I ever thought possible. I am embracing my recovery once again and working hard at continuing to solidify my sobriety and mental health. I’m on the right path, back on track. I’m not back at square one. Yes, I had a major fall with major consequences that was exacerbated by an international media response that lead to hundreds of hateful phone calls and voicemails from strangers around the United States and other countries, thousands of hurtful messages and social media comments and even several death threats. 

People in Safford have even tried to intimidate my family and pressure us to sell our home and our cars and leave town. But we will not let hatefulness control our lives. We won’t let the judgments of other imperfect humans affect us one bit. I won’t let this define me. Once again it will refine me. I’ll rise again out of the ashes more understanding of the human condition, less judgmental of the trials and shortcomings of my fellow beings, and more full of love and compassion for everyone.

We all struggle and we all fall. We all do things that are insane. We all make mistakes. I will continue to walk this path of life that we are all on one step at a time, one foot in front of the other. I will continue to be reminded that I can’t do it alone. That I always need help. That I must always rely on my faith and personal relationship with my savior Jesus Christ, never ceasing. That I always have to put my recovery and my well-being first before I can be strong for anyone else. 

My role as a husband and father is the only thing I care about now. Indeed, it is the only thing I haven’t lost. I will never put myself in this position again. I will never take them for granted and I will never put them in a position where they can be hurt ever again. I’m extremely grateful to have escaped death, to be alive, and to have another chance at life. Not very many people survive what I just did and that isn’t lost on me. 

It’s a very common occurrence that the body unconsciously and instinctively goes into “fight or flight” mode when revived from an opioid overdose. That’s what happened to my body. Unfortunately, that isn’t a justifiable defense against possible criminal charges. But whatever happens, come what may, I will handle it with class and resilience. My debt to society will be paid in full. My family and I will survive together with the help of true friends who know me and know my character. I will be back stronger than ever – ready and willing to conquer anything and everything the enemy throws at me. 

“7….There was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure.

8 For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me.

9 And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly, therefore, will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.” 

2 Corinthians 12: 7-10

God bless all of you. 

Chris Taylor 

Father/Husband 

Combat Veteran

Recovering Addict

Former Firefighter 

Former Safford City Councilman

Former U.S. Congressional Candidate 

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