Wednesday, February 09, 2000
By Lawrence Walsh, Post-Gazette Staff Writer
Greg Woods stepped into the bracing 20-degree air, took a deep breath, looked at a group of reporters gathered around him and said it was "good to be alive."
It was quite an admission from a man who tried to kill himself almost eight months ago in a South Park apartment by swallowing about 200 prescription pills and using a bottle of vodka as a chaser.
His former girlfriend, Sandy Cummings, who had done the same thing at the same time and in the same place, had expressed similar sentiments moments earlier yesterday when she left the courtroom of District Justice Mary Grace Boyle of Pleasant Hills.
The pills had been prescribed to treat Cummings' multiple sclerosis and fibromyalgia. Cummings, 46, said she wanted to commit suicide because of the pain and depression from the diseases.
Woods, 43, said he joined Cummings in the suicide attempt because he was depressed by her medical condition and his own alcohol and drug abuse.
Both were comatose for days in St. Clair Hospital after the June 16 incident and were each charged with one count of aiding a suicide. They survived because a maintenance man, called by Cummings' mother, found them in time.
Boyle approved the district attorney's decision to withdraw the charges but only after being assured Cummings and Woods would continue treatment for depression. Boyle also prohibited Cummings and Woods from having any contact with each other.
Cummings, who said she wanted to leave the area, said she was "ready to get on with my life." She is receiving drug and alcohol counseling at a South Side facility.
Woods said a lot more about himself and about "all the help that's out there" for those who choose suicide as a permanent solution to a temporary problem.
"I've learned that as bad as things might seem, they're really not that bad," he said. "Pick up the phone and call somebody. There are a lot of good treatment facilities out there and a lot of good people who work in them. They saved my life and I'm forever grateful."
Woods, a former construction worker who helped clean up hazardous and toxic waste sites, is living at Alpha House, a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center in Shadyside.
He said he is looking forward to continuing with the behavior modification treatment and is thinking about going back to school.
Woods said he might like to learn how to help people in recovery programs similar to the one he is enrolled in. "But I have a lot of issues to deal with myself before I could ever start on something like that," he said.
"I'm very optimistic about my future. I'm happy to have been given a
second chance at life and I thank God for that. Now it's up to me to make
the most of what I have."