May 22nd marks the anniversary of my last drink. It was late in the evening on 22nd of May 2002 that I downed my last slug of vodka. What followed were 88 hours of sleeplessness and various auditory, tactile and visual hallucinations as I withdrew.
I didn’t go to the hospital, but I should have. I was not incapacitated, as I knew that what I was witnessing was not real. Imagine that, I hallucinated, and knew they were hallucinations and didn’t act on them.
The imaginary shadow-birds on the ceiling; the 1970’s era Japanese-made transistor radio playing “Staying Alive” by the BeeGees over and over in my left ear; the invisible fly buzzing; the blizzard in my living room, grasshoppers crawling over the plants in the family room; the bed that rocked back and forth like a raft at sea (and I could control the imaginary movements by will); to the weird albino western movie-voyeur scene playing on the ceiling; something repeatedly kicking me in the heel; the cat with glowing red eyes that walked into my bedroom late one night; mysterious red and green glowing lights crisscrossing on the ceiling, that I could slow down and make disappear at will. The strangest were the beautiful women in standard office attire at Mass that kept appearing with clipboard at hand out of the corner of my eyes, then disappeared when I looked at them. They went away finally when a 30-foot tall Franciscan friar, also bearing a clipboard, chased them. There were other hallucinations, but those stick out 5 years later.
I had relapsed. I had stopped drinking on February 3rd, and not because I had taken AA’s First Step and declared myself powerless over alcohol. I stopped drinking because I had no physical ability to get to a liquor store. Too weak. Liquor had debilitated me physically. I had attended AA meetings for 7 months, listened but didn’t apply. I liked to drink too much. Finally I just couldn’t physically leave the house, had DT’s and imagined my teeth falling out. I asked my poor Mom to call 911 (emergency number in the USA in case any foreigners are reading), and I waited outside in the bitter cold, hallucinating that a fleet of ambulances were parading down the street. When one finally showed up I claimed to be the local mayor and they were in deep trouble for their tardy response. I also hallucinated that a New York Times camera crew were there filming. (Yes, I know they’re a newspaper. I was hallucinating.) My Mom had been trying to get me to go back inside, begging and pleading, but I refused, demanding that she instead return inside. How I didn’t physically assault her in my frustration with her refusal to go back in is a mystery. My Guardian angel and hers must have been wrestling with me. It did seem as if a great force was holding me back. (The ambulance guys had not yet arrived. No neighbor had shown up before the ambulance.) I’m not kidding about the angels. I believe they exist. (It’s actually a solid teaching of the Church that they exist. Required belief if you’re a Catholic.)
Anyway, I ended up at the Hospital and 6 days and $10,500 later I was dry and sober. Sober as in “not drinking”. Why I went back to drinking 3 1/2 months later is a mystery. I remember being stressed out over a series of family visits and some impending ones (I have an estranged relationship with them. Back then I tolerated them because they only visited to see Mom.) But I also remember feeling good and happy and on top of things when I casually strolled into the liquor store and bought a pint of vodka. It’s cunning, baffling and powerful, that alcohol.
Anyway, that was then, this is now. Five years. Been through job losses, Mom’s death, loss of her house (I wasn’t in a financial position to buy it from the estate, though I did receive my share of the inheritance), loss of family due to serious issues regarding grief and coping with her death and the aftermath, financial troubles early on, loss of my AA sponsor for reason’s I have no clue over. Enduring underemployment and a job search that’s tough as I am “returning to the workforce” after a few years away (due to care giving for Mom prior to her death and the need to deal with her death and the secondary losses, and prior to that being out of work due to the alcohol. (Read my drunkalogue.) I’m just glad I sobered up a few years before Mom needed me in her final years. Because of me and my care, she lived longer and knew she was loved. She was able to remain in her home and not move away to my sister’s, a place she would have hated. (My sister’s house, not my sister. Though if she knew how my sister treated me after her death…)
These things that have happened have steered me away a bit from AA’s “One day at a Time (ODAAT)” slogan. That isn’t good enough for me. “ODAAT” means that today, I won’t drink, tomorrow, well, let’s wait and see. When tomorrow comes, just say, “No, I won’t drink today.” There’s too much room for alcohol to sneak in and suggest itself as a solution to my troubles. I’ve been through a lot of bad stuff these past few years, and I know dang well that just a little window of opportunity is all it needs, just a little time to work it’s way into my decision-making process. Instead I have developed the idea that “No matter how good, or how bad, drinking is not an option.“ Period. Ever. This forces me to dismiss it outright, not just for today, but forever. This is not like saying “I can never drink again”, and getting overwhelmed by that, which is why the ODAAT idea developed. It’s situational. Regardless of what is going on, drinking is not on the table.
It simply isn’t what I do anymore. I do not drink. It just isn’t considered. No time issue of today or forever is involved. It just isn’t done.
No matter what.Know someone, perhaps yourself, who might like Catholic devotionals for alcoholics? Please take a look at my books! (Thank you!!)"The Stations of the Cross for Alcoholics"