truth help is in the details
Let’s dive deeper and deeper into this world I speak so highly of. This is that lonely, sad yet, at times, slightly exciting world of the drinking problem. This is my world. This is not your world or your alcoholic friend’s world. This place was designed by me and for me. For those of you who may not understand this life, this way of stumbling through, literally and figuratively, perhaps my stories shine some light on your confusion or possibly intrigue.
Maybe there is one of you who wonder if you are like me or know someone who might be like me. Let me warn you. If it is you who are curious, if it is you who wonder, fear you are like me, the door is always open. The communication line extends from you to me directly and has no people or hurdles in between. But if you are curious because you fear you know someone like this, I’d suggest you be quite careful how you handle that. I’m not a therapist, I’m not here to diagnose or reach out to someone you know. If my stories resonate inside you, I am someone who can relate and talk. But I only got to this place on my own. No one could tell me to change or stop. All I am saying is if you suspect someone you know has a problem, please explore your options before making a move, because you could be in a danger zone you don’t even realize or understand.
Well…..sorry if that got weird. So how about I tell you about a really bad day.
the bad day starts yesterday
When it came to drinking, my bad days couldn’t be contained or qualified to one actual day. They started long before the stroke of midnight. In fact, they were usually still going strong when midnight hit. The main question of whether or not to drink on a given night would sometimes be decided by a few, very important factors. First question, what do I have to do tonight – probably nothing scheduled. Second and more importantly, what time do I have something to do tomorrow and how critical is it. Once I had the answers, the determination would be made. Drink or not drink. If we had reached this questioning period, the answer was most undoubtedly going to be – drink. The third question would be, who can we drink with (sub-question – who will I have the best chance to stay out with super late). Then it was time to get to it.
Grape vodka and cranberry juice, stiff as you can make it and I’ll meet you for a cigarette on the front porch (I was speaking to myself in this scenario). When I would make drink #1, the adrenaline rush was significant, but I don’t want this to sound cliché. It wasn’t glamorous as if it were a movie. Tarantino would have quick cuts of ice in glass, drink mix and lit cigarette and it would make you want to have a cocktail right then and there. In my picture, there was adrenaline filled with anxiety engulfed in self-doubt and self-loathing while still maintaining the internal vision of somehow this is all normal and maybe even….cool. Then we were gone.
Once that first drink makes it down, once the fire is in the stomach and I am off and running, it isn’t going to stop. One drink is all I need and then I can’t tell you what happens next. But the idea of ‘tonight I need to take it easy’ or ‘I’ll just have a couple’ isn’t going to ever enter my mind. Fundamentally, this is probably the top reason I no longer drink. That list is five miles long, but this concept, in my opinion, is the root of my problem relationship with alcohol. I can’t, I won’t, and I hate to stop drinking once I start. The human body will, eventually, make you stop. You will either pass out, start vomiting or die. But ‘having desire to stop’ is not on that list for me.
Yes, you read that correctly. ‘Dying’ is on the list of reasons a person can be stopped from physically drinking more yet ‘me wanting to’ is not. That is not a mistake. If you haven’t seen what this disease can do to a person, perhaps now you are starting to. So maybe by 2a or 3a everyone has gone home. Depending on how I answered question #2, I may just stay up alone and finish things off. But you came here to hear a BAD day story. So that’s when we introduce the second part of the story – next day responsibilities.
how being responsible and being an out of control alcoholic mix terribly
Responsibilities are the worst when you’ve been up until 3a or 4a drinking heavily. Work, family obligations, basically anything that isn’t sleeping or drinking more really got in the way of my alcoholism. They ruined everything. “Who the fuck has a kid’s party at 11A on a Saturday without booze?” I’ve come to learn that, surprisingly, a LOT of people do actually. “I’ll go out to breakfast if they have a bloody Mary bar. Wait, you’re not going to drink WITH me?” Also I’ve come to learn that this is not uncommon for people to drink a little at night and then NOT want to drink the next morning. “Fuck work for having me as an employee and having to be in at 9A.” I don’t even have a response to this one, but I do remember feeling this way A LOT.
So I define “bad” for me as waking up when I needed to for something, usually work, and still being hammered. Hammered meant no hangover (yet) and feeling like the world was ok and somehow I was still ok. You won’t like this or understand it, but towards the very end, this feeling when I awoke and had to work meant only one thing.
I will tell you in this alcoholic’s mind the reasoning I’m about to share actually made sense and I felt it was somewhat rational.
I had to drink more, at work. This way, I avoid the hangover completely (no) and can be normal (no). I remember the face of the liquor store worker when I would walk in and grab a bottle of red wine at 830 in the morning. It was not a judging face; it was just a face of indifference. Yet it also had an awareness and, I believe, he made assumptions about what was going on. It is possible that a lot of that description was in my own mind and fueled by my own anxiety, but I still felt that way. You may have glanced over it or you may be asking “did he say red wine?” Yes. I did. Also important to note is that I never really drank much red wine in my drinking career. If I drank wine, I liked white. So why did red wine become my ‘go-to drink of choice when I was still drunk from the night before and had to go to work so I’d stop by the liquor store at 830A and pick up something drink for the day, while at work – drink?’ I guess the first time it felt right for that very common, relatable scenario.
didn’t quite think this one out…
There is really only one slightly small problem with waking up drunk, not really eating and then filling your stomach with red wine at work to ‘stay normal’. Time. Have you ever seen basically ANY food at a sporting event and thought “well the best idea of the day is me eating that right now”? Most of the time, hours later, it wasn’t the best idea of the day. Well what seems like a good idea at 830a, even 1030a when you’re really in a groove, is going to eventually have to end or get worse. You may think you’re creative, talented or superman at this point and think everything you are doing is pure gold. It’s not. You may think you’re talking normally to people, clients, and dogs. You aren’t. You may be getting away with it, and at the time that fact keeps you going somehow, but it simply can’t last.
Remember, the human body is going to win out somehow. I recall one specifically bad day where I really felt good about where my drunk level was, not super obvious, but enough to keep myself happy. I played ‘normal guy’ and planned an evening happy hour with a buddy near work. The thing is, again, you can fool your mind, you can fool other people, but your body does not respond to this type of communication. So you have a severe buzz going on and have been drinking now for 24 straight hours, minus the 3 hour nap you’re calling “sleeping last night” and havent eaten much at all.
Your body, which is the only part of you telling the truth these days, is a river about to overflow its banks. A tiny bit more rain and the flood is coming and it will affect everyone in its path. So you hit the bar at 5P, like a ‘normal person’. You start the conversation and its fine. I got this. So….time for the usual – vodka and cranberry and perhaps, we suggest, a shot, to toast friendship or some shit like that.
Oops, we were afraid a small drizzle would overflow that river and instead hurricane just showed up and it’s coming on strong. The conversation quickly diverts. Uh oh, he notices that I am not seeming right now. My brain can’t make words normal anymore. This is a blackout’s beginning. The world is now a movie I am watching from afar. Time is disappearing and I don’t understand things. I can sense the confusion in my friend. He must be thinking how did one drink and a shot do this so quickly? He knows something is wrong. I stop caring and realize that exhaustion is upon me and I can’t think of anything except my bed and sleep. It must be 10 o’clock at night. (It is actually closer to 5:30) I must leave. I recall the idea of ‘let me take you home’ being thrown out, but I quickly say no to that.
I’m not proud of any of this and this part is hard to even type so many years later.
But I drove home. I don’t know how I did it but I did. This is something I thank God for all the time, that I never injured anyone doing something so reckless, selfish and beyond dangerous. I recall even more confusion from my wife when I got home so early and obviously severely drunk. I knew she must have been doing the math in her head. “How could he have been out for such a short time and come home wasted?” I passed it off. I knew the pain was coming; physical, emotional and psychological. That had to all wait while I passed out.
the bad day after the bad day
So that was the Bad Day. However, as you can imagine, the next day was no peach. When that alarm clock goes off, the true terror begins. I know there are so many out there who are the ‘drink everyday’ type alcoholic. Well, I just couldn’t be that. Not because I lacked desire, but my body took these things very, very hard. I wanted to die. I knew I had to be at work again and I actually usually went on these days. But they were very, very bad. The nausea was so bad that every moment I feared I’d throw up but it was also so terrible that I couldn’t even force food into my stomach. My anxiety and pain made me feel afraid that my heart would explode in my chest. I would spend time sending texts or emails saying how sorry I was and trying to make excuses.
These were the days where the very small, subtle voice in the back of my head would try to suggest to me that this was not normal and that maybe I had a problem. These are the days I would find that young voice that would say ‘I am never drinking again’. My body, my mind and my soul had been run over by a steam roller and there was very little left. My being felt 200 years old. All I wanted was to get home and get in my bed again. I would often think ‘if almost any other person I know felt this way ONE time due to drinking, they’d never touch that stuff again’. I actually still think that’s true.
Well, here is how I leave you on this post. After all of that, after all of those feelings and horrible ups and downs, eventually I’d get to the end of the day and back in bed. This would be the end of a three day roller coaster ride. 3 days! And the worst part about it was when I awoke the next day, it was Day 1 again. Question number 1 – what do I have to do tonight? Looks like its Friday…..so I’ll plan on seeing you again Sunday….if I make it through this one.