How I Learned To Stop Dying And NOT Love Being Bombed
(with apologetic kudos to Stanley Kubrick)
§ Part of the Recovery Is NOT For Quitters… series §
Originally I had decided that this, “my story,” was going to be the first post in this series, but as you have probably already noticed, my muse was having none of that. In fact, just as I finish the previous sentence, here She is now, knocking on my skull and slapping down an idea for yet another post in this series… dammit, I’ll be right back…
… I had to put that idea into draft. She’s like that, my muse. There is no subtlety.
*THWACK* – “Here’s another idea my darling, just do it.”
I’ve found it best to simply cooperate. Otherwise She will continue to flap about in my head until I do.
In just a few months, August 9th, 2018 to be precise, I will have been living a sober life for nine years. Up to now, I hadn’t been sober for more than a few days at a time since I was around 15 years old. If it wasn’t booze, it was pot, or speed, or LSD, or, or, or…you get the idea. Funny thing is, the only people who knew about my use were the people I was using with!
The years have given me plenty of time to look back at my life with unwavering honesty and see many of the events that lead me to the point of living in the garage of an empty house in the middle of a hot summer. No food or water, and eventually being so depressed and drunk after drinking almost three liters of rum in less than eight hours, that I decided it was over. I had lost everything and life was no longer worth living. I’m getting ahead of myself…
Before I get too far in this story allow me to make one thing perfectly clear. I do not in any way place blame on anyone other than myself for the situation I eventually found myself in. I made the choices that brought me to where I was.
At 45 years old I hit bottom. For those of you who may not know, “hitting bottom” is the place that an addict must reach before they are truly ready to admit they have a problem and reach out for help. I was lucky, for me hitting bottom was the loss of the woman I loved, my business, my home, the respect of friends and family, every bit of self-worth I had, and being literally within an hour or two of losing my life. How is that lucky you ask? I still had my life. For many, hitting bottom is death. Yes, I was lucky.
I grew up in the fairly small town of Cheyenne, Wyoming. Now if you believe for one minute that drugs are only an issue for the big cities, you are living with blinders on. My first taste of alcohol was at a very early age. My mother put booze in my bottle when I was teething. I also remember sneaking around tasting all of the drinks that the adults were having. I truly don’t know how much this had anything to do with my later addiction but it certainly could not have helped.
My first experience with pot came along when I was ten years old. Stairway To Heaven by Led Zeppelin was a still a new song in the U.S. in 1972 and 1973. I was one of the youngest people to see it performed live as a new song, thanks to my aunt, on October 7th 1973 at The Civic Center in St. Paul, Minnesota. At the time I lived with my grandfather and aunt in Newton, Iowa because my mother apparently had more important things to do than take care of me. My grandfather had to be out of town on the day my aunt had tickets to see Led Zeppelin, he told her flat out, “either he goes with you or you don’t go”. So I went with her.
No, I did not actively take part in smoking pot, but man oh man what a contact high! My first active use of pot was in 1975. By this time I was back in Cheyenne, Wyoming and living with my mother and half-sister. Just up the street lived a family that, for lack of a better term, were hippies. I often played with the kids in this family and when I was at their house, there almost always seemed to be a party going on. It was here that I took my first hit off of a bong and developed what turned out to be a more than thirty year love affair with marijuana.
In 1977 the rock group KISS was one of the hottest bands around and were releasing their own comic book and *GASP* they put some of their own blood into the ink! I can’t help but laugh even now. I was fourteen years old and could get my hands on almost any drug I wanted to. Back then it was all about fun and don’t let anyone tell you any different, it was fun! That’s what makes drugs and alcohol so dangerous. The legal drinking age was eighteen then and being under that age it was much easier to get drugs than it was alcohol. So that’s what we did. Pot, speed, LSD, mushrooms; you name it and I probably tried it at least once. One thing I did not do was use anything that required a needle. I suppose I can be thankful that my fear of needles may have saved me from even more trouble and despair.
I promised myself that this was not going to be just another “drunk-a-log” so I’ll just say that the next thirty-plus years were full of drugs and drinking. Interestingly enough, the actual drinking phase of my addiction didn’t really start until I was forty years old. I wasn’t “like those people.” Please note the sarcasm in that last statement.
Let’s get in the time machine and fast forward to 2007. By this time I had been divorced, had my first DUI and was without a drivers license. I had a truck and drove anyway. I have always had a great love of music and eventually had my own DJ/Karaoke company after having worked with a friend in the business since 2004. So where did I spend all of my working hours? In bars of course!
Sure, there was the occasional wedding or birthday party that I would provide entertainment for, but there was always alcohol to be had whether it was a wedding or a typical night at the bars I worked in. Very few people knew about my use of marijuana and other drugs, but it was pretty obvious that I liked to drink. Most nights I maintained my composure enough to do my job well, but when I would get home around two or three in the morning was when the real drinking started. The nights that I did not maintain my composure were steadily increasing in number.
Late in 2008 I got caught driving under the influence again, only a few months after being released from probation for the first DUI. In early 2009 my girlfriend and I lost a child to a miscarriage. My trip to rock bottom was sealed when, due to some amazingly stupid choices I made, I lost my business in March of the same year. Not having a drivers license made if very difficult to find work and the condition of the economy was no help either. I mention these things not as excuses, but only to clue you in to my state of mind which was increasingly depressed. I couldn’t pay my rent because I was not working. Eventually I lost my apartment and my downstairs neighbors were kind enough to allow me to sleep in their spare bedroom.
During this time, I pawned almost everything I owned, and some things that were not mine to pawn, in order to buy pot and rum. I was at the point where I was not even mixing the rum with anything, drinking it right out of the bottle made it easier to get what I thought I needed, warm or cold. Understandably, my girlfriend stopped seeing me. I later discovered that the people I was staying with had not been paying rent and we were all evicted in mid July. They had places they could go to, I did not. I ended up living in the garage. Very little food, no water, no toilet, no shower. but oh I still had things I could pawn to buy booze! I still freak out a little bit when I remember waking up with flies crawling on my body.
A couple weeks later, On Saturday, August 8th, 2009 I made a decision – I was done. Done with everything, especially life. I sold a few of my remaining CDs to a neighbor, walked two miles to buy three liters of cheap rum, went back into the garage, closed the door (I never used the actual garage door, only the side door as I did not want to be discovered by the landlord) and started drinking. After finishing the first bottle of rum and opening the second liter, I realized that it was going to take more than just three liters of rum to take me out and started searching frantically through what few belongings I had left for something that would guarantee my success.
The only thing I could find was an almost full bottle of Tylenol PM. It was a large bottle of five hundred tablets that was fairly new. My guess is that there were at least 350 or more pills left in the bottle. I polished off the second bottle of rum with the bottle of pills sitting in front of me, and immediately started in on the third. About half way through the third liter, I poured a handful of the pills from the bottle stuffed them in my mouth and swallowed them with a large swig of rum. Then I did it again. A few minutes later again, and again, until the pills were all gone. I laid down on the garage floor and blacked out a few minutes later, less than eight hours after opening that first liter of rum.
To my amazement and dismay I woke up Monday morning August 10th, after being passed out for over twenty-four hours writhing in pain. My body trembling so much that I could not even sit up. Some small part of me was wise enough to convince myself that I needed to get to the hospital. I used the last four minutes of my “pay as you go” cell phone time to call an ambulance.
After spending several hours in the E.R. hooked up to every conceivable monitor and sliding in and out of consciousness, I was taken to the third floor of the hospital. The floor where people who had attempted suicide were held for at least seventy-two hours. In a sick attempt to be humorous I tried explaining that I wasn’t trying to commit suicide but rather wanted to murder myself because I hated me and it cost too much to have someone do it for me. I screwed up, murder takes time. They didn’t see the humor.
They gave me something to make me sleep and I slept for yet another twenty-four hours. My doctor told me that she was completely baffled that I was even alive. The levels of alcohol and acetaminophen in my body should have caused liver failure. I spent close to a month there, going through evaluations and counseling sessions. Eventually it was decided, with my full agreement, that I needed to go into an in-patient treatment program. I spent twenty-eight days at an in-patient facility and was then transferred to a half-way house where I spent another three months going to counseling sessions, a psychologist, and AA meetings. I share a lot of details about treatment and meetings in other posts in this series.
After the half-way house, because I did not have a job or anywhere to live, I was put into the county’s Group Residential Housing (GRH) program ( a fancy way of saying state sponsored men’s shelter, where I spent a little over a year putting my life back together and learning to like and possibly even love myself again.
I’ve come a long way in these past nine years and right now, I am lucky to not just be alive, but living! I have my own place to live again, a job, two adorable cats, and a new outlook on life. Yeah, I know it sounds cheesy, but it’s true.
Will I ever drink again? Today? No. Beyond that I don’t know, but for today, no.
So there you have it. This is how I learned to stop dying and love NOT being bombed.
I would love to read your comments or maybe you would like to share your story? Feel free to comment or share below.
*Nike photo from iStockphoto