30 Years of Heavy Recovery: Prologue, Part 2: The Last Binge

Writing about this stuff isn’t easy.  Looking at Part 1 of this prologue, I feel like I was using the music to hide or divert from what was going on with me.  Just like I did back then, so I guess that works in some strange way.  There are countless blogs out there from people in early recovery, and I admire most, if not all, of them.  I’d share them, but I want to make sure I have permission. Since most of the writers are women, I’m doubly cautious about doing anything without permission. Recovery can be like a lake in the wilderness: all the predators know where their next meal is getting a drink of water.

But yeah, writing this is hard.  I can get totally sucked into it, feel what I felt back then.  It’s indelibly etched in my memory, the part of the brain that never forget this shit, even if the frontal part doesn’t remember.  About eight years ago, I figured out that if I remembered my whole story, I’d be ok. It’s when I focus on the chapters, like I am now, that I can get stuck in it, wallow in it, spiral downward towards the shame.  It’ll probably never leave me, always be there to haunt me, staring at me from the abyss.

I’ve also learned to stare back.

                                                             ……………………

Helmet and Faith No More are what I remember the most about early summer of ’92, but there was also the Singles Soundtrack, possibly the best soundtrack I’ve ever heard.  The band selection was on-point as far as where popular music was heading, and Grunge was indeed ascendant. It was all a soundtrack to my everyday life, and one of the few bright spots.

How bad was it?  Well, I had a job, a place to live, and plenty of food.  All the basics were covered, which can give the appearance of being a “functioning” alcoholic.  On the inside, it was a whole different matter. At all times, I was completely obsessed with Sam.  One of the things I’ve had to reconcile through years of recovery and periodic therapy is that Sam was incidental: it’s likely that I would have fixated on anyone who gave me any attention. All she did was smile and flirt with me when I went to the store. That’s all it took for me to be infatuated.

It. Was. Creepy.

I can’t speak for her, so I won’t speculate why she kept letting me back in and giving things another shot, but she did. She called me out of the blue in late July, and we “hooked up”, as they say nowadays.  We were both smashed, and it was awkward.  But it was a start. I don’t want to belabor the point, but I was seriously insane as far as she went.  I didn’t know her, at all, but almost every waking moment was fixated on her.  It would take many years for me to begin to understand why this happened, and she wasn’t the last one- not by a long shot.  But I’ll get into the explanations later.

Therapeutic aside: it’s not fair for me to wait.  Alcohol and weed can do amazingly destructive things to the brain, down to the neurons and how they fire. They seriously screw with the amygdala and the hippocampus, along with every other region. The emotional damage is severe: but it is treatable and generally reversible. In time.  So if you can relate too much to this for comfort: relax, put the drink down, and go see a doctor. You’ll probably be fine, but you need to get help. Now.

The rest of my life outside of Sam was work.  I loved my job as a warehouse Lead at the Kragen Warehouse. I’d been there since October of 1989, and they were very good to me.  Even after I tried to get a union into the place, they still promoted me and did everything they could do to help me be successful.  It didn’t end well, but they did their best.  I’ll always be grateful. At the time, I was in charge of an area in the pulling department, where they filled the orders from the stores. Good job, good pay, and some of the best people I ever worked with.

One of the reasons I was promoted was my work ethic and willingness to work any Saturday or late shift with even five minutes notice.  I hid my addiction well, and no one suspected: I only used at home and my tolerance was high enough I could get up and get to work the next day. The truth was, I was scared of weekends.  Scared to death about what was going to happen once I got home on Friday evening and began the inevitable drinking and smoking. I had nothing else: just thinking about Sam and drinking myself into oblivion, which was getting harder and harder to do.

All I knew was, at a certain point, I was capable of some seriously shameful shit, stuff that made me wish I would blackout.  Just social embarrassment type stuff, nothing too dramatic. But shameful nonetheless. I was on the edge of being agoraphobic, so the likelihood of me doing anything out in town was remote. I was too far gone to comfortably go too bars, and I needed too much alcohol on any given night to afford it. I couldn’t even go to grocery stores at that point: I lived off of frozen dinners and pizza deliveries. Going to a fast-food drive through was beyond me at that point.

After the hook-up in July, I acted like I had a girlfriend, and in some ways I did. Which meant the inevitable time at her place.

                                                   ……………………………………………………..

The day was Monday,  August 1st, 1992.  Sam invited me to her apartment to watch the Hall of Fame Game.  I had at least learned something in the preceding weeks, and I showed up stone-cold sober.  Which meant I was going through a bit of withdrawal, but that’s from the vantage of hindsight. At the time, I just thought I was nervous.

And I acted weird…

How weird?, you might ask.  Again, nothing dramatic.  But it was the first time I was at her apartment, and one of the first things I did was water plants.  As in, uninvited, checked the moisture level and then watered them.  As if I lived there.  It did not impress.

The next thing I did was panic when she was getting ready to cook beef for a homemade lasagna. For whatever reason, I thought she was going to boil it. I have no idea why. She didn’t either, and she called me on both party fouls.  Feeling the stirrings of shame, I asked if going home and getting my weed would make up for it.  She agreed, and some how I thought it was a good idea to take her 5-year-old son with me to get it.  Again, no idea why, but she agreed.

So I did.  It was a quick trip, as I lived maybe a mile away.  I think she was glad to get me out of the apartment so she could cook. I returned in about 10 minutes, kid in tow.  She had the lasagna in the oven, and it was almost time for kickoff.  She invited me to her room to smoke some.

Taking that hit relaxed me right away.  I’m pretty sure I had a beer as well, so the withdrawal thing was getting handled.  Then she took her hit.  She sat back on her pillow, letting the smoke slowly drive out of her nose.  I laid back to join her…

At which point, she screamed, “DON’T FUCKING TOUCH ME!”

As I sat there with my mouth agape, she tore into me, brutaly and without relent.  She accused me of everything from being a cannibal to trying to kill her.  She was hysterical.  I was shocked, deeply confused.  But I didn’t leave.

Instead, I left her in the bedroom and went to the living room.  I was pretty high, and had drank some beer, so I didn’t want to chance driving. For decades, all I could recall was sitting there, so panicked I turned numb, drinking beer and eating lasagna, too confused and scared to do anything else.

At some point I fell asleep on her couch, woke up around 9 to see her sitting across from me.  She was horrified and utterly apologetic. With a voice choked with remorse, she explained that pot could do that to her, and that she probably shouldn’t smoke it any more.  Then she explained some of the things that happened to her that would come out when she did smoke or even drink to much.

As I listened to her, I felt detached, dissociated from the event, as if I was outside of my body. When she was done, we sat in silence for a while until it was clear to both of us it was time for me to leave.  She planned on traveling north to Pollock Pines for a while, maybe even move there. We didn’t hug, I just excused myself, went to my car, and took off.

Being a Sunday morning, I knew I needed to get some beer.  I drove to the corner store where she worked and bought two 12-packs of Sedona, a wonderfully cheap beer that did it’s job well. Then, the sobbing began.

I drank and drank, but nothing seemed to happen.  By 5 PM, I’d finished the case.  I was sitting on my porch, when “Chuckles” came to talk to me.  He could tell I was upset, and I felt like I could trust him completely.  So, I told him what happened, what Sam had told me about why it happened. With a look of sympathy on his face, he agreed to pick me up another case of Sedona, and I agreed to let him keep the change.  He came back in about an hour, gave me the beer and a hug, and went about his business.  I stayed outside and drank until I passed out, roughly at 11 PM.

At 2 AM, I woke up feeling sick. My hands were shaking and my bowels felt like they were about to explode.  I took care of that business, then drank another beer to help me sleep. The shaking slowed down, so I drank another.  It stopped.  I nursed a 12-pack the rest of the night into the morning, without falling asleep.

On Monday, August 3rd, I called in sick from work.  I convinced another housemate, an elderly gal of about 80 and my best friend at the boarding house, to pick me up another case. The rest of that day was spent with me blaring the Singles Soundtrack on infinite repeat, playing along with my cheap-ass bass until I stepped on the guitar cord and ripped the electronics out of the poor instrument.  I stared at it with a fatalistic incomprehension, resumed my paced drinking of the case. Just like the day before, I drank until I passed out, woke again a couple hours later, shaking until I got more beer into me. Other than Singles, the other soundtrack going on was the opening theme to the Olympics, which to this day reminds of those horrible nights of stuporous wakefulness. 

On the 4th, same thing: up at around 2 AM, drinking morning, noon and night.  This time, an ex-girlfriend, Connie, came over with a fifth of vodka. I don’t think I told her what was happening, and she only stayed for a while.  But I had a few beers and now a fifth to tide me over.  That night I decided to slow down on the alcohol and smoke the remainder of the weed.

I got high, and immediately saw blood gushing out the ceiling and down the walls, as in straight out of The Shining. I had enough sense to quit, right there and then, and I haven’t smoked weed since then. 

The 5th and 6th were more of the same, except on the 6th my one friend from work called me.  I hadn’t reported in for nearly a week, and I guess people were beginning to notice.  I just couldn’t stand the thought of calling in, and part of what fed into my near-suicidal drinking was the certainty I’d lost my job.  I didn’t: like I mentioned, Kragen was very good to me, almost too good at times.  But it was reassuring that Mike called, even if I begged him not to come over. After we hung up, I resumed the same pattern.

I don’t remember exactly how, but I do know I never ran out of beer or liquor except for that one hour waiting for Chuckles. Straight through until the 7th, I had something on hand.  I’d also be lying if I wrote I have total recall of everything that happened that week.  All I know for sure is that the alcohol no longer worked, which is a horrifying thing for any addict. As a consequence, I drank as much as my stomach would hold- I don’t even remember what, if anything, I ate that week.

At 10 PM on Friday the 7th, Sam called.  Somehow, I croaked out between the tears and sobs what I was going through, and that I was scared.  She listened, almost so closely I could feel  it. She told me she was scared too, and then told me the one thing I was literally dying to hear.

“I love you, “ she said.

“I love you, too.”

She told me she’d be back in town the next day, and she’d be there for me.  We’d do this together: I’d get sober, she’d get help.  Everything was right with the world.  After we said good-bye, I poured the last four or five beers I had left down the drain.

I have not had a drink of alcohol, or any drug, since that night.

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