Thursday, January 21, 2016

Milk and Cookies

It had been a lazy day for me when I decided to go to the grocery and grab some milk and cookies. It was a Monday night, it was late, and this little ritual of munchies is my nightcap these days. I wasn’t trying to see anyone or talk to anyone, for sure, so I used the self check out line. My errand was running smoothly until I made a terrible mistake.

While scanning in my items, I heard another customer talking to the associate assigned to monitor the kiosks.  I wasn’t paying attention to their conversation until I heard the patron say, “Well, I won’t listen to him, but I’m excited that our governor Nikki Haley will be giving the rebuttal.” She was speaking of The POTUS’s State of the Union address that was coming up on Tuesday evening.

The shopper was a small lady who stood about 5 feet, four inches and had a slim build who looked to be in her early 60s. I first caught a glimpse of her when I heard her comment and looked over my left shoulder purely as a reflex. I did not want to engage in that conversation, for sure. Being in South Carolina my entire life, Ive grown quite used to not having the same ideology as most people in the area. For years, I have just kept my mouth shut as often as possible.

That’s when the patron (I’ll call her Rush, as in rush to judgement) caught my eye and asked me a question. While nodding her head in the affirmative, Rush asked me, “Aren’t you excited?”

Sunday, August 10, 2014

52.1 Unruly Guests / Round 2

These are a couple of different attempts at continuing the story that I was telling.  They were written sometime in the last year and a half.  Meanwhile, I am attempting to figure out how to get my mind back there.  However, so much time has passed that it is difficult to put myself back into a first person present perspective.  I am so far removed from those events.  I have ceased to think about a lot of these moments in order to heal mentally and emotionally.

These next segments are simply some more of the moments that occurred during that first week in Beaufort. 

The first week I lived at my mother’s house…

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Spin Awhile

It has been a long time since I have written, but I have been busy.  Very cliché, I know, but check it out.  I will give you the gist of it. 
First of all, I am still sober.  Although, I feel weird saying that because the drinking is still a non issue for me.  I haven’t had a single urge.  On the contrary, the further I move into my sobriety the more I am reminded of why I don’t drink anymore. I see alcohol in action. 

I am working in the food and beverage industry, again.  If you had suggested to me a couple of years ago that I would be waiting tables again, I would have scoffed at you and completely denied the possibility.  I was done working in the industry that almost killed me.

A couple of (sober) years later, and my viewpoint is very different than the one I had only a few months into my recovery.  It is very possible to work in the restaurant business without drinking.  Actually, it is more common than I realized when I was fucked up and thought everyone drank as much as me.  All of my friends did, I thought.

Granted I completely changed my surroundings, and I did so without even having to move to a different city.  There is no point of trying to run from alcohol.  America is booze.  America is a drinking culture.  Watch Ken Burns’ Prohibition to get the whole picture.  I didn’t go back to working in a dirty college bar, but to one of the top ranked restaurants in the country.  On top of that, I took and passed the Intro level of Guild of Master Sommeliers Course without taking a sip of wine.

My health has vastly improved, as well.  Early on, the doctors believed that even if I lived through the end of 2011, I would never walk again.  This summer I went on my first run in years –only 1.5 miles – and hiked the Arthur Ravenel Bridge for the first time since before it opened.  I took a lot of great pictures and thought about how drinking kept me from doing things like that.

Unfortunately, I am at a loss when it comes to those around me that still drink the way I did.  They visited me in the hospital.  They saw someone who didn’t even resemble me.  Every doctor I have spoken to about my case is sure to tell me that it is quite rare that someone in my condition makes it out alive.  Someone very close to me passed away last fall.  I know that he drank as much as I did. 

It’s just that no one wants to believe that they are any worse off than the next person.  The only problem with that idea is that the only people worse off are dead.  That is the only barometer.  There are no pain receptors in your liver.  It is shredded and scarred and mangled before there are any symptoms. 

When your body finally collapses due to liver failure there is no going back.  The scarring never goes away.  And when and if you wake in the hospital the doctors will tell you that you don’t have much time left, unless you are very, very lucky.  Like me. 
And you never drink, again.
Like me.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Out With The Old

 A new year is here, and so am I.

Nearly, fifteen months have passed since the relatively harmless drinking habit I picked up in my early 20s nearly morphed into a death sentence when I was 38. Trends, patterns, statistics, and medical doctors understood that I would never live to see this holiday season. Well, I did survive and have done so with an alcohol free mind and body. Everything in my life is different, better, and happier because of this.

When I began writing last March, I was only six weeks removed from my third, and final hospital stay. I was handwriting my memories into a journal, then posting those stories to The Internet a few weeks later. When I think of those months in the spring, I feel that was a definitive turning point for me. Keeping focused on those stories, one word at a time, kept me from dwelling on anything other than the task at hand. I had to let go of my past, and stave off my fright of the future.

All these months later I still feel as if my recovery is young but the amount of knowledge I have gained since last spring has grown exponentially. It is truly amazing to have my mind back. Thing is I am not sure when I really lost my battle with alcohol. Because there was no battle. I never fought my drinking since I knew that I didn't have to. At least that's what I thought until I was too far gone. Past the point of no return.

Now, I see the drinking with dry eyes and it is not pretty. The whole idea of getting drunk to have fun is absolutely absurd from my new perspective. Whether the occasion is reuniting with old friends or family, watching the big game or recognizing Cinco de Mayo for no personal reason. New Year's Eve. The calendar is about to change. Let's get wasted.  My opinion is considered to be the boring one. That is to be expected.

Nearly everyone I used to hang out with is gone. I am OK with that. I found out quickly that all we had in common was drinking. At least, everything we did together involved boozed. It hasn't been easy facing facts while realizing I knew almost nothing personal about some of my best friends, and how little they knew about me.

On the other hand, not everyone has run away from my sobriety and the initial awkwardness of drinking around me has worn off. That has become more trouble to be mentally than anything else. My improved physical and mental health have returned so quickly and profoundly that my actual condition is being forgotten. I still have cirrhosis. I am still an addict. I just don't drink, and I don't want to.

Last summer people showed courtesy and candor. Not anymore. It is like this past year never happened. Nearly each and every encounter I have had with anyone close to me over the last few months has been a disaster in my point of view and they have no idea. Each of those encounters has been extremely stressful and emotionally challenging. Anxiety is a beast and my treatment for that had always been drinking.

The most common hurdle I have encountered is unwanted advice. I cannot even begin to comprehend how so many people think it is a good idea to offer me their wisdom and tips to me while they are drunk. It is nonsensical. I have been told repeatedly about why I should be going to AA or how I need someone to hold me accountable or how pissed I made them when I was drinking. I say "repeatedly". As in over and over in the same conversation. That needs to stop. I especially don't need any input from someone who is drinking and driving while talking on their cell phone. Yes. That happened too.

Slow down. Wait. Listen. You are alive. Do not take it for granted.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

56 - Closet Case

I had become used to dozing off, often the similarities of consciousness and sleep were too close to differentiate. Given any opportunity, my mind would draw inward with a natural desire to figure out all that had transpired over the last month. The most troubling part of it all was the starting point. I couldn't be sure when, exactly, the coma arrived.

Nevertheless, I was in my mother's spare bedroom and had to focus on the present. She was attempting to help me ready the bed that I would be sleeping on until I was well enough to go home. At the time, I was unaware that I was the only one who considered this bedroom to be anything other than my last stop. My last resting place. My death bed.

However, my ghastly prognosis never prevented me from preparing for the next day. Everything I did had a purpose. No matter what dire circumstances had occurred, or what tragic end was to come, I only needed to focus on the moment I was in. Each movement that I would normally take for granted required my full attention and effort.

Now that I was on the small unstable mattress, I had to change into a clean set of clothes to sleep in. Trying to maintain some sort of humility, I insisted on changing my enormous sweatpants myself while my mother waited outside the bedroom door. Since I spent most of my time trying to keep my pants up around my swollen waste, the XXL cotton bottoms slid off with ease. Except the ankles.

While on my back, I scraped the arches of my feet along the inside of my legs, shoving my trousers down until they rolled into a ball around my feet. The elastic on the ends of the pants would not allow the fabric to move any further, and I looked as if I had been snared by a dirty laundry trap.

Only a month before this moment, I would have sat up, grabbed the ends of the sweats, and pulled them over my feet. That was no longer the case. I had no muscles to lift myself with my abdomen, and scarcely enough strength to roll myself onto my side. Using the last measure of force in my upper body, I twisted and manipulated into an attempt at a fetal position.

I stretched my fingers reaching for the confining cotton grappling my ankles. All the while my puffed-up belly left little room for crunching my torso together. When my fingertips finally snagged the waistband I celebrated with a pause to catch my breath, and then tugged with all I could muster. With luck, my less than clean underpants came off with the oversized perspiration pants.

In accordance with Murphy's Law, I assumed that once I was in a new pair of underwear and pajama bottoms I would immediately feel the pressure of a overdue trip to the toilet, however I was eager to make myself look decent. After I pulled myself together my mother returned to assist me the rest of the way. Tuck me in. She brought the portable commode into the bedroom and presented what looked like a pee pad for a small dog. It was an absorbent protector for the mattress that was placed under my danger areas. Between my waist and my thighs laid the greatest risk of bedding damage.

Since my digestive issues were dicey at best I still could not rest my head parallel to my body. I had a fear of vomiting in my sleep as my head would swim searching for a focal point once the lights were shut off. Mom propped three fluffy pillows behind my back and began to dole out my narcotics.

The idea of me having easy access to the Oxcodone and Attivan the docs sent home with me would have been the absolute wrong decision. An addict in pain and off his rocker in possession of opiates. No good.

Unsurprisingly, I do not remember falling asleep that night, but I did have a memorable mid-morning experience. Fortunately, I awoke when my bladder was ready to be evacuated. Hardly examining my options I determined that I could take care of the matter alone. Stubborn, I was confident that I did not have to utilize the demoralizing portable throne three feet away from the bed. I wanted to use the private restroom immediately down the hall.

To accomplish this, all I had to execute was a lurch from the bed that would be enough to grasp the door frame of the closet. From there the molding along the wall could be my life line preventing me from crashing to the floor. I was devising the plan in broken thought processes while I shifted myself upright on the edge of the mattress.

All I had to do was stand upright long enough to fall forward and grasp the door jam. There was obvious risk, but I was a man with intent. I dug the balls of my feet into the carpet and wedged my heals against the bottom of the bed. I tightened my torso like a broken spring and shoved my hands down into the mattress with everything I had. Simultaneously, I attempted to draw on my leg muscles.

As soon as I began my journey, it was over. I was buried face first into cardboard boxes, and hanging clothes. It took me a moment to gather myself before I realized I had been sabotaged by the bed. The mattress slid off the frame when I forced my weight into it. I pictured myself diving into the keepsakes and coats and chuckled.

"Seriously?" I asked myself.