Twice in my life I nearly drowned in the undercurrent of the ocean. Both times I was caught off-guard by waves of mass erosion sucking and folding me into the lethal body of water like a listless rag-doll. In milliseconds, the shoreline morphed from beauty to beast; first fulfilling my soul, then virtually robbing me of my young life. One of those times, my head crashed into the seaboard. I spun mercilessly inside the rifting tide, which harshly indicated my own vicinity between the water and the land beyond the whirlwind. I was lucky to hit my head regardless of the pain and shock. I dizzily anchored my knees and palms into the sandy floor, offering me enough leverage to stand and save myself. Both of those perilous times, I was dragged, hurled, slammed, twisted and regurgitated. I panicked in the terror of death’s taunt each time, and was instantly alleviated when my pleading lungs sucked in air instead of salt water.
Years later I dreamed of saving a drowning baby girl from a ravage river. Saving her almost took my own life. I pulled her in from the back of a moving speed boat; painfully gripping the wooden swim step with one hand while pulling her out of the river with the other. She was going to die if I didn’t use every fragment of my own strength to rescue her. My heroine tactics sufficed. The girl was brought to surface and survived. She was an infant. I lifted her, handed her over to the people aboard the boat, and then pulled myself to safety.
Upon awakening I knew exactly what the dream meant, although it would be several years before I took heed and followed the path of my heroine self. I fervently remained a drowning child in the hollows of alcoholic bottles and benders with every intention of dying drunk. At the end of my drinking I didn’t care about living. Problem was, I could not drink enough to die. At the end of every bottle and blackout, I found myself awake in the same world I was trying to drown myself out of. Each time I should have died, I awoke in a hospital attached to needles pumping liquid life into me. Goddammit I wanted to remain asleep. Where is my Vodka?
Washing up into a detox facility was me finally saving myself. It was my decision to go. Still drunk from several days of heavy boozing, I was stained with urine, bruised from tumbling on sidewalks and streets, scratched all over from trying to sleep in bushes believing it would be a great place to hide from my desperately searching husband. My right knee was inflated with fluid from clumsy collapses. My palms scraped and bloodstained; face, stomach, feet and fingers swollen with liquor, skin dehydrated and taut, eyes bloodshot and expressive of exhaustion, terror and humiliation. Facing myself in the mirror was seeing an enigma of myself. Who is this lost girl? Where am I?
Cherry Hill Detox felt like shore to me after many nights of drifting out at sea. Even the dry ham sandwiches and watered down tea were satisfactory, as well as the thin plastic mattresses and ongoing commotions from people suffering in withdrawal. Their horror was all too familiar. Sometimes I laughed in sinister appreciation, but mostly I related and empathized in quiet agony and sadness. Opiate detox is excruciating and messy. I’d been in their sweaty sheets a few times when I’d swapped alcohol for pharmaceuticals in a shallow and brief attempt at sobriety. Before my own alcohol wore off during the first night in the facility, I observed what was ahead for me in the likes of other addicts; my hopeless brothers and sisters. What should have been disturbing felt harmonious in comparison to the drunken awfulness of passing out alone in the back seat of my car, or in vacant fields where I always hoped to wake up before being discovered by someone who would overreact at the norms of an everyday drunk.
A presage is a foreboding of things to come. Negative things. An omen of sorts. It isn’t a word I even knew while facing my alcoholism in the end, but you don’t have to know fancy words in order to make intuitive decisions. Intuition does not require any thinking or logistics. It’s a simple knowing of things to come and which direction to follow. Both intuitively and cognitively I knew my ass needed serious help. I had been identifying myself as an alcoholic for seven years by this time.
The morning I went into detox, I was so frightened of my self-destructive behavior, that I completely embraced everything that resulted after walking through those clinical double glass doors. I was in a state of complete surrender, and this is where one needs to be in order to recover. It’s really the bottom line. Surrendering is the foundation of true recovery. And the surrender must be eternal. There is no wavering here. There is no taking back the reigns. You are fucked if you think you get to ever be in control again. When I say “fucked,” I mean, rock bottom becomes a deeper and denser pit. This pit is muddied with terror and self-deprivation. Once you start sliding down that pit, there is less and less in this world, and of yourself, to grab a hold of. Once a person has given up on themselves, all hope dissipates into the wasteland of their own disgrace.
This was the presage in my bottle. The emptiness of every dry liquor container mirrored my internal state of desolation. I knew what was at the end of every bottle. It was more disconnection from who I was, and all of the dreams I ever had for myself, which were many. It was despair beyond measure. No matter the size of my bottle (a half pint, a pint, a fifth, or a five-bottle box of cheap wine), there was never enough. Never enough booze to wet the desert inside of me. It wasn’t even numbing me out anymore. It was scaring me and sucking the life out of me, yet it wasn’t killing me.
I would eventually cry. Tears would come in ample time, but now I needed to be alert and aware of my surroundings. Relief and the need for survival in this rancid place dammed my frolicking emotions; parting them from the single particle of sanity burrowed in like a calcified gem within the twisted and haunted confines of my mind. You dare not mix one last morsel of sanity with ravaging emotions. In inconsiderate monstrosity, emotion shall devour sanity.
There really is no diversity in addiction when I think about it now. There is no skin color, fat, thin, tall, short or intellectual vs. idiot. The only difference between us is what drug we abuse the most. Even that doesn’t matter because real addicts only care about one thing and one thing only – where their next hit is coming from. We all relate and empathize with one another on that wretched level. There is a safe and harrowing bond between us all.
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