Saturday Night Stuff

Five years ago this moment, I was taking one last stab at drinking myself to death.  I was in a Days Inn motel room on Gulf to Bay in Clearwater.  I had some Sonny's Barbecue, three packs of Marlboro 100's, and a half-gallon of Jim Beam.  I made it through most of the bottle, one pack of cigarettes, and a goodly portion of the barbecue before I passed out.

Five years ago tomorrow, I had a 2:30pm appointment to check-in to Foggy Acres Nutbin.  My rationale was that if I woke up on June 6th, I'd go to my appointment.  If not, well, it wouldn't be any real worry of mine, right?

I woke up.  I felt like a sack of smashed assholes*, but I was awake.  I crawled into the shower, found a Quarter Pounder with Cheese store, and drove to Foggy Acres. 

I sat with the Intake Counselor, which to me sounded like she'd be comparing what I'd been drinking to some sort of chart.  I think her name was Michelle.  Turns out, she was a fan of my radio show.  Great news for me! I didn't have a roommate my entire time.

She took all my insurance information, all my particulars, emergency contacts, etc.  It was about an hour long interview.  She told me the nurse would finish checking me in at 4:30, and that I could wait in the lobby. 

The lobby had really nice leather wing-back chairs, and I sat in one.  Then I decided I needed to leave for a minute. I got in the USS Nimitz and drove down to a 7-Eleven.  I picked up a few more packs of cigarettes, a Diet Pepsi, and some hard candy.  As I walked out of the 7-Eleven, it dawned on me that I was perfectly free to go home, never to return to Foggy Acres again. 

I made it back.  Naturally, the Intake Counselor and nurse were a bit worried.  Maybe I should have told them I was leaving.  Whoops.

Anyway, the nurse took me down to my room, and opened my suitcase.  She took my cellphone and my candy, damn her, and decided that my clothes needed washing.  She took my laundry down to the laundry room and directed me again to sit in the lobby.  What I soon learned was that I was under suicide watch, and they wanted to keep an eye on me.  Apparently, if you're going to do yourself in, you're going to do it in the first three days there. 

I waited. The nurse checked my vitals.  Then I waited.  I kept seeing people walk by–they seemed to be relatively happy.  At that moment, I didn't think I'd ever be that happy, even less that I'd be sharing happiness with other people.  I was almost completely imploded by that point.  I worked, and I drank.  I didn't have actual friends whom I actually saw.  I had coworkers, relatives, and listeners, and not one of them knew how bad my life had gotten.

One of the techs gave me clean bedding and a pillow for my bed.  This was great, except that I wasn't allowed to go to my room alone yet.  So I sat there with a stack of sheets.  A few of the people smiled and said hi to me as they walked by.  I waved back, my eyes averted.

Finally, the doctor arrived.  She asked me some questions, wrote some things on my chart, and sent me back out to my chair.  The nurse came and got me, dragging me to the nurses station.  There, she gave me a small cup full of pills and a cup of the coldest, most delicious water on the planet.  I took my pills like a good boy, then returned to my chair.  I've forgotten my techs' names, for the most part.  I don't remember who was working that night, but apparently, she could tell when it was finally time to go to my room.  I imagine my eyes glazed over as the Ativan started working on me.  She took me back.  I changed clothes and fell into bed.  Every 15 minutes, my door opened, and a tech stuck her head in my room, just making sure I hadn't hanged myself or anything.

Good luck with that.  My ceiling was double-vaulted, and probably 15 feet high.  The shower curtain rod was flimsy, and was about even with the bridge of my nose.  Plus, I was now a liquid.

I slept hard.  Around 0200, a tech came in and brought me more pills and water.  I babbled something and took them.  Yay. Out again.  Around 5am, the vampires came into my room.

Okay, they weren't really vampires.  They were phlebotomists, who collected several little tubes of blood from my left arm.  At some point during the night, I fell out of my bed.  Two techs brought in a new bed with rails.  I only vaguely remembered it the next day, but I'm sure it was hysterical.

At 7am, Amanda the tech came into my room.  She took my temp and blood pressure, gave me some more pills, and waited while I went to the bathroom (just to make sure I didn't fall down and go boom).  Back to sleep. People still kept checking in on me every 15 minutes.  Around 1130, Amanda woke me up again.  This time, we went to see my psychiatrist, whom I saw every day I was there. Every. Single. Day.  The first meeting was a half hour.  We talked about my battles with depression, and how much I was drinking.  Most days, we only met about five or ten minutes. He adjusted my meds as needed, and wrote me a prescription for two cups of coffee a day.  (That was the only way you could get caffeinated beverages–it had to be prescribed, but the nurses made the best coffee in the world)  Anyway, that day, he prescribed me a new antidepressant, and told me to go see the nurse.  The nurse gave me more pills and cold, delicious water.  Then Amanda took me to the dining room.  I ate some lunch, then returned to my bed.

Basically, for the first three days I was at Foggy Acres, I repeated this scenario.  My counselor, Chris, invited me in for an introductory consultation.  I kept nodding off. He told me to go back to bed, and we'd try again later.

After three days, the Ativan was reduced.  I found out later that I was on such a huge-ass amount of tranquilizers to keep me from having potentially deadly withdrawal seizures. Within ten days, I was off of Ativan altogether, and I hadn't slept so well in years.

I also joined the rest of the people in the Foggy Acres chemical dependency world.  We had sessions together, some of them informative and fun, others of them excruciatingly painful.  I found friends in that place–I even gave and received hugs.  The third week, in fact, the group elected me their president.  I led meetings and mediated disputes.

One of the most deflating things they told us in class was that–statistically–only two out of our class of 20 would still be sober within one year.  Five years later, I still am (as are my three best friends from rehab, I'm happy to say). 

If I hadn't summoned the courage to walk into that place, I'd be dead by now.  That's scary to think.

The Fournier's adventure almost killed me, but that didn't require much thought: this hurts and I'm obviously sick, so I need to go to the hospital.  With drinking, it was different.  I had to admit to myself that I was sick, and I've had to keep working not to relapse.

It's gotten easier, thank God–I've even quit smoking, finally. 

One thing that didn't improve after my 30 days at Foggy Acres was writing.  I used to get lit and write every night, and I found that it was impossible for me to write without "liquid thesaurus."  Then, in October of 2007, my friend Ali got me to join Vox.  In the 2.5 years since, I've relearned how to write.  That was one benefit.  The greater benefit is that I've had the opportunity to express myself (and make fun of stuff, of course), and I've made a lot of friends.  Vox is a pain in the ass sometimes, technically speaking.  YOU are the main reason I stay here.

So thanks to all the people who've helped me along the way.  Thanks to The Universe/God/The Big Whatever, for the last five years have been miraculous.  And thanks to you.

And to Jim Beam's starving grandchildren, I'm sorry.

Happy Weekend!


*-"I feel like a sack of smashed assholes" is still the most accurate simile to describe my hangovers (thanks, Pete!)

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10 Responses to “Saturday Night Stuff”

  1. I can't express to you how grateful I am that you found how to write again. You make me laugh and cry and think and just be glad to be around. So thanks, Tom!!!And LOL to Jim Beam's starving grandchildren. Let them get a damn job! 😉

  2. This is one anniverasy i am happy to celebrate with you. Congratulations and I am so happy you are here today

  3. **hugs**I'm glad you got unsick and I'm glad you learned to write again! 🙂

  4. Ditto what everyone else said. 🙂 I like the world a lot better with you in it.

  5. I think apologizing to Jim Beans starving grandchildren is taking the concept of amends just a little too far, Tom. :PWhoa, you finally quit smoking? Yay!!! That was a big step. 😀

  6. This is the happy ending that should have happened to F. Scott Fitzgerald and other great writers who killed themselves and their talent with booze. Lucky for all of us, it didn't take the great writer who's with us here on Vox. What a gem you are, tom!

  7. What a wonderful post. I had no idea that you had been through all of that. I am so glad you had the courage to go to the facility and to stop drinking! It takes strength to see that we need to stop doing something and bravery to ask for help.

  8. A couple years of not writing is a small price to pay for your life.Not to mention that it turns out all your flights of fancy are entirely you, not the stuff, and obviously never were.

  9. Love and hugs as you celebrate these days, and know that we all celebrate along with you.

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