It was Friday. Blaring taxi horns woke me. They were like a flock of angry geese. Their incessant honking was only interrupted by shouts and breaking glass from a nearby domestic dispute.
My head was pounding with a sickening repetitious thump. Each beat was like a body hitting the floor of a morgue in a bad horror movie. Even breathing hurt.
When I tried to move, all I could think of was a surfer barely maintaining his board under a wave of nausea. My tongue felt like a cross between a thick tampon and a rotting potato. The taste was no better.
I tried to take a breath, but the air was choked by a thick cloud of stale smoke. A dirty ceiling fan cut it into great swaths of swirling filth as it spun in slow wobbling circles. I could almost imagine it as a news helicopter circling above me to report on the train wreck I had become.
Across the room, I could see the edge of an oversized glass ashtray. It was hanging off the side of an old coffee table like a derelict battleship. Crushed cigarette butts spilled over the edges. They reminded me of burnt roaches crawling from a house fire.
Bright pink chewing gum stood out in stark contrast to the ashes, no doubt discarded by a prostitute. Looking down at myself, I could see the dried crust of God knows what else spattered across the sweaty bed sheets hugging my naked ass. They were beyond any hope of cleaning, reminding me of filthy second-hand underwear I’d worn as a child.
The last thing I wanted to do was move until I realized not moving meant I’d be lying in a puddle of my own vomit.
As I slid my legs from the bed, I felt myself slowly losing control. Like a race car driver, just before the car starts to spin. My feet hit the floor at an awkward angle, landing on a crunchy condom wrapper still wet with packaged lubricant.
Durex, Trojan, I didn’t know. They were scattered around the room like discarded beer caps, bent and twisted out of shape. An unnecessary reminder of how I felt.
Once my feet were under me, I began shuffling toward the bathroom with the awkward and uncertain gait of an invalid. Like an enema patient, I was caught between a hurry to get there and the reality that one wrong step would put me and my insides all over the floor. God knows I could have used a nurse and a few orderlies to help me.
As it was, I barely made it. Thank God no one was passed out in the bathtub.
But Friday was always like this. Hell, every day was like this anymore. I gave up trying to kick the monkey off my back long ago. Six or seven stints in rehab and two interventions had given us a clear understanding of where we stood.
I did my best to stay alive, and the monkey kept me going. Lately, though, he wasn’t holding up his end of the bargain. More often than not, I’d woken up worshiping one porcelain god or another.
Cold tile floors and my grimacing face shining up from the reflection of a vomit-filled toilet were my daily dose of reality. If there was a cult of alcoholism, I was the Messiah.
I suppose I could have been a gambler or even a prostitute instead of an alcoholic. In fact, some days, I was a little of all three. But it’s not like I made a conscious choice to be this way.
I just woke up one morning to the realization I’d wandered away from the shallow pool of sobriety and into the deep waters of alcoholism. No amount of counseling, medicines, or meetings had been able to save me. But for the most part, I didn’t want to be rescued. I couldn’t let go it the monkey because he was all I had left.
Now I was busily painting my insides all over some stranger’s bathroom. I had no idea what part of the city I was in or how I had gotten here. So far, I hadn’t seen anyone else, but that didn’t mean anything.
The first thing a true alcoholic learns is that more or less anywhere is OK to pass out. This was just another day for me. Once I got my stomach back in order, I’d look around and see where the hell I was.
I knew that sooner or later, this was going to kill me. But it could have been worse. Someone out there could have been worrying about me.
Fortunately, alcoholism had alienated everyone who ever gave a damn about me. You might think I’d have had some self-pity, but I didn’t. This was my reality. And I wouldn’t have wished myself on anyone else. Besides, being alone wasn’t all bad.
I didn’t have to share my drink.
The irony had been the idiot counselors I’d been forced to see along the way. They kept telling me about this place called the point of no return. It was where one more step put you closer to hell than home. According to them, once you cross that line, you can’t turn back and make it home without making up a lot of extra ground.
I guess no one told them that when you’re an alcoholic, the point of no return starts with the first drink and never ends. That was me, and this is alcoholism.