This Is Alcoholism

I woke up one morning to the realization that I’d wandered away from the shallow pool of sobriety and into the deep waters of alcoholism.

It was Friday. Blaring taxi horns woke me. They were like a flock of angry geese incessantly honking, interrupted only by shouts and breaking glass from a nearby domestic dispute. My head was pounding with a sickening repetitious thump, like bodies 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 with stale smoke. It was cut into great swaths of swirling filth by a dirty ceiling fan spinning in slow wobbling circles. I could almost imagine it was a news helicopter circling above to report on the train wreck that was me.

Across the room I could just see the edge of a big glass ash tray, hanging from the side of an old coffee table like a derelict battleship. Crushed cigarette butts spilled out of it like burnt roaches crawling from a house fire. Bright pink chewing gum stood out in stark contrast to the ash, no doubt discarded by a prostitute. Looking down I could see that sweat, semen, and God knows what else had stained the bed sheets wrapped around me beyond any hope of recognition or cleaning. They were damp with my sweat, 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 laying in my own vomit.

As I slid my legs from 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 towards 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.

Friday was always like this. Hell, every day was like this anymore. I gave up trying to kick the monkey off my back a long time 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 I’d been waking up worshiping one porcelain god or another. Cold porcelain 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 had no doubt that 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 that I’d wandered away from the shallow pool of sobriety and into the deep waters of alcoholism. Since then no amount of counseling, medicines, or meetings had managed to rescue me.

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 take a 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. I could have had someone out there worrying about me. Fortunately for anyone who would have cared, alcoholism had alienated everyone who ever gave a damn about me. I guess you could call that self pity, but prefer to call it reality. I certainly wouldn’t have wished myself on anyone, and being alone wasn’t all bad. At least I didn’t have to share my drink.

The funny thing was that in all of my failed counseling attempts, I’d kept hearing about this place called the point of no return. It was where just one step put you closer to hell than home. From there you can’t really turn back and make it home without making up a lot of extra ground. The thing is, 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.

Image Credits: Flickr CC

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  • https://hjbuell.com/ H. J. Buell

    Much love to those we lost to alcoholism.

  • http://www.brenmurphy.net/ Bren Murphy

    Hi H J,
    Powerful stuff – you capture the utter loneliness and complete self abandonment of alcoholism perfectly in this piece.
    Thanks
    bren