No matter how old I get (as if I had a choice), I can’t seem to get better at that not-making-mistakes thing.
My latest screw-up was noble enough, but then. I got a garden variety case of the flu, but also a visit from my daughter at the same time. What to do? So I crawled out of bed, put my best Dad-is-healthy-now! face on, and got very stupid quickly.
I’ve been paying for it this week, every day hoping to make the jump back to where I was, forgetting that nothing really works that way, at least in this universe. So here we are, the end of the month, and the last part has been just lost.
Add to that dark, wet weather and my mood has been in the basement if my body hasn’t. I’ve found out that my strength is also my weakness, my endurance my fragility. My habits got thrown for a loop and I got untethered, and only now am I trying to pull all the ends back together.
So this morning I went looking for him again.
It’s been a big part of my program. People do different things, to varying degrees; if I thought there was just one way I’d have written that book by now. My way came about organically, from where I was to who I am, but every morning, pretty much, I start the day by looking for the drunk.
See, it would be bad to forget him, in the sense that he hasn’t really gone anywhere. We move on, but we also wear the chains we forge in this life. I will drag the drunk behind me wherever I go, and good for me. Sometimes I need a little extra weight to remind me.
Mornings were the worst, of course, because I’d wake up in full-blown withdrawal. Withdrawal is what people who don’t really understand mean when they talk about “physical dependence,” or “physical addiction.” It’s a shallow way to look at it, if understandable, because withdrawal is such a small part, if uncomfortable.
And it’s not really that the body is craving a chemical suddenly taken away; it’s more that the body’s normal functions have been put on hold, and when the chemical is gone things start getting back to normal. So withdrawal is, in a sense, the beginning of healing. Someone addicted to opiates, for example, has a lot of aches and pains just stored up, waiting to make their presence known. And then there’s the gastroparetic effect; opiates slow the bowels way down, so when the drug is taken away things can get messy. Withdrawing from opiates won’t kill you, but it might make you wish you were dead.
Withdrawing from alcohol, on the other hand, might very well kill you.
Booze slows everything way down, so when you stop drinking it all speeds up again. Heart rate, blood pressure, thoughts, everything. That’s why people shake. That’s why it’s so important to get medical help. That’s why the best thing you can do for an alcoholic in withdrawal, short of getting him or her medical help, is get them something to drink. Seriously. Keep them alive first.
On the plus side, with medical assistance it’s a pretty easy process. They can detox a drunk fairly quickly, a couple of days, and safely. Then the fun part starts.
So I used to wake up a mess. I recently found a word processing macro I’d written years ago. It was a key combination that saved a document and then opened a blank one, nothing complex. But it was oddly redundant, and I opened up the code to look at it and wonder what I was thinking, until I remembered. See, sometimes I’d press that combination of keys, open up a new document, and then press it again, saving the blank file and overwriting the one I wanted to keep, sometimes losing an hour or so of work. So I had to write a little backdoor save. All because my hands sometimes shook so much.
So that’s what I remember in the mornings, and what I have, nearly every morning, for the past 17 months. What it was like, what happened, and what it’s like now. Just a little reminder, when I’m down or sick or just out of sorts, that I used to be somewhere else, and that there are worse things than the flu.