I paid the callgirl her $100 and she quickly left my apartment. Another fine example of my ability to make excellent life choices. It was about 6:00AM and I only had two beers left in my fridge. I sat in the dark and chain-smoked until I finished those beers. It had only been about half an hour, the sun was just starting to come out. The liquor stores didn’t open until 9:00AM, and the nearest third- shift bar was an eight block walk in the cold Milwaukee dusk. Time had passed quickly and the sun was out, it was about 8:00AM. I hadn’t had a drink in an hour and a half and I knew if I didn’t drink anything for much longer I’d start to get very, very sick. I don’t believe in divine intervention, or really anything for that matter, but I had an inexplainable moment of lucidity. As I watched the gossamer blue smoke twirl and dance from the end of my cigarette, I thought to myself, “I can’t keep living like this. I’ve become a violent caricature of myself. If I don’t break this cycle right now I’m going to die before I even see the age of thirty.” After years of hiding and running, I decided to confront the minotaur that had been pursuing me in my mind's labyrinth for years. I was going to stop drinking.
By 8:30AM my hands were starting to shake involuntarily. My brow started sweating. I started dry heaving but could only manage to cough up stomach bile and blood. I hadn’t eaten that day. My anxiety spiked and I started panicking. I laid in bed in a futile attempt to fall asleep before the withdrawal really set in. But, as expected, the insomnia from alcohol withdrawal was preventing me from being able to even feign sleep. My furnace was on but I was freezing cold and covered in sweat. Shortly after that I was burning up. These sensations began to carousel, each extreme more intense than the last. It was about 11:00AM. I was in physical agony but still knew something worse was coming. Soon, the living nightmare only the old winos on the street and the sad-eyed barflies who never say a word and the fuck-ups like me ever have to endure - the delirium tremens.
It was around noon and all of the aforementioned symptoms had only gotten worse. Every muscle in every appendage was twitching involuntarily, even my head was shaking. Then the most terrifying part started setting in - the goddamn hallucinations. At first they started as just minor auditory hallucinations, nothing too horrific. But then they got worse. Much, much worse. I kept hearing people randomly and indistinguishably screaming inside my apartment at unpredictable intervals of time. After that came something that absolutely frightened me and still makes my stomach drop in retrospection. I’m finding it difficult to describe what it was, it wasn’t a noise that exists in reality. But, emanating from my bathroom was what I can only describe as a combination of violent retching and the vicious sound of raccoons hissing and fighting. It was unearthly, unnerving, and unforgettable. I began to see insects that weren’t really there flying around my apartment. The carpet was moving with the static distortion one only expects to see while on psychedelic drugs or from extreme sleep deprivation.
After several hours of that horrific nightmare, and my ever worsening physical condition, I started to have a panic attack. My heart was palpitating and beating much faster than my, surprisingly, healthy blood pressure level. My anxiety was at it’s height. I started pacing around my apartment smoking cigarettes and trying to calm down with deep breathing. Forty-five minutes later the episode had subsided but the switch was thrown in the opposite direction. I was back in my bed, cripplingly depressed and having suicidal ideation. I was shaking worse, the waves of hot and cold were worse, I was sweating bullets. I was doubled-over in the fetal position experiencing intense nausea and I had a faint feeling of vertigo.
It was about 5:00PM and I was strongly considering going to Columbia St. Mary’s emergency room before I had a seizure or died, two very real possibilities at the time. I felt around for my phone and shakily typed out texts to people I thought might have benzodiazepines. The only thing the hospital would have done to help me would have been a valium and saline drip. Being that I don’t care much for hospitals I tried to do it myself from home. After a few hours of sending texts for help, a very close friend came by with two 1mg clonazepams. I immediately put them under my tongue so they’d kick in faster.
When the clonazepam hit, all of my symptoms began to ease up. They didn’t cease completely, but they were manageable enough to leave the bed I had been anchored to for over ten hours. It was about 11:30PM and I had managed to force myself to drink water and lay on my couch. I smoked the last of my weed and tried to distract myself from the horror I was going through with movies and social media. I stayed in all right shape until 3:00AM.
The pills began to wear off. The pangs of intense anxiety started again, my hands started shaking violently again. I wanted to puke my guts out. And that cold and merciless bitch, depression, was looming over me like the Grim Reaper over a death bed. I was terrified. I was falling back into that living nightmare I had just barely escaped from. In a final act of desperation I called someone at 4:00AM that could sell me a dozen 1mg clonazepams for $20. After several rings the phone went to voicemail and I almost had a complete breakdown. I sent him a text explaining the severity of the situation I was in. Fifteen minutes later I got a text back, he was going to come by as soon as he could, though unbeknownst to him he was on his way to save my life. I was still at the point where I was fearing the possibility of having a seizure and I needed benzodiazepines as soon as possible.
Twenty minutes later I got my pills and ate four as soon as I ripped the bag open, there was no fucking way I was going back to that horrible reality I was just in. Thirty minutes later the clonazepam started to work, and, for the most part, I felt fine. I took this opportunity to clean my apartment of all the empty beer cans that were scattered everywhere, I emptied all my ashtrays and straightened my coffee table up a bit. I took a shower to hose off the pestilent feeling leftover from sweating constantly for over twelve hours. I put two more pills under my tongue and laid down until I was finally able to fall asleep.
This cycle of withdrawal and self-medication with cannabis and clonazepam continued for the next three days. The only time I ever left my apartment for those seventy-two hours was to stock up on packs of cigarettes at the Shell two blocks away.
On the fourth day since my last drink I had to be at work at 3:00PM. I woke up, ate my last two clonazepams and smoked a joint before I cabbed there. I got through my shift without a problem, even after the pills wore off I didn’t begin to withdrawal anymore. I clocked out and stopped at my apartment to change clothes before meeting up with my friends at a bar. Much to everyone’s pleasure (and shock) I only drank water and Red Bull that entire night. It felt almost surreal, it was the first time I had ever sat in a bar without drinking a drop of liquor.
I’m now going on day six since my last drink. My initial goal was to make it a full week dry, but lately I’ve been flirting with the idea of going for thirty days. I’m not going to kid myself, I know I’ll start drinking again, and, as it always does, it will probably get out of hand like it had been for a very long time. I struggle with intense addiction, bi-polar disorder, and have a family history of alcoholism. I’m not going sober, I’m just not drinking alcohol. As pathetic as it sounds, absolute sobriety is something I don’t think I’ll ever know again.
I don’t know when my next drink will be or what will happen because of it, but until that happens all I can do is take it one day at a time.
I’d like to take this opportunity to sincerely thank all of you that have been helping and supporting me through what has been one of the most difficult and harrowing times I’ve ever been through. I couldn’t have done it without your help.
(Update: I’m now on day eight since I had my last drink, I hand-wrote this originally and finally typed it up today.)