(a thoughtpoem) by Michael F. Nyiri
November 28, 1979 1:00 p.m.
He lay, silently, eye half open
revealing the liquid besmirched lens
and the crooked wire frame.
Ahead the plains of green nylon weave
half shining from the morning sun
half dark from the spilled ashes
Looming in the distance....
the untamed forest,
and empty beer cans
An arm swings stealthily aside
in an effort to upright him
toddling under uncertain weight
A leg juts forward and knocks over
a lone tree in the forest of cans
the timber falls carelessly
The eyes misbelieve they're in focus
But all that can be seen
is the forest
inhabited only by fears.
Howdy. My name is Michael F. N. and I am an alcoholic. It's been 38 days since my last drink. This isn't the first time I've stopped drinking. I've done it before. Cold Turkey. In 1982 (for five years) and again in 1988 (for three years).
This time is different, however. This time I'm sober. This time I've grown up, finally, at the age of 62! I was "only" a lad of 29 the first time, and I was still partying like a fool, smoking marijuana, gobbling little white pills, and snorting (and sometimes smoking) cocaine, so "sobriety" was merely a word and it wasn't really in my vocabulary, no matter how much I may brag that I'd stopped drinking beer and cheap Mad Dog wine!
I started drinking again, this time "wine coolers" instead of beer, when I was let go from my career in retail management because of a "security infraction." (I failed to make a written mark down on some clearance merchandise and the security manager had it in for me. Long story, already written. Again involving partying and drugs.) When I secured a position in technical electrical control panel building at a small manufacturing company, I stopped drinking again, but still smoked weed and eventually "traded' cocaine for methamphetamine, snorting and smoking my way into deluded misapprehensions of seeming good judgement. Heck, I drank one beer each of the two "anniversaries" of my quitting, as a "test". My buddies applauded. Then we all toked up.
That was then.
This is now.
I've been though a lot, but then, who hasn't, really? I've almost been homeless. But I've known those who actually are. I've been at death's door, but I've known people who opened it and stepped through to the other side. I've spent and lost more money than I've saved, but I live a modern life, and possibly nobody else I know can claim to be any different. When I lived with my ex girlfriend Pat in the 90s, we both drank heavily. Perhaps she wouldn't admit it. Perhaps my booze soaked recollections are a bit hazy. Who knows or cares? I was still going "out to bars" in those days, too. After Pat, I and my friend Joel moved in together. He'd lost his present roommate to death from a sudden heart attack. I broke up with Pat when she cheated on me. Joel was a good friend who had stopped me from hanging out with his buddies when I got really really drunk at a Chuck E. Cheese gathering one Friday evening and "blacked out", saying and doing terrible things which I don't remember, but everybody else did.
"We can't take you anywhere", Joel would proclaim.
Joel and I lived together for 14 years in the same house. I began to cut down on my drinking. Joel would start at 11am on Saturday and he wouldn't stop till he had to go to work on Monday. I used to hide my twelve packs of Corona, which I budgeted to last me a week, because Joel would run out of Miller, and treat himself to my Coronas. He'd always settle, by getting me Miller in cans. I hated drinking Miller. So I switched to "malt liquors" with fancy names like Bacardi Silver, because Joel didn't like the stuff and wouldn't steal it, er, borrow it from me.
After the cancer stopped Joel's drinking for good, I bought my "little house" in the mobile home estates where I now live. I cut my alcoholic intake to "energy bombers" on Friday and Saturday nights. I'd stopped the drugs about a decade or so before. I mixed Monster Energy drinks with rum and blended it with ice. Sort of a "liquid speed smoothie." I made videos where I show myself mixing my drinks and dancing. I had a good time "partying" on the internet with my blogging buddies. I asked my doctor if my mixture of depressant (alcohol) and stimulant (caffeinated energy drinks) was bad for me if I "limited" the intake to one blender full a night, and only on weekends. Doctor said "Party on, Mike." I began telling anyone who would listen that my version of "red bull and vodka" then knocking the youth of America flat on their arses was "doctor approved." Heck, I could stay up on Friday nights and I was nearing my sixties! And get a buzz to boot.
Fast forward a few years.
One 750ml bottle of rum (the big one) would last two weeks, then I found myself buying one bottle every week.
The one blender full started to keep full throughout the weekend. I'd begin at 10:30am (a little after my breakfast and hot tea.) "It's five o clock somewhere" I'd blearily reason. When drinking in the late 70s, I had a tendency to "black out". Not "pass out" although I'd do that too on occasion. Blacking out is acting and doing stuff while not knowing one is actively being an arsehole. And I could be the biggest arsehole on the block in those days. My tendency to be "honest" and truthful, would turn to, in the words of one friend, "honesty to the point of tactlessness." I have no "filters" regularly, and that lack of tact didn't serve me well when blacked out. I began dealing with the seeming stress at work by having a few rum drinks (minus the Monster) each and every night. Heck, every time you see Alicia Florrick at home on "The Good Wife" she has a glass of wine in her hand. Mine was a tall glass of rum and peach nectar. "Mikellinis" I called em. If Alicia can function as a fantastic lawyer and have a few at night to relax, then why can't I do that too?
I knew something was wrong here at home in the present when I made a friend with Jim one evening after lounging around socializing at the community center "down at the pool" yet let the problem fester and grow for almost three years after the episode I'm about to relate. Jim lived down the street from me with his sister and mother, who owned their mobile home. He was a veteran, about 52, and didn't work because of some medical problem or other. He was a great guy who laughed at my jokes. He became my new best friend. He'd invite me over to his house, where I would regale his sister, mother and he with tales of my youth. Jim would offer me a beer. I'd drink it, and he'd give me a shot of vodka. I'd down it. He drank so much that after a few hours, I'd have a line of opened but full beers in front of me. One time I woke up the next morning and didn't remember how I got home. That home was only about 20 feet from Jim's didn't matter to me.
I'd blacked out for the first time in over a decade. I stopped partying with Jim. Still I'd see him "down at the pool" but I didn't feel I shared his absolute love of drinking, although slowly but surely I was drinking more and more and more, alone, and absolutely loving it.
A little over a year ago Jim contracted alcoholic poisoning and had to be taken away in an ambulance. I comforted his mother and sister. He died in the hospital two days later of cirrhosis of the liver.
Last year I paid off a rather large credit card consolidation loan, netting me an extra $600.00 a month. I got a raise at work, and planned to make home improvements and maybe travel a bit this year. Throughout my life I've suffered from a manic form of depression, which, when it hits, is not pretty for anyone around me, least of all my mental health. I've never been "diagnosed' with bipolarity, but I've written dozens of articles and blog entries "self diagnosing" my condition. I wrote a "top blog" on Xanga titled "An Open Letter to Anyone Considering Suicide." I get upset at the idea that famous people commit suicide, telling my readers that they are "championing" the idea for their fans, especially if those fans suffer from depression themselves. I never thought for a moment I'd ever get depressed enough to pull a trigger on my own life. I'm a reasonable man, and this kind of behavior appalls me. This would be "my year" I proclaimed to anyone who would listen. Just like last year. And the year before.
At least I wasn't digging myself into debt, even as I purchased more and more cans of nectar and Monster energy drink, not to mention those big bottles of rum. I had to stop my plans of trips and home improvements in their tracks when a molar started to fall out (See Tale of the Teeth) and my dentist told me I had such bad gum damage that the infection was really close to shooting through one of my veins right into my heart. (Or the other way, into my alcohol addled brain!)
I changed plans, and plowed the money for my trip into my mouth, beginning in March. Four implants. Teeth were removed. Plastic dentures installed. Posts hammered into my head. At least I could dull the pain with alcoholic fun drinks every night.
In May, I had my 62nd birthday. Usually, I've taken "birthdaycations" to the cabin, or to Catalina island, cameras in tow, and this year I'd planned on taking a mammoth Photo Expedition up the coast to San Francisco, creating artistic photographic wonder all along the coast. My $400.00 a month dental payment cancelled those plans. For much of March and April, I had a second home at the dental office, and then in May, while waiting for four quadrants of gum surgery to heal, and implant posts to settle, I didn't have to go to the dentist's for a while.
I thought I'd celebrate.
One Saturday I drove the three miles to one of my favorite Mexican restaurants in the South Bay. There was a crowd, and I took a seat at the bar and ordered a "Grande" Cadillac Margarita. By the third, I was finally seated. I ordered the meal, and while munching on tortilla chips, had another drink.
I can't remember what happened next.
The manager was waking me, calling a cab, and I got home safely. I fumbled with the card reader in the back seat of the cab. I fumbled with my keys getting into my house. I fumbled and stumbled around the hall, and fell down a few times.
I awoke as usual, in my bed, at 4am the next morning, which was a Sunday. Besides the hangover, which I haven't had in a long time, I felt as if I'd turned some sort of corner into hell. I stumbled and fumbled back into the living room, noticing crooked pictures and torn posters hanging on my walls. The occasional table where I keep my remotes was on it's side, one leg bent to the breaking point. Omigod, I wondered. I must have crashed into the table last night. I didn't shower or shave. I dressed myself, put on my glasses (which were badly scratched, but I didn't know it yet.) The massive amounts of the depressive drug alcohol was still in my system, and was dulling my head, which hurt, but I just thought it was the hangover. I didn't realize I had a large gash on the side of my right eye, covered with crusted blood.
Opening the side door, I didn't see my car in the driveway. I remembered woozily that I'd been driven home in a taxi. It was a Prius. I remembered that. I couldn't remember what the cabbie looked like. I searched for my keys, wallet, and credit cards. I'm one of those obsessive compulsive people who have a place for everything, and pretty much, things were in their places. Except the car, of course. But I knew where it was. It was parked on the street a half block from the Mexican restaurant.
I checked the doors, grabbed my keys, put on my hat and began the walk of shame back to my car. It was still dark, and as I took my "daily constitutional" along three major highways in the South Bay, I had plenty of time to think. I thought about how lucky I had been that I hadn't driven home...that I hadn't made a fool of myself at the restaurant (I can be quite "social" until I turn, and have recounted in blogstories about how I've been "beat up" and robbed a few times when in these "blackout states")...that I was still around to worry about what might have been.
Relieved as I unlocked, and opened the door to my car, I got in, started her up, and drove home. Once there, I undressed and took my shower. I noticed my glasses were badly scratched. A chance rub of the skin to the right of my right eye gave me the indication that I'd probably fallen into the occasional table (and God knows what else, probably slammed against the plate glass sliding door) and scratched the side of my face. I could have blinded myself. I remembered how actor William Holden had died, taking a fall into his coffee table. Small tables in one's house can kill. Ones' body can become a weapon when falling unawares. The little scar on the side of my eye stuck around for a while after the encrusted blood finally was able to be washed away too!
My insurance policy took care of the glasses. I spent the afternoon dropping them off at the optometrist's. LensCrafters is open on Sunday. I have a spare pair. I worried about losing a scrap of paper on which I'd written the last four digits of my checking account for a payment call to one of my creditors at work. I later found the slip of paper, so it wasn't lost. None of my hundreds of fragile collectibles were broken. Only one piece of artwork (my own) pinned to my bedroom wall was smudged a bit, but nothing except a couple of poster corners were torn. I righted the picture frames along the hall wall which I'd knocked askew the night before.
I said a silent prayer.
Fast forward a month. The walk of shame wasn't enough to stop me from drinking. But I did google alcoholic intake and found that drinking one 750ml bottle of hard stuff was in the alcoholic range. I wasn't fooling myself. I decided to "cut down". My "projects" which keep me busy, working around the house, creating videos and taking photos with an ever increasing collection of cameras, including a new Rebel DSLR I got for myself last Christmas, social networking on the internet, managing my massive website: these pursuits were all very active ones in the first third of 2015, and even though I was drinking on weekends and nights, I was still actively pursuing my creative urges. However, the evening of the Trip, Fall, and Walk of Shame began a slide into depression which didn't abate, fueled by the fact my partial dentures had been continually bothering me.
I found I couldn't eat. The plastic in my mouth was causing gag reflexes and I couldn't even swallow. I was a mess at work. Alcohol stays in the system, and I was drinking so much that even when "sober" at work, the effects of this dreadful drug I'd believed throughout my long life I could "contain" and "manage" was affecting my work performance. And I'm sure it was doing a number on my mental health, or lack thereof. I became more nervous than normal. I stopped my creative pursuits. At one point, on Facebook, I got one of those "You haven't been around for a while, are you alright?" posts. I've written enough of them, only to find that the person to whom I've addressed the question couldn't answer because, in more than one instance, they'd passed into the hereafter.
I got so depressed that one weekend I actually began to think of suicide as a possibility. They say one has to get to the lowest point in one's life in order to realize that there is only one way out of the spiral. That was the weekend I stopped drinking.
There are some other factors of which I'm not revealing, and after the first week of sobriety, I possibly didn't realize I was actively going through withdrawal symptoms (It can't happen HERE) I did some other funky stuff I don't want to fess up to right now, however, with time, and with interaction on Facebook with some good "internet friends", and long conversations with some real life friends, I began to turn the corner to sobriety in a big way.
I'm now "free and clear" of alcohol, haven't felt depression for about a month, have regained my creative pursuits with a passion I have to scale back at times and remember I am in the early part of my sixth decade on this planet, and the old body is not as young as my freely cleared mind tends to think it is at times.
I used to have insomnia, and I said I had a "glass or two" of alcohol in order to sleep better. Since I've been sober, I don't have any trouble sleeping at all. I don't "need' to stay up on Friday nights. If I feel sleepy, I go to bed. I'm beginning to let my body tell me when it needs to eat and drink, and I don't lie to it anymore. I don't "need" alcohol to make my movie or television watching any more entertaining. In point of fact, I was "blacking out" in front of the TV and having to rewatch a lot of what I'd already seen over the past six months or so. I brushed it off to other concerns.
I've been an alcoholic since I was 21 years old, and I kept deluding myself that although others (in and out of my orbit) had "problems" I didn't. "I can stop at any time." And I did, frequently.
I'll admit I probably have more will power than a lot of people. I also know myself pretty well. I have advice for anyone who drinks. Just stop. You'll be glad you did. Really. I used to scoff at scenes (on TV and when driving by the local AA) of ex alcoholics drinking coffee in the back and thinking they'd probably be better off if they could "just control their drinking." Well, let me tell ya, alcohol is a nasty drug. It sneaks up on you, over decades, and when one thinks, as I did, that they are reasonable and controlling of the situation, it can become bad quite quickly.
I didn't pull the trigger on my life. I put the stopper back in the bottle. There's a full 750ml bottle of rum sitting on the top shelf of my "pantry" in my kitchen. I bought it the Friday before the weekend I stopped drinking. I poured myself a drink, took it into the living room, and then thought better about it. The glass of rum with nectar (it didn't have any energy drink mixed in that last time) sat in my refrigerator for over a week until I needed the glass, and poured it out. I could probably start drinking again. But I choose not to. I'm not afraid of sliding down into hell like characters in the movies. They're only acting, and movies are fiction.
I'm not afraid. I'm clean for the first time in nearly 40 years. And I'm loving it. Never would I drive a car while "drunk". (I'll bet I told the manager at the restaurant the evening before the "walk of shame" that I was perfectly able to drive home too) So I didn't go out of the house after I cracked open a bottle while drinking. Now I can go to the store or on a "Photo Expedition" at any time of the day or night, because I'm completely aware and sober.
Life is good.