I looked like death yet still, something deep inside wanted me to be well thought well of. Symptoms of Anxiety Depression and my Psychotic behaviour and Drunk with Addiction meant I was not a reasonable man. I stood up very slowly. "I'm off to the shops. I'll see you later." Much to my relief there was no answer and I took that as approval. Maybe it was the silent prayer from everybody in the room that this would be my last excursion. Anxiety of my condition and the now rapid effects of Alcoholism was hard on my loved ones.
Or maybe a terrible weariness that prevented any meaningful reply. Whatever, I took this as my cue and headed for the garage and the car. Their Anxiety of my gradual downfall was all too clear now.They had tried absolutely everything to encourage me not to drive but I had held out to the end on this issue.
My Addiction of Alcoholism was now in full swing.I had three bottle stores that I frequented and I was heading for one of these. We live in a quiet suburb of Margate and I had a five-minute drive before running into any traffic. I knew the area like the back of my hand and as a result I could stay off the main roads as much as possible and avoid the local traffic cops. I found the trick was to drive slowly. Luck had really been on my side, especially in the last couple of years. I had never been stopped in a roadblock, let alone tested. One advantage of Manaba Beach shopping centre was the fact that there were no car guards to deal with. Nothing personal, but I didn't need to be looking for change on my return. That would only add to the list of things to do and right now I was beginning to feel bad. As I parked, one of my attacks started. The sweat poured off me while terrible cramps hit my stomach.
I rested my head on the steering wheel and waited for it to pass. Sometimes they came and went in a couple of minutes. This time I realised that I was in trouble. I urgently needed a dop and felt unable to walk. The bottle store was only 50 metres away, but it might as well have been on the moon. I flung the door open and vomited all over the tarmac. Luckily I was facing away from the shop entrances and this event went unnoticed. After retching for a minute I slumped in the car seat. Tears filled my eyes and the urge to cry out overwhelmed me. My hands were gripping the steering wheel and I turned my head slightly to take in a breath of fresh air. Looking out I watched normal life going on, people oblivious to my drama.
Taking a deep breath I managed to get out of the car and take a good look at the scene in front of me. There were no cars parked between me and the bottle store so I had a clear path. I checked my pockets for money and found a R50 note which would get me 24 beers, more than enough to last until this evening. I walked very slowly and stared straight ahead but after a few steps I had to stop and drop to my knees, resting my hands on the ground. Then I lay down. Turning on my back I looked up at the clear sky. Not a bad view. My mind was spinning but I had not lost my urgency to get to the bottle store. One beer and I would be okay. I summoned what was left of my strength and got to my feet. The manageress and a guy behind a till were the only people in the shop and I made my way to the walk-in beer fridge at the back. Over the months they had got to know me well and no doubt had their own thoughts about me. But I was probably one of their best customers so they always treated me politely. They could not have failed to notice the huge amounts of booze that I was buying.
The trick now was to get my beers into the fridge without attracting too much attention, but the internal garage door led off the office. So I just went for it. Even now I still resented people questioning my actions. I felt no need to take other people's feelings into account. I was totally self-absorbed in my own misery and my own personal struggle just to get through the days and nights. I felt that I had no choice any more. The liquor consumed all my mental and physical energy.
I am not an openly religious man, but I believe in a God of love and mercy. I was broken and scared. Scared of what lay ahead and whether I'd have the strength to do the right thing. The laughter turned to terrible sobbing.For days I had promised myself that I would continue drinking until the very last possible moment. I felt that the only way I would walk into that hospital was if I was completely out of it. The very thought that my last beer was now becoming a reality was not one that had any great appeal to me. It seemed impossible that after all this time I would pass even 10 minutes without something that had become so much part of my life. Once back at my desk, my eyes never left the clock. I had half a beer left on my desk and I found myself staring at it.
After all the tears, screaming and drama, I needed all the inner strength and resolve that I could possibly muster. Grabbing the bottle, I pressed it slowly to my lips and let the last liquid slide down my throat, and for the next few seconds mumbled a silent prayer to whoever was out there and listening. Mary and my parents were standing now, aware of the turmoil that I was going through. They knew that they had to be strong for me. As drunk and confused as I was I could not resist picking up the empty beer bottle, giving it a kiss and shouting at the top of my voice, "Go to hell!" A final goodbye, done in my own twisted way.Two young nurses were waiting for me in the ward and I climbed into bed. It felt clean and fresh, a stark contrast to the way I had been living for the last few months. They immediately tried to insert a drip into my right arm but couldn't find a good vein. Most of my veins had started to collapse. Turning to my left arm, they pushed the drip in and out of me until they found a vein. Mary and my stepfather, Rudi, were at the bedside, reassuring me. I was close to tears and asked one of the nurses to let me go home.
She was talking to me, but I could no longer hear the words. It was time to sleep.
It is almost two years since my 'D-Day' in Margate and I can look back with some objectivity. My hospitalisation was merely the beginning of my fight against alcoholism. I had won a battle but faced a greater threat the day to day mission of staying sober. This is really what this disease is all about. Staying sober required every ounce of my mental and physical strength.I gradually recovered physically, but the mental fight twice broke my spirit. On the last occasion eight months ago, for reasons I cannot remember, I went out and sank a bottle of the hard stuff and was rushed into hospital for a stomach pump.
I awoke the next morning in my own bed with absolutely no memory of the drama that I had caused. Once again my life was in turmoil and this was the closest time I came to losing Mary. I didn't need any other reason not to drink again. Like many alcoholics, I became depressed and took to prescription pills to ease the pain. But the terrible cravings for alcohol continued. As I write today the cravings are still there only I can control them. Why am I an alcoholic? Who knows. Medical science is divided on the reasons. It could be genetic or it could be a personality trait. While there have been great advances in treating alcoholism, the best possible cure is still total abstinence. Easier said than done.
To even think about spending the rest of my life without a single drink is almost too awful to contemplate. The only way is to take it day by day. We live in a world of alcohol, from the restaurants we eat in to the ads on TV. The Anxiety of where your next drink is coming from can be replaced by your courage to rejoin Planet Earth.
The beginning of this Unhappy Hour saga can be found at my Addiction of Alcoholism and Drunk post.
Drug Rehabs/Alcoholic Treatment Centers.....or Not??????
My 1 to 10 Scale of Misery for Alcoholism and Depression