Fasten your safety belts, readers, because this isn’t going to be pretty…but it will be honest.
I took a week off from work and cleared my schedule because I intended to hole up in my apartment for about six days and detox (go through withdrawals and stabilize). I paid all my bills so that I wouldn’t have to worry about it, bought some Pedialyte, went home, and prepared for the worst.
I’d been drinking for 8 weeks, excepting the week before, when I tried to detox in 4 days and it just wasn’t enough time and I had to give up and drink to get back to work (see the previous post “Sucky Update.”). Eight weeks, after over a year and a half of sobriety. They told me in rehab that if I started drinking again, my worst symptoms would come back almost immediately–that I could have a few drinking and feel healthy and “normal” for maybe a few days, and then everything would turn to shit almost overnight and I’d be back in alcoholic hell again. They said you can’t start fresh again, it will never be like it was when you first started, your physiology has permanently changed.
Well, I must admit that this did not make sense to me. I thought, if your body is recovered, how could you get sick again so quickly?
Well, as usual, the people in rehab were right. They are the professionals, after all.
I’m not going to lie to you: I was drinking a lot in those eight weeks. The only times I was (mostly) sober were when I was working, because it’s unprofessional and rude to be intoxicated, not to mention extremely dangerous for the woman alone with a strange man in a room.
Moving on: at first, the withdrawals were the usual bullshit. Tremors, inability to read or concentrate, chills and sweats, insomnia, nightmares about drinking, and the inability to be comfortable in any position. Hearing nonexistent white noise. No appetite; mild nausea. It’s very unpleasant, but I’ve been through it about five times before, and it’s…manageable. It’s a bit like having a very bad stomach flu or food poisoning.
The only good news: no hallucinations of people in my bedroom at night. No hallucinations this time. THANK GOD. Also, I didn’t have any seizures, which I hear is pretty common.
On the sixth day (I think it was the 6th day), things got much, much worse.
I vomited for eleven hours. I am not exaggerating. Every five minutes, I dry-heaved or wretched up foamy bile, and, let me tell you, it hurt like hell. It was the worst part of the entire time. I was scared to puke in my bed, because it’s the only place in my apartment I have to lie down (my sofa’s a love seat), so I just sat on the floor and used this plastic container I use to hand-wash clothes. There was absolutely nothing in my stomach because the only thing I’d eaten in 12 days was 4 chicken wings (I kept ordering food because I knew I had to eat SOMETHING, but when it came, I couldn’t even stand the sight of it. Money well spent, there. I was living off of calories from alcohol and the juice I sometimes mixed it with. I’m sure my stomach really appreciated that alcohol-and-acidic juice combo. I’m sure my stomach was saying “Hey thanks for putting me through this shit, Margo!). I was throwing up nothing but bile, stomach acid. It hurt, the constant clenching of my torso hurt, and I burned the hell out of esophagus. I’m on medication for that right now.
Next up: my legs started twitching and cramping. I could not stand without something to pull myself up with, like an old person. I could not walk. I had to scoot myself to the bathroom (at least I could urinate–what, I’m not sure, because I couldn’t hold down water–but at least it meant my kidneys were not shutting down).
Then, the chest pain, a very powerful pain in the center of my chest over my breastbone. It happened more than once, and it hurt a lot. I was wondering if I was having a heart attack.
I thought: I am going to die alone in this apartment, nobody’s going to find me until my body starts to smell, and my bird is going to die of starvation.
I threw in the towel. I knew going to the hospital would cost me about $60k, but, hey, it beats being dead.
I texted my mother (hard to do with shaking hands) to let her know where I would be and that I was calling a cab. She insisted on taking me herself. The last thing I needed was her judgmental horseshit while I was in the process of dying. I said she could go back to hating me in a few days, but I didn’t need it right now. She promised she would not scream and only try to help. I warned her that she didn’t want to see me this way and that I looked like hell.
I took 3 shots of cheap mouthwash (a first for me–I’ve never been that desperate before, but there was no way in hell that I could get to a store without, say, one of those motorized wheelchairs used by the disabled and obese. Couldn’t drive and sure and hell couldn’t walk), which is poisonous but also 20% alcohol, so that I could stabilize just a little bit. Drinking the mouthwash was disgusting and degrading and it said on the back of the bottle not to drink it and to call Poison Control Center immediately. Oh well.
I put on a dress and a coat, combed my hair and put it into a ponytail, and put Abe in his kennel. Mom arrived and I wouldn’t let her inside because I didn’t want her to see that I’d trashed my beautiful apartment and there was a pizza box on the floor and I had about ten empties laying around my desk and my plants were dying. Disgusting, right?
I insisted that we take Abe to the boarder’s first because I didn’t know how long I’d be gone. Mom took him inside for me because I know the owners of this place and I didn’t want them to see me this way.
Then we went to the ER. They gave me an EKG and immediately admitted me to the ICU–that’s right, I jumped the line, baby! After a day there, the alcoholic psych ward. In the loony bin, just like my (not) dear old Dad, Franz.
Second half of the story next installment.