The other night I found myself deep within a bottle. My thoughts galloped through the halls of my wounded mind. My thirst tried to match pace. One bottle, then another, one more after that. Eventually, I stopped counting. Stopped caring. My head became weighted beneath the crown of intoxication, and its accompanying haze.
Ironically, self-medicating with the use of amber ale or sugar brown whiskey is done so with the hopes of dulling pain. Stopping the torment. Pressing pause on heartache. All that really happens though, if you drink for long enough, is the opposite – pain stands in front of your gaze almost as if to be an apparition. Standing there with a mocking posture, and a relentless, and piercing gaze inward to your own soul. Like a stare-down before a fight. The pain deepens. It just courses slower through your body. Blood becomes lava, and it burns with a limitless anger within your veins. It feels inescapable. So, you drink more…
When the walls of my apartment kept shrinking, and a form of prison-like claustrophobia set in, I hastily retreated into the cold air of the winter’s night. I began walking with a furious pace. Likely a staggered one too. I had no destination in mind, I think that perhaps I was just trying to outrun myself. An impossible race to win. But, I tried anyway.
With a beer tucked away, I scurried along the snow-covered streets. I passed store after store, windows ablaze with neon nictation.
Some stores even offered advice in the forms of lazily plastered posters glued to the grime spackled windows – advice on how to make life better. ‘take this pill’, ‘try this diet’, ‘use this cream’, ‘lonely? Girls! Girls! Girls!’. Advice for whatever ales you, yet it won’t actually help. It just helps to deepen the void inside. Temporary respites from the superficial.
There is no respite for what I have. Or rightly, what I don’t have. Whatever is missing, whatever used to fill that hole that is now inside of me. That void of nothingness. A gaping wound if you will. No one thing caused it, but it’s there. Deep within. I dare say ever-expanding…
I made my way to a park that sober me cannot give you directions to. I traipsed in a little off the beaten path, and perched myself atop of a snow-dusted park bench. I wiggled my way into a somewhat comfortable seated position, and took quick inventory of my surroundings, looking for the constabularies before cracking the beer that had been accompanying me on my compass-less voyage.
I didn’t even want to drink it. But, before long I was pressing the cold glass of the bottle against my wind-kissed lips.
Angry. That’s all I was. just, angry… Angry, and drinking…
The thoughts of the dead swirled sickeningly within my drowning mind. I saw the boy’s face. I looked at a patch of snow and watched as it morphed time and space, before transforming into his lifeless body. The ET (Endotracheal tube) still planted within his mouth. His dead eyes just peered at me. Through me.
Engrossed by this twisted image that lay before me, I depleted what more I wanted from the bottle, and then threw it angrily toward the snow. Towards the boy. And just like that, he was gone. Just a mess of dirt and snow swirling around a half-broken bottle was all that remained.
My eyes began to swell as if they wanted to cry. I did not agree to that, so I slapped myself a couple of times hard along the right side of my face. The sting of the crisp night air assisted in the ferocity of said slap. I didn’t want to cry anymore. But I didn’t want to be at that park bench, beside that mound of snow either, so I began walking. Again, with no destination in mind, I just began angrily ploughing through the snow.
My thoughts continued to race. They raced all the way to the overpass. The one I had stood on some years before on an angry night, much like the one I was currently in.
It wasn’t long before the thoughts of ‘jumping’ creeped in. The same thoughts I had given weight too some years back. It’s amazing how soberly you confabulate with yourself when you are drunk. Sometimes scarily so…
I started walking that direction, to the bridge. The overpass…
It’s not very high so, I could not jump off feet first, that would likely result in only maiming me. If I leaned on the bannister, and flopped back like a diver entering the water, that would likely result in my head hitting the pavement first, that ought to do it. But maybe not. Or worse, what if I hit a semi? Scare some poor truck driver who is simply trying to make a buck?
These were the thoughts that were inhabiting my mind as I sloshed through the snow.
Frightening does not begin to describe the introspective dichotomy that comes with such thoughts. On one hand, I’m thinking about ways to die. On the other, reasons to live. The two-play tug-o-war within my broken brain. I want to live, but I want the pain to stop. The pain almost inhibits my ability to live. Or so it feels.
I rounded the corner of a street, and found myself resting my back along the brick exterior of a building, crying with inconsolable muscle jerks.
I cried because along with those thoughts of suicide came a fictitious tale of ‘what if I did do it? What if I did kill myself? What would that do to my family?’ I already knew the answer. I knew the answer because it came to me back in November when my mother took her own life. The answer is indescribably devastating.
A wave of guilt, anguish, and loss came pouring over me all at once. My face, now a wet mess of tears, snot and melting snowflakes, tucked itself away within my hands as I cried, and cried.
In a speed round, so many frightful images came flooding through me. Images of the dead and dying. The small, malnourished baby that I once held in my hands. The grief-stricken face of the fire captain that silently asked for my help, and I ignored. My mother’s suicide note, accompanied by all those I had read over the years. Colin, Michael, Andrew, their flag draped caskets, all of it. It all came scurrying in at once. Each one of them slicing at me like the edge of a knife.
When my hands tingled with a warning of becoming numb, and I was able to regain some element of control and composure, I stood, wiped the tears away the best I could, and stumbled home.
The following morning was initiated by a tiny marching band that played mercilessly within my head. Soon following that, a mutiny within my stomach. I was living one of the worst hangover’s I have ever experienced in my life.
I suppose the one testament to fortitude is that I was able to beat back the darkness, so as to be able to live it. The hangover I mean. I chose to live. I choose to live. I have to live. My life is not mine to take. It is mine to take back!
Some days are really hard. Really, really hard… But just as it was when I was in the army, the hard days are overcome by simply moving forward. Although I have things from my past that manacle me in place, and people from my past that wish me harm (my ex-wife), I should not, and cannot let that stop me…
To persevere from adversity, you must first experience adversity. This is the only way.
Well, I have experienced adversity, I believe I still am. But I have persevered through until now, which means I can continue to do so. And I will. Even if it means crying outside of a store on a cold winter’s night. I have too. It’s the only way for my pain to truly go away. If I were to take my own life, I would simply be transferring my pain to others. Something I spent a career trying to prevent or reverse.
I am a medic. I will heal…