Why can’t I move?? That was my first thought. I came to my senses enough to see that my hands and legs were strapped down. Black canvas restraints had been placed around both ankles and both wrists. The hard edges of the canvas cuffs had begun to irritate my skin, creating red lines and marks where they held me tightly to a bed. A quick survey of myself revealed countless bruises, cuts, and scratches. The picture I saw started to tell the story of a recent struggle. ‘Had I been in an accident?’ I thought. ‘Where am I,’ my mind continued as my eyes took inventory of my surroundings—a hospital room.
The walls were bare white and exposed like an x-ray or MRI scan, sterile and devoid of color or life. One single whiteboard displayed the words: “Happy Holidays” written in bubble letters as if they were dancing across the wall. The only decoration was a single red ornament on the top corner of the board. The ornament hung high above reach. In the corner of the room; one chair and a small closet with no door or rod, just a shelf.
I knew where I was. I had woken up to this scene many times before. Sometimes the room would be a different color, or a curtain would play substitute for a wall giving limited privacy to another bed. For the most part, they had all been the same. I remember thinking that someone must have gone to school to learn the skills necessary to design the proper psych ward hospital room. I pictured the Designers textbook context: “Décor requirements for this type of job require a minimalist approach as the client is looking for a sterile feeling. We suggest stark white or cement gray. Avoid any brain stimulation. Miserable is the look you’re going for.”
My mouth was dry, and my lips felt like paper as I tried to speak. I was hoping to call a nurse or attendant and start the list of usual questions. “Ma’am, would you please tell me how I got here, how long I have been here, what day is it?” My questions were typically met with answers dripping with disdain and mandated tolerance. I always launched my best Sunday Church boy apologies. “Ma’am, I am so sorry for whatever I did or said to you or your co-workers. I don’t remember anything, and I am not typically mean. I’m honestly a considerate person; please forgive me and apologize to everyone for me.” I would plead.
This time something was different; I could not feel the interior of my mouth. It was stuffed with gauze or something. I could only make a grunting noise or subtle murmur. My tongue quickly sent word to my brain that something was wrong.
I could not move my arms to call for anyone, so I lay there. I stared at the ceiling tiles, desperately trying to piece together the events of the last few days. I had become very familiar with trying to remember previous days. I could remember the day I promised my family, myself, and God that this was my last drink or drug. That had been early November. I always strayed away from the complete truth of my actual sobriety date. I never counted the small compromises. The small drink before bed. The three pain pills before a meeting. I viewed those as simply coping with life.
In all honesty, I believe my “coping with life” this time had started about one week after reclaiming my sobriety (again). I started my timeline from that point. To this day, I don’t recall the days or all of the events during that time. I strained to find the missing pieces to the previous 24 hours, yet my efforts were in vain.
The damage done to my body was now beginning to hurt. I felt the scrapes and cuts across my body, but the worst pain was in my mouth. I would later find out that I had bitten through my tongue during a seizure, and the pain was coming from the stitches used to repair the damage.
I gave up my search for details. I only stared at the ceiling. The repeating pattern of the tiles seemed to mock me as if to say, ‘some old thing, you’re here again. It will never change.’ My mind was in complete agreement, and the only thing I knew for sure was that I would never get out of this cycle of addiction. It had been the only constant thing for several years. Alcohol, cocaine, pills, and any other substance that could take me out of my reality was my drug of choice.
I had never been a snob when it came to my libations. Sure, I had my favorites, but I would never risk being rude and turn something down as all good southern boys were taught. I took my hospitality very seriously. I was equally devoted to my addiction. Always 100% THEY SAY!! Always give 100%.
A small-framed Nurse finally came into the room. I mumbled and spoke as best I could. “Ma’am, hello Ma’am, could you please help me?” Those were the words I tried to form, but the sound that fell from my parched lips was a gargled mess of confusion, desperation, and hopelessness. That day went on like all days in the psych ward of a hospital goes. The staff eventually saw that I was a stable human being. After about 6 hours and some garbled apologies and explanations, they removed my restraints. They all accepted my apologies after sharing what I had done and said to them.
I was informed that the police picked me up after someone reported a car sideways in a large canal ditch. I had hit several street signs and drove into the ravine. The police officers broke the window to pull me out of the water that filled my car. Drowning was not the most significant fear as my Blood Alcohol Content was .48, and I had overdosed on alcohol. During my ride to the ER, I had a seizure that caused the tongue damage.
One nurse said: “I guess Santa gave you an extra life this year.”
This day was Christmas day. An extra life. Those thoughts ran through my head as each nurse or doctor told me how fortunate I was to be alive. They each shared their medical view of how I should have died. One doctor seemed in awe of my recovery. Everyone viewed my case as a Christmas miracle.
Everyone but me.
That was the day I started picturing this world without me. Sure, I had thought about it many times before, but it became such a clear solution this day. My Grandmothers would no longer have to wonder where I was, was I alive. My mother would not be filled with dread each time the phone rang. My friends would no longer have to pretend to want me in their lives still. My family would even be repaid the money I took from them with my life insurance. Leaving this world was something good I could do for all of them.
These are outrageous thoughts for most people. But for an addict, it’s just the next step. An addict’s life is a never-ending cycle of good and evil, yet the darkness of the evil grows each day. It becomes familiar and even comfortable.
I was released from the hospital a few days after Christmas. I remember bracing myself for my Grandmothers face as the gold Buick pulled up to the lobby door.
It would be the same expression I had seen many times. Those beautiful brown eyes overflowing with compassion, fear, hope, and unconditional love. She walked to me and crushed me with a hug. She held me tight and whispered into my hair, “What do we need to do, baby boy? Please let me help you.”
I pulled away and said, “Grandmama, it’s going to be OK. I promise.”
This time, I had a plan, and I would end her worry.
This story details a few days of my life in active addiction. This plot would repeat itself time and time again. As a syndicated sitcom plays repeatedly, this same storyline would be rerun for fifteen years. Only my was story was void of comedy—only drama and horror.
The next several years were filled with hospitals, rehabs, jails, courts, programs, and meetings. All failed attempts to find sobriety. I had one good job after the next. I always managed to get a good job but lost it within three months. It’s hard to pinpoint the exact moment my life spiraled out of control, but it was a cumulative effect. One poor decision led me down this path, and I seemed powerless over stopping anything at all from happening.
I felt led to share this to give you an idea of what an addict feels during the holidays. I pray this is helpful to those battling addiction, those walking in Victory, and those friends and family that don’t understand.
The holidays are a stark reminder of a painful past for many of us. However, I have found that God sends His gift of healing each year. This Christmas Holiday marks my eighth Sober Christmas. It was spent with my wife and loving in-laws. My heart remains overwhelmed with gratitude and humility in the shadow of God’s Grace.
Obviously, my story has a happy ending. Sadly, my life is the exception.
The fact remains that most addicts never find true Victory.
But ALL ADDICTS CAN RECOVER and walk a Victorious life.
There is HOPE.
There is an Answer.
There is a Solution.
I know the healing power of the Lord Jesus Christ. 35 years in addiction of alcohol and drugs. 7 years in prison, countless jail time, than my last bit I came to believe in Him and my life changed.
Amen and Amen!! there is hope and victory. It is only in Jesus. I too spent many years in this cycle you refer to, three decades actually!! But God pulled me out of that and put me on a path to victory. This is my 11th sober Christmas and each year is a miracle. Here is wishing us many more. Thank you for sharing your story!!
Amen and amen! Praise the Lord he brought you out of addiction!