Getting home I would do what I did most of those nights. I “go to sleep” on the bathroom floor instead of going to bed.
I wake up intermittently for the next ~18 hours and vomit violently until I’m spewing bile and retching, unable to breathe for how sick I am.
How did I get here?
Am I unlikeable?
I never really had any friends in school and was bullied a lot.
Desperate to fit in, to be liked, to be anyone else but me; I started drinking and smoking and doing drugs at 16-years-old.
They say, “emotional pain or trauma are some of the most common reasons for people to engage in self-destructive behaviour.”
It’s hard to tell if you have a problem when everyone around you is getting drunk too.
Denial is a powerful enabler
The police report says the car was totalled.
The accident breaks a few of my ribs, punctures one of my lungs and shatters half my face. Five titanium plates are placed around the skull they reconstruct as I become a case-study in Norway.
Years later, my memories of that night still come to halt about an hour before the accident.
I still have four of the titanium plates. Three holding my face together and the last one in a bag, alongside two of the teeth that I pulled out.
A hip graft surgery to rebuild my jaw failed, leaving most of my left-side face with a partial jawbone and no teeth and I can only chew food with my right-side.
I get migraine-like headaches as a frequent reminder of the past choices I made and my skull now acts as an unpleasant barometer.
Aside from the scar where my jaw pierced through my face, you can’t see much from the outside though.
Am I broken?
The doctors say my face will eventually collapse in on itself, though they haven’t given me a timeline on when this would happen. I imagine it’s happening right now, like substance abuse itself, creeping up slowly until you reach the point of no return.
So there I was at 19-years-old, already convicted with reckless endangerment and a second driving whilst under the influence (DUI), only this time my drivers’ licence was revoked for 6 months and I was sentenced to one-to-one rehabilitation counselling about my drinking.
I thought the counselling was a massive waste of time, “I don’t have a drinking problem. I drink the least of my friends.”
Nine days after I had been released from the hospital, I was already out drinking again—and at the time, I was quite proud of this achievement.
Denial is a powerful enabler.
Apple, meet tree
My father left when I was 2-years-old.
Some years he would call ahead of birthdays and say that he was going to show up with a present. I remember more times when he didn’t show up at all.
By the time I was 19-years-old we only lived a 2-minute walk across the road from each other but our lives rarely crossed.
I would see him occasionally in town, drunk with some of the local houseless people with substance abuse problems.
As a teenager, we finally had a mutual interest.
“The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree,” they say.
Even if that tree is nowhere near the apple.
I remember one day, viscerally more than with any particular clarity. I was drunk, he was drunk.
It was probably a Wednesday.
After running into each other in town we ended up sitting outside his doorstep, talking, and drinking. At one point he bartered himself a cheap bottle of vodka in exchange for a harmonica.
That harmonica is one of the few things I have from him and for years I kept it in my bookshelf like a family heirloom.
Am I unlovable?
Our little party of two came to a bloody end when he got so drunk he fell over, hitting his head open on the pavement. As he was swearing I took him in, cleaned and patched up his wound before deciding that it was time for me to go home.
Getting home I would do what I did most of those nights, except it was probably a Wednesday afternoon.
Apparently, this is either alcohol poisoning or withdrawal symptoms.
To be honest, some days I would crave the hangover more than the intoxication.
Desperate to get away, to be anyone else but me.
I would find relief in those moments of asphyxiation because my mind wasn’t running everywhere, it was finally still, quiet and calm.
I used to call it my hard reset.
But I need to find a better way. A softer way.
Prepare to stop being such a fuck up
That Wednesday and its harmonica are one of the few prized memories I have of him.
He died nine months before Lucien was born.
They never met and most days I think it was probably for the best.
Unlike other stories, I don’t know how this one ends.
I’m still prone to self-destructive or “dysregulated behaviours,” as psychologists call it.
But I’m pruning, nurturing and growing a different kind of tree. One which might grow apples that don’t taste of bitter bile.
I’m trying to love myself even though I’ve given myself so many reasons not to.
I can count the number of times I’ve had a drink this and last year.
I was sober for our company Christmas party.
And getting home now; most nights I cook dinner, relax, and I go to sleep in a bed.
And that’s a start.