Part 5 of Dry Drunk is posted here. This is Part 6.
A work of fiction.
What am I doing here? What am I doing here?
I'm in a state of captivity, pacing back and forth, somewhere between cabin fever and solitary confinement. But the problem is that it's never really solitary. My thoughts may be solitary, but the ghosts I pass by while walking on the threadbare carpet are reflections of me. I beg to be let outside for more than a five minute smoke break. We are given the opportunity for thirty minutes each day to walk on the outside track. I sign up immediately, but not before swearing that I won't try to run away.
Though I admit the idea sounds appealing, getting away means a four mile walk through dense forest and brambles. Following that comes figuring out how to get to civilization, to rent a car and head back into the city. In many ways, I am a very motivated person, but where this issue is concerned, I am lazy. And I haven't given up yet on treatment, though this is very tough medication.
I've been trying to make inroads with this little redhead. She is a million times too young for me, but she's smart and pretty. She is a full ten inches shorter than me. And she likes me. When I speak, she makes notes of my words and phrases on a sheet of paper. It's as if I'm playing the part of the charismatic college professor, and she the smitten student. Before I flatter myself further, I recognize that everyone here has major problems, else they wouldn't be here, so treading lightly is my best course of action.
After I get to know her further, with every subsequent interaction, I see one red flag after another. She's what they call dual diagnosis. Psychiatric illness and substance abuse. Then I put it all together. Borderline. Borderline people routinely rip holes in relationships of every size and shape. She lashes out at me eventually because she says we have too much in common and she can't handle it. It's a mean, strange gesture, and I see a side of her that I don't like one bit. Here's for learning from one's mistakes.
I leave and consume four ounces of warm orange juice left on a tray in the day-room, not because I'm thirsty, but because it gives me something to do. I peel back the aluminum foil and chug the contents now at room temperature. I've made it through the worst part, the active detox. It's downhill from here, but I am nowhere near active recovery.
Some of the hardcore drunks have had DT's during the night. They've woken me up at night, one after another, howling at hallucinations only they can see. I'm lucky to have avoided them myself. Do I crave alcohol? I can honestly say no, not when I see the impact that booze has made on the other twenty-five zombies who have been my close companions.
This one guy wants me to give him my sweatshirt. He's pretty persistent about it. This is typical ward behavior. We say in the outside world that a very generous person would give you the shirt off of his or her back, but we don't take it strictly literally. Here, the gesture is taken at face value. I am never sure whether or not that this man has no warm clothes of his own, or he just wants the sweatshirt for his own reasons.
I've never been sure how to take it. Is this article of clothing seen like some sort of talisman to them? Do they think my good energy will rub off on them somehow? Like life, the have nots stick together and the haves keep to themselves, too. Each of us needs help, some more severely than others. I've heard a lot of rationalizations these past few days from nearly everyone. Some of them are airtight enough to hold up in court and sway the opinion of a jury. Bullshit aside, even persuasive bullshit, we're still alcoholics playing games with ourselves and others.
My last girlfriend worked as a manager in a grocery store. I struck up a conversation with her as she stood at the front of the store, trying to convince people to donate a few bucks to some charity. I wasn't interested in the donation, but I was interested in her. And at least at first, she was interested in me, too.
She worked a lot, but so did I. After a few weeks of dating, I found she'd been hiding something from me, but I wasn't sure what at first. Then one fateful day she wouldn't return my calls or texts. Seeking an answer, I went by her work. She was working Customer Service like normal, but saw me coming and headed directly for the back of the store, behind a door. Even before she left my sight, I picked up that she was extremely angry to see me.
No answer arrived the next day, or the day after it. After a second trip, her anger had turned to guilt. I confronted her directly behind the counter with the cigarettes and muttered a weak, but sincere apology. She seemed surprised.
For what, darling?
I think you know what for, I said, finally with the courage to make eye contact.
Let me take a break, she said, and we'll talk it over. She hadn't been mad at me. Instead, she'd been mad at herself. Newly divorced, she was raising three small children more or less on her own. They were her sole priority and the most important things in her life. Spending time with me, though it had been fun, took time away from her primary devotion. Or, at least that was her take on the situation.
It has always broken my heart to see mothers who become martyrs for their children, denying themselves deserved happiness for the sake of some greater purpose. It could have been possible that she felt I didn't want to be with a woman who had kids. I won't lie that the thought was not always a comforting or desired one, but being a step-father is vastly different than being a biological one. In this situation, both mother and father had joint custody.
I'd learned from relationships before that while the imminent presence of children requires time and effort, when they are safely in the hands of another parent, time remains for the development of a new relationship. This is where patience becomes a necessary virtue.
She was ashamed, and I suppose I would have been as well, but she had no need to wear a scarlet letter. At least she had enough regard for me to explain herself. The beginning had been promising, but after the first bender, our relationship dynamic changed dramatically. At first, she was upset but tolerant, willing to strike a bargain with me. She didn't want the kids to see me drunk, so I did my drinking in secret, usually after they'd gone to bed at night.
She was already hyper-attuned to the idea that any relationship would eventually self-destruct. In therapy these past few days, I've learned that she was a believer in the concept of self-sabotage. This is why I awoke one morning before work to find that the whole of my possessions that I'd left at her place had been placed in a cardboard box and left on the hood of my car. This didn't seem necessary, nor fair, but no man was going to jeopardize the health and well-being of her kids. This was entirely her right, but I do wish she'd gone about it in a different way.