There's this sick game I play and maybe you do it too. It's probably mostly alcoholics like me who can spot a bottle a mile away. Like a twisted game of booze bingo. And then I make up stories of the people who left them there.
The self medication aftermath.
Is there a reason they're called shots?
I know it when I see it. The throwaway. The left behind. The "my shell is still here even though what was inside is long gone". I know it because I was it.
Often found by train tracks but also in parks, forest preserves, depots and places where folks can hide in plain daylight because most don't want to see.
The black plastic bags that you know are packing a high alcohol content. Usually accompanied by someone walking on a highway or a road where you don't see anybody else walking. A desperate and oftentimes dangerous journey to get a fix.
I used to pour my booze into water bottles or tupperware containers to be less conspicuous. As if that's possible. I would throw my bottles away in far away places so no one would know. I had a million tricks. And they worked for a while, until they stopped. It's exhausting being an active alcoholic. Absolutely painfully exhausting.
I play this bottle spotting game not because it's fun or enjoyable. I play it because it's right there in front of our faces if we choose to acknowledge the darkness all around us. Inside us. These are people with stories and families and lives that went wrong. And chances are, it's us.
"I didn't know she was suffering." "He hid it so well." Until it was too late.
The suffering need a balm, a salve, and these bottles contain everything that will keep the sickness at bay. For a while. And then it's on to more more more.
The withdrawals are too strong. The delirium and the withdrawals threaten to take our lives and they sometimes do and then it's too late.
- Alcohol withdrawal delirium is the most severe form of alcohol withdrawal.
- All heavy, long-term drinkers are at risk for alcohol withdrawal delirium.
- Alcohol withdrawal delirium can be fatal. It’s important to address issues with heavy drinking in a medical environment rather than trying it on your own.*
Read number 3 again. You know it when you see it. You know what precedes it but you don't know what will follow it each time. Most times may be ok, but what about the time it isn't?
I went through alcohol withdrawal on my own a few times (unspeakable) and also in a hospital detox center a couple times (still terrible). I wound up in the psych ward because the delirium became too much for a time. I vividly remember the spiders crawling all over the walls and myself - neither of which were real. Hallucinations and the sweating and the nausea and the dehydration and the heart racing out of control. The anxiety attacks. The fear. FEAR FEAR FEAR.
I've never been so scared as when faced with the idea of being sober. Hell, I'm still scared. One of the hardest things to do in this life is ask for help. And in recovery, you just need to keep asking for help. Reaching out and helping others is what it's about.
People are scared. People see no other way. There is another way, they just may need a little help crossing over into a safe space. Without judgment or fear of reprisal. They may not be ready. They may never be ready.
Detoxing is not painless, but I'll tell you that medical professionals can monitor your vitals and keep you afloat until you are through the fucking fire. This is nothing to take lightly and think you can do yourself.
This - alcoholism and addiction - is nothing to be ashamed of. THIS IS NOTHING TO BE ASHAMED OF. The only way this stigma loses it's power is if we keep talking about it OUT LOUD and sharing our stories. We need to stop whispering about this. I am not a whisper. It's what we do as humans, we try to hide our pain. Until it stops working and we need to try to face it head on and actually deal with it. Some never do. And that ALSO deserves no condemnation. Can we just grant each other some grace?
My heart breaks for all those out here hiding in plain sight, continuing to self-medicate because they are too afraid to ask for help. It doesn't have to be this way. IT SHOULD NOT HAVE TO BE THIS WAY.
Please pay attention to yourself and those you love. I know it's hard. I know people have hurt you beyond belief. But this is real and this is killing people every day. I get hurt every single day, I get burned by folks who say they are ok when they are clearly not ok. Get to a hospital and worry about the rest later.
I didn't get my life back when I got sober. I face a rocky climb in my head each day, but if I continue to choose that climb, it will keep me moving up onto the next right thing. Misery is always refundable. You check off enough boxes, you get bingo.
I will probably be a bottle spotter the rest of my life. And that's ok. I don't want to forget or choose not to see who is out there. Or in here.
* This is a great article detailing warning signs and timelines of typical alcohol withdrawal symptoms -
Alcohol Withdrawal Delirium
Thanks so much for reading! If you like what you read, I encourage you to share the love by sharing this post.
To get my blog delivered directly to your inbox, type your email address in the box and click the "create subscription" button. My list is completely spam free, and you can opt out at any time.