The Last Hangover...
Updated: Mar 22, 2019
Twenty-four years ago, I woke up on this day and my life was a total mess. I woke up at someone else’s home. I had thrown things and broken things that were not mine. I had a black eye, busted lip and too many bruises on my body to count. I recall waking up on my only girlfriend’s couch with a feeling of confusion and dread. I did not have total recall of the night before and felt panicky and sick. My head hurt...badly. My mouth was dry and I felt like someone had hit the slo mo button on my ability to ambulate. I was hung hard.
This was not a particularly novel morning...a lot of mornings started this way. I mean like most. Like almost all of them. I drank to excess at night and usually woke up with this heaviness in my head and soul. The lightness, if there was anyway from the night before, gone...vanished like the whisky and beer from their bottles. Only shattered glass remnants of their existence remained. And that was how I felt...broken, smashed (literally).
I had little recall of what had happened the night before. All my mornings started off this way, trying to piece together the night before. I did my morning inventory:
Body - I walked into the bathroom and was a little shocked at my face. One of my eyes was black and I had a cut on my upper lip. As I scanned myself in the full length mirror, I began counting the bruises - I got to 27 before I lost interest; becoming hyper focused on the fact that I could not really remember what happened the night before. There was a large blank spot where I should have memory.
Events - I knew the day before I had gone to school which was something to celebrate since I was going less and less frequently those days. I knew my dad and I went to a hockey game. I knew we drank a lot while at the game. I knew I was invited to the after party and I called my only girlfriend to go with me. I recalled she wasn’t really happy to be going out with me but said she would. I did not remember how I got to the bar or when my girlfriend showed up. Maybe I picked her up - maybe she drove her own car. I remembered sitting on the deck at the outside bar doing shots of God knows what. The next thing I remembered was waking up at Roseanne’s house befogged, parched and battered.
Spirit - Broken. Exhausted. Spent. Nothing new there.
I remember waking Roseanne up. I remember realizing I was supposed to have been at work two hours before. I was also due at class at some point in time but knew that would not be happening. I remember she was hard to wake and when she did rise, she was not happy with me. I quickly surmised that might be because of all the shit I broke in my stupor. I will never forget the look of pity on her face. I remember trying lamely to make a joke that would be dismissive of my havoc filled night. All she said was, “Yeah, you were an asshole last night.”
I quickly realized I needed to get the hell out of there. I had not returned home so my roommate who was barely speaking to me on a good day was probably wondering where was and if I was coming home to take care of my dog. She had become accustomed to feeding her and letting her out because I was often not there when morning broke. My residual panic was quickly magnified when Roseanne told me I called Jacquie at about 2 am repeatedly. I was annoyed she kept hanging up on me which is why I started throwing shit around. Great. Another morning of Jacquie judgment! Just what I needed.
I do not remember why but this guy Thomas was called to drive me back to my car. He was Roseanne’s pet guy. I called them pets (I had one too) because they were somewhat loyal men that showed up in our lives which we rewarded by housing and feeding them for a period of time. Just like a stray cat that appears out of nowhere, makes themselves at home for a time then vanishes without a trace when something better comes along. Maybe Thomas was there the whole time. I honestly don’t remember.
So Thomas with tons of body piercings, tattoos and blue hair drove Roseanne and I back to where I left my car. I insisted that my car was at the bar. Thomas and Roseanne insisted it was elsewhere. We argued. I still could not remember what happened after the shots at the bar. The two of them filled in the details on the drive...
Apparently when Roseanne showed up, I was already pretty much insanely drunk. This was not a new thing but my drinking had changed over the previous months. My high tolerance gone. Being someone that always prided herself on being the last woman standing, I was falling down a lot. When Roseanne walked in, I was in a thick of minor league hockey players, feeling no pain. I was engaging, laughing and probably had my sights set on some poor schmuck. Just another victim of my apathy and indifference. I really had little ability to care about anyone or anything...myself included. She sat down next to me and tried to catch up...she could not. What happened next is legendary. I am known throughout the recovery community for this next debacle...
I became engaged in conversation (if one can call it that) with one of the referees. We were having a lively and somewhat combative discussion of the night’s match. We disagreed on a few calls. Words were exchanged. I did not like his words and was offended. I felt he insulted me. I punched him in the face. He shoved me back. I stumbled but held my ground and then attacked him. The surrounding sea of hockey men jumped into the fray. Fists and elbows were thrown...bouncers were called. This fight scene was not a novel for me...they were happening with rhythmic regularity...but what happened next was new. The bouncers quickly surmised that I was the cause of all this trouble and grabbed me from the fray. I was pissed off further by their conduct and let them know my feelings with many expletives. I turned my rage onto them. They shoved me towards the door causing me to be launched down the flight of stairs landing with a hard bounce at the bottom. Roseanne walked by pretending not to know me. I scrambled to get up and follow her but I was having a hard time getting off the floor. I pitched down the hall after her where I found her waiting outside for a cab. (This was a fantastic idea but one that, in the moment, I did not agree with). I felt I could drive and proceeded over her strenuous objection to get into my car and drive. I was obsessed with the fact that my car would be towed out of the bar parking lot (completely untrue) so I felt that I had to park it somewhere else. I drove it to the next parking lot over before returning to the bar to await the arrival of the cabbie. I am forever thankful that I did not think that I could drive home that night.
The cab finally arrived; no uber back then. I was immediately excited because I thought the cabbie was cute. The feeling was not mutual. I chatted (I am using this term loosely) him up on the way home, while Roseanne sank into the backseat wishing she had not met me at the bar and just stayed home. When we arrived at Roseanne’s house, I invited the guy in over her adamant objection. He declined. I was perplexed and pissed off by being turned down by a cabbie. I became enraged again and started yelling at him. Roseanne dragged me into the house and up the stairs. I was pissed on a variety of levels and began breaking shit and calling people. Roseanne went to bed because arguing with me just made it worse.
The retelling of the night’s events were almost mythic because they bore little resemblance to my own recollection. While I had no reason to doubt her and Thomas’ rendition of the night just passed, I could not argue because I lacked factual command. I just had to sit there and take it as truth.
As I sat in the back of the car, soaking in the events of the night before, something happened to me. Looking back now, it feels like I sank into myself. Like my dead drunk weight became too much to bear, on some external level, so I collapsed into myself much like a box caves in from the weight of a child sitting on it. I sat there in the back seat completing disintegrating. All my constructs, beliefs and ideas about myself were now hollowed out and fictitious in the cold light of day. My head hurt, my body hurt more. I could no longer keep up the alternative reality that anything about my life was ok.
That is when I heard the still, small voice...it said:
“Erin, how many times are you going to do the same thing over and over again and expect something different to happen?”
I blurted out:
“I am going to get help today.”
Roseanne and Thomas turned around and looked at me. I am still not sure if it was hope or pity I saw on their faces. Probably more like relief that I would become someone else’s problem...
We arrived somewhere other than where I asserted my car was parked. That hit me hard. I was wrong. I mean completely wrong about the location of my car. That knowledge further cemented my sprouting belief that my life was a mess and that I had no real idea about what was going on.
I drove home drunk one last time, called in “sick” to work again. No Judging Jacquie present for my final walk of shame. I sat down in my living room, head in hand and stared off into space. I knew it was over. I knew I needed help. Sick, shaky and scared, I picked up the phone and called the only person I knew in recovery. She answered which was kind of a miracle since not too long before, in a drunken rage, I screamed/cursed at her and had not spoken to her since. But she answered my call and in so doing saved my life. I asked her to take me to a meeting. She surprised me by saying no...quickly adding that she would meet me there. She knew that the effort had to be mine. I had to have the courage to show up and walk through that door alone. She knew if she made too easy terms for me, I would resent her and never return. She knew me so well because she had been me a few years before. It was this intimate knowledge of my condition that saved my life. (Thank you, Eve!)
I quickly went to bed and passed out for the rest of the day. When I came to about 6 pm, I barely remembered calling her or making plans to show up at 8:15. For some reason, I did not renege, I did not cancel and I did not find some excuse. I took a shower, patched up my face and I showed up at the appointed time and place. I took the hugely important steps I needed to take to save my own life. My last hangover haunts me still. Every year when I think about this night, I can feel the hollowed out feeling in my body. The heaviness of my head. The darkness in my soul.
I will never forget walking up the steps to that house on Gadsden street...surrounded by darkness but walking toward the light filled room. That still small voice saying over and over, “It will be ok. It will be ok. It will be ok.” And it has been ok, actually it has been more than ok, for 24 years.
I feel the gratitude daily on my journey toward the light. I have kept walking toward the light filled room for a long time now. I feel immense blessed every year but I want to say a few things that I have not said heretofore:
Thank you Mr. Referee for kicking my ass.
Thank you Mr. Cabbie for not accepting my advances.
Thank you Roseanne for putting up with all my bullshit.
Thank you Thomas for driving me to my car.
Thank you Eve for taking my call.
Thank you still small voice for never leaving my side.
Thank you to the darkness within me for allowing that night to be the end.
Thank you last hangover for being relegated to the past.
Thank you to all of you who have supported me along the way.
Thank you God for allowing me to believe for that brief moment on March 21, 1995 that I was worth saving.