Wake Up Call

Updated: Mar 8

If I hold still, and pretend to be asleep, maybe I’ll be able to figure out what’s going on before anyone knows I’m awake. My mind is racing as I try to piece together the events of the last few days. I need to go to the bathroom so bad but try to ignore it. Who is this strange young man sitting on a chair reading a magazine? Where is this place? Why can’t I move my hands and feet? Am I in jail? Am I handcuffed? Did I drive high again and get another DUI? Shit! Why can’t I remember? I try desperately to sink into myself. If I try hard to act like I’m asleep maybe, I’ll fall asleep and not have to be here… here in consciousness, here in this place. I just know I do not want to be here, wherever “here” may be. I believe that it's still night, and it’s quiet, like the many nights I laid awake in my own bed feeling safe wrapped up in the blanket of the night. The hours in the middle of the night always felt safe to me. Those nights when I didn’t even look at the time, because time didn’t matter. There was night and there was day. At night, I didn't have to answer the phone, (not that it ever rang much, to begin with), or answer to anyone; that precious time before the alarm would sound when I’d have to call out sick from work again; before anyone knew I wasn’t going to be able to function; those moments that still had hope that I would wake up feeling normal and not have to puke. Those days would tick by so slowly before I could refill my prescription. I knew if I could just make it to the day, I could get my script filled, without anyone noticing, I could go on pretending to be normal. I’d lay there dreading that first light of dawn and the sounds of the birds chirping. I hated those birds on those days so much. Didn’t they know I couldn’t wake up that day? Didn’t they know I ran out of drugs? The sheer dread of opening my eyes to see that empty bottle of pills perched on my bedside table was palpable. Why didn’t I save just one so I could wake up and get ready for work? If I had just one, I could prevent the inevitable puking to come; not that one was ever enough. But it’s all I could think about. Why did I have to take the last two last night? Now I would have to make it through the next four days in agonizing withdrawal. My dog wouldn’t be walked, my dishes wouldn’t be washed, and my teeth wouldn’t be brushed. I would try to sleep through those days and nights. I’d periodically pop out of bed to search through my sock drawers, my pockets, the rug under my bed praying to find just one. But I never found one and sleep would never come.

Suddenly, I realize that I must have dozed off for a while because the room was now bright. Little shears of sunshine hit my eyes like shards of glass. I hear those familiar, annoying birds and think, just for a moment, that I’m home in my bed. But I am not. I am back in this unfamiliar, hellish place. I slowly open my eyes to see where I was. I see a tv on the wall. I see a table on wheels with a pink plastic pitcher and its matching cup. Then the burning in my groin reminds me I still haven’t peed. I try to get up but realize I am still tied to the bed. My hands and feet are restrained. I still don’t want anyone to know I’m awake because I still don’t know what happened to me, so, I close my eyes and let the urine flow out of me. I feel proud of myself for the idea. It gives me more time to lay there unnoticed; time to try to remember how I got here.

As I lay in my own hot urine, I start to remember things. I remember getting the prescription and knowing I couldn’t take one until I got home this time. The last time I did that, I fell asleep at the wheel and got arrested for a DUI. Did I do it again? Am I in jail? Why am I chained to this bed? I start having a full panic attack. I try to breathe and calm myself down, I cannot let them know I’m awake yet! Suddenly, I remember, feeling actual pride that I had not used and drove this time. I remember, with pride, making it to the toilet bowl and didn’t puke all over the carpet. I remember, with pride, thinking how my body was so smart, forcing me to throw up so I wouldn’t overdose on the many pills I had taken. I feel proud that I had fed my dog half of a frozen pizza at some point in the last day or so and that I sprayed Pine Sol to cover the stench. I feel proud that I have a script for the pills, and I wasn’t buying them off the streets. I feel weirdly proud of these things. Then I remember I am currently tied to a bed. At that moment, I feel something, and this feeling is not pride.

As the fog begins to lift, things are coming back to me. I remember something someone in one of those meetings they made me attend as part of the whole DUI arrest thing. I don’t know why I remember anything from those stupid meetings, or why it’s coming back to me now. I always sat in the back, didn’t participate, looking aimlessly through my phone, and always felt that I didn’t belong. I wasn’t like them. I just take prescription pills. I’m not that kind of addict. For some reason, I recall someone saying, “You can lose the desire to use and find a new way to live.” As I lay like a dog chained to a fence, those words come back to me. I feel strangely calm.

Suddenly, I hear a voice. It startles me, so I open my eyes. I feel tricked. I still don’t want anyone to know I was awake yet. I was found out.“Can you hear me?” the voice said. “I'm. Schatz. You’re in the hospital.” At that moment, I had no choice, I open my eyes. The fuzziness that was the security blanket, disappeared. I was present in the moment. The doctor asks me if I was trying to kill myself. I tell him the truth. I do not want to die; I just didn’t want to be awake. He asked me if I needed to go rehab.“I’m not an addict, you idiot,” I think to myself. Instead I reply, “I’m fine”, trying to sound convincing, “it was an accident doctor.” But, of course, I know I need help. I just wouldn’t ever admit that out loud. I feel proud that I manipulate him into believing me like I’d done so many times before. Us addicts are the best manipulators.

He leaves me, still restrained, for what seemed like an eternity. My head is completely clear at this point. The drugs must have left my system. I haven’t felt this clear in years. In that moment of true clarity, those words I heard in that 12-step meeting echo in my head again.“You can find a new way to live.” I think to myself, my body tied to a bed, covered in day-old vomit and fresh urine, “anything had to be better than this.”

The doctor must have believed me because a nurse returns and removes the leather restraints without a mention of the whole weird situation. I appreciate her kind eyes and her closed mouth. I can only imagine what she was thinking. She asks me if I need anything and assures me that my daughter would be here soon to take me home. She hands me papers to sign and a plastic bag and tells me to change. She points to the pile of my clothes, neatly folded on the chair where that strange young man sat just hours earlier. I eagerly follow her direction. At that moment, I went from being a prisoner in my own mind, and in that bed, to a normal person, being discharged from the hospital.I know I must make a change if I am going to live.

It took an overdose of sleeping pills to wake me up! The next day, I find an NA meeting. This time, I sit in the front row. I raise my hand and say, with pride, “My name is Eileen and I’m an addict.” Four years, 3 months, and 5 days later, I am still clean. One day at a time, with the help of my sponsor, my new friends, and the 12 steps, I truly have found a new way to live.

“Any addict seeking recovery can lose the desire to use drugs and find a new way to live.” (Narcotics Anonymous, Basic Text)

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