Monday, May 29, 2006

Detox (Part 1)

I wake up in the motel room on top of the covers, the television is blaring "Good Morning America" and I reach for the square bottle of rye whiskey on the floor next to me, positioned just above my hand. I take a big swig, chugging, while trying not to taste it. I hate rye whiskey. It always makes me feel sick.

I sit up, drunkenly light a cigarette, and take another taste. Like vodka, it burns in a good way on my anestheticized throat, but finishes with an awful taste of brown poison. There's still a quarter of the 500 mL bottle left. The half case of beer sits untouched at the end of the bed - I don't like beer either. I try to remember how many days I've been here in this motel room, drinking my face off. Five, I think.

I wouldn't normally buy rye whiskey or beer, but when I called a taxi at 4am a few hours earlier, I had no vodka left. And there were no liquor stores open. I was hungry, having not eaten for a couple of days, so I thought I'd go to the 7-11 and get something full of carbs to eat. Plus I was beginning to get the shakes.

The taxi guy drove me to the 7-11, which was surprisingly busy for 4am, and I picked up a burrito and some more smokes. On the way back to the motel room my mind schemed on a way to get some more alcohol. From my experiences in Vancouver, taxi drivers were a sleazy bunch, and usually knew where to get anything if you asked. I looked him over - about 40, looking a little beat up himself, a guy's guy. So I asked him, "Do you know where to get any alcohol at this time of morning?"

I'm one of those drunks who doesn't slur or appear as drunk as I am. Unfortunately it lets me get away with a lot more than those who show it.

"At this time? Ah, no." He said, sounding surprised, but not disgusted with my question.

"That's too bad. I could use some," I replied.

He was silent for a while, then said, "I guess I've got a bottle of rye whiskey at home."

"Oh yeah," I replied, interested. I'm hoping he wasn't inviting me over to drink it with him. I stayed silent.

"A buddy gave it to me a few months ago and I haven't touched it. It's a really good quality one."

"Sounds good," I say, then hand him a $50 bill.

Within minutes we stopped at his place, and he came back with the whiskey and also half a dozen beers. What a nice guy! I thought. But isn't it obvious to him I'm an alcoholic and its 4am, and what the fuck is he doing supplying me with all that booze? I wouldn't do it if the positions were reversed, no matter how much money someone offered me. Even in my state I'm seething inside at what a lack of morals he demonstrates, but thankful for them at the same time.

Because everything's 12 minutes away in this small town, I was back in my motel room within 30 minutes of leaving, bottle of rye in hand, trying not to throw up as I poured enough in me until I felt that Glow, and my hands stopped shaking.

I hadn't drank rye since I was a teenager, and worked as a busboy at the Four Seasons. Because it was my job to fill up the flambe carte for the servers, I had access to the cheap rye whiskey they used to make the steak flambe. I drank bottles and bottles of it, until I used to puke my guts up. I remember meeting some gay friends for breakfast one morning after drinking the night away with this cheap rye, still drunk, eating an omlette and puking it up before I reached the toilet, while everyone in the restaurant watched the vomit splash all over the washroom door. No more rye whiskey for me until now.

I'm a confirmed vodka drinker.

It's now 8am, and I look down at the rye, wondering how I'm going to finish it. I'm feeling very sick...not like I'm going to throw up, but more like...poisoned at the cellular level. I crack a beer, sip it, and then smoke a cigarette while trying to get the rest of it down.

I try to remember what I've been doing for the last five days, and when and where I ate last. I seem to be lucid at the moment, but the last several days have been a blur. I search my memories nervously, hoping not to run into anything too embarrassing.

I remember a few trips to the liquor store. There's one a few blocks away, next to the 7-11. The Alberta government privitized all the liquor stores several years back, so now there's one every few blocks, all with huge neon sizes advertising "beer, wine, liquor." I'm always nervous when I walk into one - particularly when I'm drunk. I'm afraid they'll realize I'm drunk and won't let me buy another bottle...but so far that's never happened in my entire life. I remember going in on a Saturday night, and the store was full of early 20-somethings, all full of laughter and party-energy, their parked SUVs out front blasting music. Cute guys, cute girls.

I remember going to the motel's restaurant on the second night and eating something. Maybe it was lunch. I remember going to the lounge that evening. I had just had my hair cut, and I was wearing a nice black shirt and pants, and looked pretty decent. I barely remember talking with a group of young people, in their 20s, buying each other drinks, and them showing me how to use the gambling machine. I'd never used one before, and didn't find it very exciting. (Fortunately I don't have the gambling addiction.) I remember sitting with three other people at a booth - I'm not sure if it was that evening or another evening. I remember the girl telling me that I could pass for 33 years old.

When I tried going to the lounge another evening, the door person told me they wouldn't serve me, because I had offended a couple of their customers. I don't have a clue what I did, but I politely apologized and left quietly. I wonder if I asked one of the guys to come up to my motel room and have sex? I don't know, but it sounds familiar.

I remember watching my favourite shows on Monday night, but I see moments of scenes, that actually look blurred in my mind. I couldn't tell you what happened.

I'm not drunk enough, I think. I go back to the rye, trying to swallow it. I do, but I realize I feel so ill that I simply cannot drink any more. I lie down, feeling pain all over my body. It's not in any specific place - it's all over my body. I realize I've never felt this sick before from drinking, hell, I've rarely ever had a hangover - at least not a debilitating one. I'm scared. I wonder if I've got alcohol poisoning. I know it's from that stupid rye - it always does me in.

I realize I've gone too far with this drinking bit. I sit up, get the yellow pages, and look up "detox centres." I've never gone to one, and it frightens the fuck out of me, but I know I need help. I call one, and they tell me they have room. Apparently I'll have to spend the day and night in their "observation room" on a mattress on the floor until I'm no longer drunk.

I then call my parents and tell them, "I'm ready to go into detox, they have room."

My mother is so relieved, and says she'll be there in 10 minutes. I glide my way over to the washroom, wash my face, comb my hair and brush my teeth. I throw together the few things I have, and wait downstairs for my parents to arrive. I'm not looking forward to it - I'll be there for 7 days, but I'm afraid that if I continue drinking I'll die.

To be continued...

Sunday, May 28, 2006

The Sergeants and other stories from rural Australia

I came across the excellent writing of Simon, a guy living in a small town Australia, who has a blog called Homefront Radio. Originally started to document his songwriting process, the blog has developed into a remarkable depot of fascinating and deeply moving short stories about his past relationships, childhood and reflections on Australian culture and society at large. There are too many stories to list that deeply affected me, but here are two with which to start:

The Sarge Series

The Sarge Opts Out (Masculinity Redefined) Part 1

The Sarge Opts Out (Masculinity Redefined) Part 2

The Sarge Opts Out (Masculinity Redefined) Part 3

The Sarge Opts Out (Masculinity Redefined) Part 4

The Other Sgt. Series

The Most Appalling Thing I’ve Ever Done (The Other Sarge) Part 1

The Most Appalling Thing I’ve Ever Done (The Other Sarge) Part 2

I hope you enjoy them as much as I do. Simon's writing has re-inspired me to continue writing, so I shall be posting soon.