Hi… my name’s Dean, and I’m an alcoholic.
The story is complicated, as is the story of every addict. It complicates everything in life… it seeps into the crevices of life that would seemingly require no trouble at all. Let’s just say this… I have consumed more alcohol in the shower and in bed than most people do on a New Years bender. What I’m saying, is that if I am actively in my addiction, I can’t function… I can’t answer the phone… without alcohol. Or drugs.
I had my first drink at ten. It has been pointed out that when I was ten, the sexual abuse stopped. Something to ponder, but I was headed in that direction regardless. If nothing else, I am biologically programmed to be addicted to anything that will get me high. That’s par for the course for the men in my family. All but a few have escaped. If it’s not drugs and alcohol, it’s gambling or sex and whatever else I’m still unaware of. Things come out in bits and pieces. Where I should be completely unmoved, I find myself blown away that people I have known since childhood are hiding secrets… big ones.
Here is the rub… I wanted to be an addict. When I was young, I knew I would eventually do cocaine, and I knew how it would feel. I was right. I knew I would eventually be confronted with the needle. Lo and behold… I got there.
This isn’t about drug porn… war stories or some sense of danger that might make me feel “edgy”. The last time I shoved a needle in my arm was in March of 1997. That was scary. Cocaine and heroin in one blast… speedballs. How I survived is beyond me. Here is a story my parents don’t need to know about…
Sometime around 1996 or ’97, I was drinking and playing guitar in an empty house. My friend in danger… who is still a friend since we were thirteen… shot me up with heroin. I overdosed, ran out of the house, and knocked myself out by clotheslining a tree with my face. The cure? A crazy ride across town in a stolen car to get a bag of coke. Ever see ‘Pulp Fiction’? Think of the giant needle in Uma Thurman’s chest to revive her heart. Well, all that was available was cocaine. He shot me up with cocaine, I was back on the tracks, and the night went on.
That story scares me. I often try and imagine these things didn’t happen, but then the other parties confirm my adventures.
I first got sober on April 17th, 2004. It was a gift from The Goddess… The Universe. I was saved. The night before, I was ready for death. One can only overdose or end up in the hospital fighting for life so many times before they lose that fight.
I’ve done it all. Well… I haven’t licked those frogs in South America that Sting and Trudy probably enjoy. But, other than that, you name it. All of it, all methods of… insertion. Hey, I have shoved pills up my ass. What the hell? I’ve got a mouth.
I love getting high. I really do. There are drugs I still play with that don’t haunt me or put me in dangerous situations. I’ve been known to smoke weed like a Rastafarian. I don’t make any bones about that, nor do I endorse it. I don’t drink now. I don’t put thing in my nose. I have been in the same space with another as they overdose and die. I didn’t hang around that night. I know too many people who are damaged or dead by stroke… methamphetamines and cocaine are killers.
Basically, I like to travel. I don’t have a moral problem with it. I will not deny the fact that some things that might raise eyebrows are fun. I don’t live the lie of the “Drug War”.
But, for the rest of my life, I will have to be on constant, high alert. Always. Fortunately, I have friends that support me with love and courtesy. People don’t drink around me. Many of them help me celebrate my current state of… not drunk. That my family has stood by me through all of this is a true miracle… and a good picture of the love we have. I am blessed beyond words.
I am blessed, but like all addicts, there is a scary monster outside. I have a “No Soliciting” sign on my door, but the super creep waits patiently. I have been in many an AA meeting during which someone was celebrating twenty-five or more years of sobriety. Still, almost every day, they think about using. It doesn’t go away. You may think it does… but that’s not real. You can battle and succeed, but the term “Mexican Standoff” comes to mind. “Draw, motherfucker”! Who shoots first wins. Free will comes with a price, and life gets weird.
So, whenever I sweet the floor and use the dust pan, the lines of dust and lint drive me over the edge. Lines of anything make me think of cocaine… the junior menace that likes to hang out in alcohols guest house. I like the fast stuff. Now that I think about it, I like the slow stuff, too. I’ve had to come clean a couple of times in the last couple of years. I have stolen opiates from my fathers private space, and that’s scary. It’s not so much the drugs themselves, it’s the violation of a loved ones sacred spots… draws and cabinets in their bedroom. I don’t mind the high… I hate the invasion of peoples safe places. It makes them not safe. Once again, I am sorry dad.
I could go on and on about the disrespect I have shown towards people who I care about. I could talk forever about misadventure and really, really bad behavior. I am not a quiet addict… I explode and throw whatever inhibitions I might have right out the window. I’m sure things will seep out, but to sit down and recall the entire story… that’s an epic. I was constantly wasted from ten to thirty four. That’s a lost weekend, for sure. I have missed out on family and normalcy. Now, I am beginning to find comfort in a much quieter life, but it’s odd. The man who fell to Earth.
Why do I fight this? Why am I not drinking? I don’t know. The birth of my daughter did not help. The constant fear of death didn’t make me sit up and take notice. No… it was a blessing, a miracle, and while I do play a huge part in that, a lot of it is just an indescribable gift. I don’t look it in the mouth.
Dual diagnosis is not uncommon among the mentally ill community. I can see now that self-medication plays a huge role in mental illness. In and of itself, addiction is mental illness. Whereas I used to think of my using as part of my personality… being big, tripping the light fantastic. Now I know that it also helps me hide… numb out. However, the cure is the curse. Getting loaded is the answer to getting loaded. An addicts life is a twenty-four-seven endeavor. One of the main reasons alcohol is the big one, is that it is almost constantly available. I don’t have to deal with “The Man”. Hey! It’s legal. I can walk into Albertsons at exactly seven in the morning, and there you go… alcohol. All I need is a little money, and I’m good. The things I do to get that money are degrading. Seeing the clerk at the counter look at me with sadness can only be wiped out by those first few swallows of alcohol in the store’s bathroom. All of the sudden, all is well! How can I knock that?
It’s sad, seeing someone in so much pain, that the medical community and those around them cannot provide enough comfort to get through. It’s just as sad to know that getting loaded is looked at as a personality flaw. Often, it’s just the struggle to keep the monsters at bay. Invite them in, and they’ll stop knocking on the door. Who wouldn’t seek solace? Cutting is the same thing. It sounds ridiculous, but it works. Whatever gets you through the night.
So, maybe what I always thought of as fun… a key to a world that only exists in most peoples imagination. I’ve done and seen some impressive stuff thanks to getting loaded. A lot of fun… payments with lifelong interest that makes my student loans look like gladly paying you next Tuesday for a cheeseburger today. Addiction always involves “I’ll deal with the consequences later”. Always. Somehow, I was always able to replace the hundreds of dollars I used to steal… yes, I was a thief… for cocaine. Addicts are very industrious. I’ve heard over the years… many, many times in rehab… that if an addict could channel his or her energy into something good, there’d be a much different list on ‘Forbes’ most rich and powerful list. Hundreds of dollars a day. Always replaced, and I don’t know how. Thievery. Shame.
Do I miss alcohol and cocaine? No. I really don’t. I don’t ever see myself ever shooting, smoking, or snorting hard narcotics again. But that isn’t any guarantee I won’t go back to other things. Alcohol is a constant. It’s there… like my mother’s cookies hidden in a plastic bag in the cupboard in the kitchen. They are there. I could eat them… God knows I want to… but I don’t. Usually. It’s there… what I do about it is all my responsibility. Once the ball starts rolling, it gets bigger, faster, and out of control. It’s hardwired into my very being.
There is a prize in all of this. I have found that I am still funny, eccentric, and a great person without it. It’s frightening to think that I am not really “Dean” without it. Turns out, I am… I am more me, and the people around me love it. The comfort is in that I don’t need to be loaded to deal with people… situations. It may be hard, but it’s harder waking up every morning wondering what the hell happened the night before. I am a blackout drunk, and that sets the stage for many an unpleasant surprise. A beach covered with eggshells that I have to tiptoe through to get to the truth of the sea.
There is a beauty in getting through all of this. On April 17th of 2004… the most important date of my life… I shed so much ugliness. Addicts lie. Addicts carry resentments. Addicts hide from themselves. Confronting the person that has been hiding inside… the essence… is terrifying. One wonders whether or not if they are nothing but their addiction. Taking off the mask… the armor… feels like peeling off your skin and rubbing salt all that is underneath.
I lost most of my resentments. I became honest… about who I am, and who I was. I now accept my actions. I am apologetic where I once was accusatory and angry. It’s all still a work in progress, but the payoff is wonderful. Raw, vulnerable, but wonderful. People actually accept me for the person who held on inside… hoping against hope to escape and join life.
Someone once asked me if I was an honest person. Basically, I am… I hide a lot, but I also come out a lot more. Anyhow, this friend posed the question, and I had to come up with an honest answer. Addicts lie. They will protect their addiction at all costs. Well, I was using from wake to sleep… so I was basically lying around the clock. That’s a realization that really moves a person who does have a sense of honor. Love for others. It’s like stabbing oneself in the heart every day. It’s denying loved ones the pure self that they love. Life becomes surreal… like a Jackson Pollock made of blood.
I have become compassionate towards those with troubles… my roaring judgements have turned into empathy and understanding. My self-esteem looks like the stage after a Who concert. Blown up and fractured. But, I am terribly proud to have come out as a better person… a man with his own sense of honor.
Would I change anything? No. All roads lead to my daughter… and an opportunity to start life at forty-four years old. I have some much time to make up for, but if I did something differently on a Wednesday twenty years ago, things would be different… maybe in a good way, but I wouldn’t take the chance if it presented itself. This is despite pain that has barely begun to scab over. But, I shouldn’t be alive… and I am. I still have the qualities and talents that were always there… hiding under a blanket.
I have learned things that nobody could experience without going through hell. I wish I could be here without the memories and the monster lurking… but that’s a parlor game… wishing for things to be different. I’m haunted, but what can I do? It is what it is.
Oddly, I have very few regrets. They exist, but one would think that I had nothing but regrets. I am going to tell a little story that involves deep regret. I will go to the grave with it.
I was introduced to methamphetamines in a rehab clinic in St Helens, Oregon. Funny that. I fell into a small group who lived that life to the hilt.
A few months after my release from treatment, I traveled to Tillamook to stay with some girls I met there. Bad idea. The house was full of adults… and a few very young children. The snorting and smoking went on in full view of these young ones. And I was right in the middle of it. Feeling ugly and out of control. Meth does that. A little meth means you need more. The joke is this… what do people on cocaine do? More cocaine. I’ve never heard it put any better than that.
Well, this situation was already a horror show. These children watching their parents and a bunch of strangers suck the thick white smoke out of glass pipes.
The second and last night I spent there on the couch… nowhere close to asleep… the horror show became… I don’t know.
As I was laying in the dark, the youngest daughter… maybe six-years old… climbed under the covers with me. I spent what seemed like hours pushing her out. I figured I’d be fighting this until the dawn. Then things became unbearable… terrifying. This poor little child jumped on top of me and began fighting to get her tongue in my mouth. I did not wait for the dawn… I jumped up, and went out to the bay and watched the moon set… trying to get an answer from the universe.
It is my absolute belief, that this little girl was acting out something that had been going on under that roof. She was small. She was sweet. And she was strong. This little body was pinning me down. I can kick a six-year old’s ass. But I was at an absolute loss. I was also scared. How does that look? An adult wrestling a child on a couch in the dark? The possibilities are beyond words.
A regret. Why did I no call child services? This was not a situation that was going to be fixed with parenting classes… this was a full blown emergency. And I did nothing. I left… with nothing but confusion and revulsion. In hindsight, I didn’t save this little person. She was already on the abuse train, going full steam. Children don’t do that unless they are being molested. That is my only conclusion.
The memory only gets worse. Where is she now? Is she damaged goods? My fear actually grows when I think of what could have happened. This situation could have turned into a story about some guy in the dark with a child attacking him? I know what I would think if I walked in on that and only saw the implications.
So, I split. My girlfriend came and got me, then we went to her vacation home just down the road. We were both still using… less, but still using. She took her madness back over to the house of horrors with a butcher knife in her hand. I don’t know what happened there, and I don’t want to know.
That is where drugs can take you. You can find yourself in peril that you never imagined. And you find that you put yourself there over and over.
A mandatory reporter would have a heyday with this. It has come very close to that, but mostly I mourn my lack of action. Considering my past, why I didn’t kills me… especially since I didn’t do anything. Drugs didn’t have anything to do with my inaction… a total lack of experience in that kind of situation rendered me useless. And that’s a regret.
Children are such innocent victims in all of this.
Another horror story. Another guy I met in rehab introduced me to the deep, underground of meth. He was involved in production… on a large scale. He carried a gun, he was printing money, he was driving around with ounces in his car. Speaking of which, he would buy a new car with cash every few weeks. His paranoia made it so he was living on the run… which he was.
Well, one day, he picked me up… along with his scarcely dressed and thoroughly malnourished, live in sex toy. Her little daughter was in the car as well. She was cute, intelligent, funny, and seemingly unaware that her diaper needed changing, and that she was in the company of three adults who were smoking meth like it was oxygen.
We went out to his farmhouse, and sat at the kitchen table for probably twelve hours… smoking, smoking, smoking. As all of this was going on, this little girl was running around… watching us, and behaving as though this was what life was. That’s the scary part.
I did this. I sat at that table, with a child in the room, smoking crystal methamphetamine. The whole time… every second… my thoughts were with this girl. I chose to sit there and to that. I wanted to go home so badly, and the only thing that kept me from doing so, was the need… the constant need to smoke more. Two minutes of bliss and shame, followed by thirty seconds of waiting for that glass to come back around so I could get back to that bliss. Bliss with shame. Oh, I forgot to mention that her mother was sitting in the corner the whole time watching hardcore pornography.
I did that. I am a father, and I am a human. But, I did that. It wasn’t me as a witness or a fly on the wall. I did that.
My time with meth was relatively brief… several months. Even so, it took me months to recover from the damage. Twenty-four-plus years of drinking didn’t do near the psychic damage as that short dalliance with what I consider the most evil drug out there. That I came out the other side… I don’t know. Luck. Again, it’s easier to drink than it is to wait on the man and skirt danger at every turn. Not that alcohol hasn’t put me in some situations that would turn anyone gray.
Story after story could be told. Many of them hilarious. Many frightening. That’s not my focus here. I will present some of the loonier, somewhat less harmful tales as things roll along. Although there are many of them, there are far more I don’t remember at all. For fear of getting the details wrong, I will avoid them, unless I have an accurate reporter to let me in on how exactly I wound up naked in a parking lot one night in my wife’s car… with about seven little kittens. They finally made it back home, but I never did find my clothes. That’s kind of a running theme in my life… even now. As my daughter used to say… “Naked and free”!
I love that little girl.
“Fat, drunk, and stupid is no way to go through life, son” – Dean Wermer (‘Animal House’… awesome movie!)
RIP John Belushi.