I remember very little of the events that transpired that night.
I DO remember the sinister invasion of my privacy in July by a former friend that was intended to humiliate me, and which planted a seed of distrust that sprouted into outright fear, and which I reacted to with an on-and-off, yet ever-increasing intake of drugs to combat that fear.
I DO remember taking the handful of Klonopin a few weeks back, getting into my car, turning the engine on and the surprisingly rapid accumulation of fumes in the garage. I have a scant recollection of calling my husband Patrick to say goodbye. I also retain the memory of the police pounding my home’s front door – having been notified by Patrick, as he was in Los Angeles at the time – and of dragging myself out of the car, pulling on a bathrobe and proceeding to talk my way out of being placed on a psychiatric hold.
What I DON’T remember is everything that followed in the next hours: the phone calls and texts to dear loved ones, accusing them of participating in some outlandish plot to drive me insane; many of these missives delivered with a cruelty I never thought myself capable of. Having assessed some of the damage by reviewing text messages and piecing together the details my husband has provided, it seems I operated almost methodically and with a thoroughness and precision of focus I wish I could practice in my waking life. I spared no one in my intimate circle of friends. Each and very one of them got a dose of my unrecollected insanity.
I don’t recall making a middle of the night, forty-five-minute drive to Palm Springs and checking into a cheap motel. In all my years of off-again, on-again drug use, I had never before experienced the phenomenon of a “blackout.” This was something other alcoholics would share about in meetings: waking up to find themselves in places they’d never been before and couldn’t identify, having absolutely no memory of how they got there, waking up next to strangers they had no recollection of meeting, let alone a memory of having fucked them. I never truly understood; couldn’t comprehend how someone could engage in so many activities that require at least rudimentary decision making and motor skills – particularly driving – while their brain tapes were recording none of it. I understand it now, unfortunately, and all too acutely. I may not remember any of it, but I did this. I. Did. This.
So I sit here now, the wreckage of this relapse piled shoulder-deep, trying to find some semblance of relief from the pain of knowing that I inflicted pain and hurt on those I love, fearful my friends will never forgive me for the worry I caused them, and knowing deep in my heart that this is probably the last chance I will have to get sober and stay sober. The odds feel decidedly against me, even as I re-commit myself to living clean and within the parameters of a twelve-step program, and to weekly therapy sessions with arguably the best therapist I’ve had in a lifetime of therapists. Perhaps it’s the total absence of what the Big Book calls the Sunlight of the Spirit that is engendering my rampant pessimism. Perhaps it’s the loneliness I feel now, or the blinding shame for what I’ve done, the damage I’ve caused, or all the hurt and worry that I inflicted on others.
Last night, in an AA meeting, the topic of discussion was self-pity, and how gratitude can pull us from even the deepest abyss if practiced regularly. I’ll admit that I’ve been wallowing quite a bit in that self-pitying place, aided mightily by the persistent dreams that continue to haunt me at night, dreams in which my self-loathing and shame are magnified to an almost unbearable level, and from which I wake, feeling pariah-esque, to face another day with yet another mountain waiting to be conquered. Another day to spend ruminating on when and how to apologize to those I hurt, though understanding that I cannot offer a true apology until I fully understand the depth and breadth of the harm I’ve caused, and that forgiveness is not guaranteed, regardless of the sincerity with which it is offered. Knowing that I am now that “toxic person” that all those internet memes direct healthy people to excise from their lives is a realization that is almost unbearable.
Today, I will focus on the few people who have made steps to forgive me, I will exercise gratitude for their willingness to try and see the good in me despite the vitriol and blind cruelty I spewed at them. I will thank God – as I understand God – for my Sponsor and dear friend Jonathan, who was the recipient of perhaps the most vicious of all those attacks of which I have no recollection, yet he found the capacity to forgive me. Once again, he has saved my life and reestablished my belief – however wavering – that I am someone still worthy of love. I will focus on my husband’s love, and his tenacity and commitment to never giving up on me, despite the rampages and bouts of insanity I have inflicted upon our marriage for the past twenty-six years.
I don’t know much, and even after nearly a decade of on-and-off involvement in twelve step programs, have much to learn. I do know one thing with absolute certainty, however: writing about the darkness has often helped elevate me out of it. I refuse to give in to the demon sitting on my shoulder and believe his lies about being a terrible person. I’m a good person who did some terrible things, and I believe that I am deserving of redemption, though the timetable for this redemption process is out of my control.
These are obstacles I’ve surmounted before; I have at times basked in that aforementioned sunlight. Yet I feel like an aging mountain climber assessing Everest before one last ascent. I feel too old; I fear climbing halfway only to plunge precipitously, yet again, into the crevasse of relapse. Tonight I will – as I have for almost every night for the last nine nights – drive to Palm Springs to attend a meeting, where I hope that I will (and perhaps this is too much to ask, and too quickly) feel the warmth of at least a small shaft of that elusive Sunlight.
“These are the days you might fill with laughter until you break
These days you might feel a shaft of light
Make its way across your face
And when you do you’ll know how it was meant to be
See the signs and know their meaning
You’ll know how it was meant to be
Hear the signs and know they’re speaking to you, to you”