Updated: Feb 9, 2020
In the summer of 2018, I found myself begrudgingly googling “am I an alcoholic” and taking online quizzes that, without doubt, sipped out “you are a heavy drinker.” Those closest to me were torturing me with “you need help,” and my wife had joined Al-anon.
Why would I need help? I’m successful, by most logical measures of society. I’m physically fit and had just completed my first triathlon in which I placed second in my age division. I’ve traveled to places most people can only reach in their wildest dreams. I have solid friendships. I’m highly employable and pay my bills on time.
What most did not know, including myself, was that I was actively suicidal. I would sit at bars, plotting out how to end my life — jumping off the bay bridge — driving my car off a cliff — cutting my wrist in the same place I had done so before, where the scar still lives. Refilling my Ativan perspective and downing it with my favorite bottle of red.
Once after a day and a night of binge drinking, I started my journey towards the bay bridge. I did not have my car, so I began to walk and was rescued by a friend a mile into the journey. He swept me away, took me back to his apartment. My wife brought my anti-psychotic medication, and the feeling of killing myself faded. After a two-year rapid spiral down the path of despair, I refused to accept the alcoholic label.
Denial was my blanket of comfort. My life was increasingly becoming unmanageable, and my marriage was falling apart. I did what I knew best, escape. I planned a three-week holiday to Europe. Surely after some much-needed travel, I would return with a fresh perspective, piece back my life, amend my marriage, and returned to a new me.
It wasn’t until I was on my way to Europe; when I woke up with an oxygen tank strapped to my face, and a flight attendant asking me “are you okay?” that the thought of “oh, shit, I think maybe an alcoholic,” fleeted quickly for the first time. “We are considering an emergency landing,” she told me. “No, please do not do that, yes, of course, I am okay.”
I thought to myself; I simply stopped breathing because I accidentally OD on gin, wine, Ativan, and anti-psychotics. Whoops!
“I am so sorry. I am on a new medication, and I must have reacted to the high dosages while flying. I apologies. How odd. I am certainly upset my psychiatrist did not warn me about this side effect.” I told the flight attendant, my wife, and my best friend. For the first time, I was scared, and I needed to tell those closest to me, I was approaching death. But I still was not ready to say to them why, because I wasn’t ready to tell myself the truth.
I landed in Oslo and continued with my binge drinking, believing the story I had told not just to those around me, but to myself. Then came the Barcelona weekend, one week later, where I spent three mornings waking up in the clothes from the night before, got under ten hours of sleep, and drank myself into a panic attack on my way to Bordeaux, France.
By the grace of a beautiful human, who I met in line at the ticket counter as we both embarked to France, I landed safely at Airbnb, where I was staying at for four nights. Her driver took me straight to the front door of the flat, where I would spend two days detoxing. I had rented a beautiful Airbnb flat in the countryside of France. For forty-eight hours I quivered and wetted myself in cold salty sweat pouring out of my skin. Thank goodness I detoxed with enough time left to stop by shaky hands with French Bordeaux wine. I spent the remaining of my time in France laid up in bars. Traveling from one barstool to another with my only love — red wine.
The panic came again. Now, at the train station leaving Orleans, France for Brussel, Belgium. On October 20, 2018, the panic arrived, but this time it came with a clear knowing, “I am going to die.” Fuck!
I arrived at the downtown Belgium flat and once again spent my entire time detoxing, tucked away under white stranger sheets. I had finally reached my bottom. I did not find it in the San Francisco Tendornie District nor behind bar cells, nor walking the streets homeless, nor inside a mental institution. I found it traveling through Europe drinking red wine and praying I would not die before landing back in the states.