A note from Ellie: This is the first of a weekly series I'm starting called "Truthful Tuesday".
Last week, I did a post about vulnerability and truth telling and asked for submissions - thank you to all who sent one in. I'm always looking for more, so if you are interested in sending a submission first read this post and then email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. This post happens to be about addiction/recovery, but that is NOT a requirement - any topic, as long as its YOUR truth, is good. Thank you.
A final note: It takes a lot of guts for people to write their truths, their vulnerabilities. PLEASE comment, especially if you can relate to what you read. Even if you can't, please recognize their bravery with a comment. Thank you.
Submitted by Jane
The Day After My Last Drink
I woke up to a grumbling kind of snore coming from across the room. As my eyelids fluttered open I could see the sunlight coming through a wire mesh in front of the window. The place smelled like a hospital, it was. I slowly began to put together some of the puzzle pieces of the night before.
From what I could remember it all started with a handful of Xanax, then beers, then I remembered the zip-lock bag full of pills I had put in my purse. I remembered telling the ambulance driver I didn’t need to go anywhere, and I remember him telling me “We can do this the easy way, or the hard way, but you’re going to the hospital either way.” I had tried to escape, and ended up here.
I flung my legs over the side of the bed, looking up at the source of the snoring. A young heavy brunette with curly hair was cocooned in a cheap hospital blanket. A little woozy from the night before and not thinking much of it, I figured I would find out who she was sooner or later.
I walked out of my room into a larger room, half was set up like a living room and half of it looked to be a nurse’s station. Several patients sat around a coffee table, munching on a breakfast that had come straight from a Styrofoam container. They looked tired, or drugged, maybe both. I had a flash from the night before of the police officer telling the nurse “It looks like this one is going to be a 51/50.”
I walked up to the nurse’s desk, noticing the ruffle of my new clothes as I made my way over. I was in scrubs, a nauseating color of teal, the same my friend would later deem, “Hospital Hallway”. I was greeted by a tired face, an older African American woman, her hair the color of Texa’s toast, a poor attempt at achieving strawberry blond. She grumbled “What can I do for you?” my immediate response was “When can I get out of here?” “Honey, you came in last night on a 72 hour hold, now that means that you have to stay here for 72 hours, then if the doctor gives the ‘Ok’, you can go home.” “Okay, so when do I see the doctor?” She sighed, “She’ll be in later on today, so probably a few hours. Why don’t you go get one of those breakfast trays and try to eat.”
This information hit me in a shock wave of panic. I felt like a rat as he watches the door of a trap slam behind him. 72 hours, that’s like three days, three days in here? What have I gotten myself into? I need to get out, right now. Okay, chill out, don’t act crazy, if they think you’re crazy you’ll never get out. You’ll end up with a lobotomy in some state asylum forever, so just act cool.
I walked over to the couch and sat down next to an old woman. Her petite frail frame seemed to hold up the side of her head, which was permanently cocked. He voice surprised me as she spoke with squeaky tones of chipmunk or a small bird, “Have some breakfast?” I looked at the mushy colors which sat at the bottom of her tray, “No thank you, I’m not hungry.” She looked alarmed for a moment, “You have to eat, if you don’t eat they’ll keep you here for longer, you don’t want that now do you?” Another wave of panic hit me, but I wasn’t about to let it show. “No, definitely not.” I grabbed my own styrofoam container and a kid size carton of orange juice, placing myself in plain view for the staff to take notice. I felt like saying “Look, see? I’m eating, can I go home now?” I paused for a moment in sadness, realizing “home” didn’t look very appealing either at this point.
My train of thought was startled by a tremendous hacking noise from one of the bedroom entrances. It sounded like someone who was coughing up an organ, or at least tearing his esophagus to pieces. A plump man with greasy hair looked up from the meal he was inhaling, “I swear to God he just coughs that way to get the room all to himself, guess there won’t be a cigarette break for him today.” My ears perked up, “When do we get a cigarette break?” I asked eagerly, my limbs were begging me for a nicotine drag at this point. “Every 5 hours, the next one is at 11.” He replied. “So then what do we do until then?” “Well, there’s group, and otherwise we sit here.”
I sat back against the sofa and looked over at the large clock on the wall. Staring at the seconds as they ticked by, I waited for them to come and pass like a dying man in the desert waits for droplets of water to spill one by one onto his cracked lips.
A minute seemed like an eternity. I spent that next half hour loathing myself, wondering how I could have possibly gotten myself into this situation, “Why can’t I just stop fucking up?” Wishing I could tie up my drunken self and hide her from the rest of the world, shake some sense into her. Then wishing I could just get some sort of pill to escape again from this mess that had become my life.
My train of miserable thought was interrupted by a nurse’s voice, “Jane? You have a phone call, just go over to the pay phone by those chairs.” She pointed and I walked towards the phone wondering who in the hell was calling me. I lifted the blocky receiver up to my ear, “Hello?” “Hi Jane, its Mom.”
My heart tripped over itself and a flood of childhood panic took over my body. “Mom? I’m stuck in a psychiatric ward for three days, I’m so scared, please Mom, you have to help me get out of here, can we call a lawyer or something?” There was an unexpected pause, one I hadn’t anticipated. Anyone who knows my mother knows how kind, loving, nurturing and protective she is towards her kids.
The woman who spoke next sounded cold and scorned, “You know what Jane? Today is my birthday, and I’m having a miserable fucking time because of you.” My jaw dropped as I heard her cuss, it came out of her mouth like a venomous snake. She continued “ Jane, I can’t protect you from these people, the police and the law are out of my control, if you can’t get yourself together, you’re going to end up in a situation where you can’t be saved.” “Mom, I’m sorr-“
She cut me off “If you were sorry you would take this seriously.” I could almost hear the tears well up in her eyes, “But I just can’t talk about this right now, I’ll call you later.” I began to say “Okay, I love you, I’ll talk to you later.” But I heard the click of the receiver before I could finish my sentence.
I felt a wave of raw emotion; fear, shame, panic, guilt tumble over me. Dizzy in the spin, trying to catch my breath, and realizing how lost I really was. How had it come to this? What do I do with myself? How do I find my way out? Can I find my way out? Am I just too far gone at this point? There’s no hope left…. Who can I call? Maybe a lawyer to get me out of this place? With what money am I going to pay a lawyer? He might just do pro-bono or something, take pity on me… no that’s stupid….Call that guy, the one from the meeting, he said I should call if I needed help.
The whirlwind of thought had brought be over to the couch at this point. I sat slumped, running loops in my mind. A tall lanky man with a big black mess of hair and wide eyes sat across from me. I would later find out that he had ended up in here after threatening a casino manager because “They stole his money”.
He looked at me, “Excuse me nurse?” I looked up at him with a combination of humor and cynicism. “I don’t belong here, and I would like to get out of here right this minute, this is an atrocity, you people can’t just jail me like this!”
Really wishing I was one of the staff at this moment in particular, I simply said “Buddy, I’m one of you, I’m in here too, and I want to get out too. I don’t know how to go about doing that, but maybe you can ask one of the people at the nurse’s station over there.”
As he got up to walk over to give the nurse an earful of the injustice he was enduring, I chuckled to myself. “So I seem normal to the crazy people and crazy to the normal people… I really just don’t fit in anywhere.”