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Scenes from an ambulance window

That’s the scene from the stretcher on my way to the mainland from the Outer Banks. That was last year on this day. Today marks year 1 in my sobriety.

Because we were on vacation, I’d been drinking since leaving Texas. Driving to North Carolina. But then again, I was always drinking.

The night before the fated fall we had a family reunion pool party. All of us know that’s prime time for us alcoholics to get even more loaded than we normally do. Oh, and of course, my food intake was minimal. I remember having one slice of pizza the night before. All my energy was from alcohol - mainly beer. We also played pool volley ball through the wee hours of the morning; expending tons of calories, energy.

Off zilch sleep for a 5 am fishing trip, we were on the beach shortly after 5. Totally hung over and dehydrated. The sun broke the horizon and things started to heat up. But my body could not tolerate the cold water from the Atlantic. In retrospect, the crawl of the DTs had overtaken me. I used all my strength to not pass out on the sand. We got back to the beach house by 11:30 am. I stayed outside slamming beers to stabilize myself and stop the shakes. I was finally calm enough to go inside. Everyone was lunching. After lunch a game of Scrabble was called. My shakes were so bad I could not place the tiles on the board. I took an exit to the bathroom. I was sweating profusely and the shakes would not stop.

Next thing you know I was curled up in a fetal position at the bottom of the stairs. My neck was in an awkward position. A debate ensued on whether paramedics should be called. I declined. I’ve never been a fan of the medical racket. I was overruled. The medics came. They needed my consent to take me to ICU. I staunchly and idiotically declined. Again, I was overruled and so I gave my consent. That’s what needed to happen for me to step into this new sober reality.

You don't need to nearly break your neck for a sign. You know the signs already. You see them daily. No one has to point them out.

But here is the kicker. Only you can make the decision to stop drinking. Let me be clear about that. You have to decide to stop drinking alcohol. To stop killing yourself on installments. No one can make that choice for you. People can beg you. Give you a million dollars. But if you still want to drink, you will always drink. Until the day you say that’s enough for me. But only you can decide. Only you.

If you are on the path of sobriety, you have the power inside of you waiting to be unlocked by you. But only you.

I never believed I could or would stop drinking. It took my body shutting down. Passing out. And falling down the stairs and nearly breaking my neck to wake me up. I was in ICU for 4 days stabilizing my body. My blood alcohol level was at the coma/death mark. I was given benzodiazepines to ease the withdrawal chaos my body was up to. I also had a drip of saline, vitamins and minerals since my system was totally depleted of these. I slept through most of it. The ‘room’ service was excellent. What else could I expect on my deathbed?

This has been the best year of my life. I’m finally able to love myself as I should. Because that’s all alcoholism really is, hatred turned inward. Alcohol gives us the illusion that all is wonderful while we are drinking; all the while hiding the chaos we wreak outside of us. And that chaos is only a mere expression of the self-hatred and chaos we harbor inside ourselves.

After the storm, we slowly learn to love ourselves again. And we do, there is no turning back.

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