Alcoholism Is Hip Hop, Too

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Not to get unnecessarily religious on a Tuesday morning, but while I’m not sure how much I believe in predetermined fate, I do fully subscribe to the idea that God has us GPS’d, like pet chinchilllas, & sends us out to be in certain places & situations, to be of benefits to others. Even if not to ourselves. Imagine all the times that you’ve witnessed someone go through something totally avoidable, & in the process, learned how not to do that. Was it a matter of coincidence? Happenstance? The truth of the matter is that, no matter the level of tragedy or elation, humans learn from other humans. &, if you believe in God, that’s an intentional act.

The reason I bring this up is because I’m an alcoholic (albeit a recovering one, but nonetheless), & I believe there’s a bigger purpose to that. A real alcoholic, like rehab & lifetime medical complications & “slippery slopes” & the whole 9. I’m one of the lucky ones, too, because cats who I’d known strictly because of our collective neighborhood-drunk status are still doing the same old shit, while I’m pushing my sobriety to the limit, if only because I’d rather not kill myself. & make no mistake; alcohol-related death is suicide (just like catching AIDS as a result of irresponsibility or a drug overdose). Don’t let the smooth taste fool you.

On a somewhat regular basis, I get a person who has a question about alcoholism, or just wants to know my expert opinion on their binge drinking habits. For this reason, former users make great drug/alcohol counselors, assuming they can take their own advice. I’m not a couselor (yet…), so that type of inquiry is a Badge of Honor, only equaled by anything positive my kids do. However, it wasn’t always that way. Ask any recovering or professionally recovering bottle jockey, & they’ll tell you that alcoholism is a thick curtain, that grows more furry with each passing year. Those valiant enough to eventually pull the curtain back are blinded by the light. Literally & figuratively. To bottom line that sentiment, I didn’t know what purpose my human spirit served (outside of channelling Holy Ghost dance routines when needed), until I learned I may have drank myself into the grave. [Sidenote: Movies & music make Death seem like some hardbody, blaze-of-glory home-going, but that’s not the case. No one wants to die. & if you do, you won’t once a doctor tells you-to your face-that you might get your wish.] Once the initial shock of life-change simmers (which include withdrawal symptoms & physical illness), in comes the truck loads of shame, fear, guilt, depression, anxiety, & seclusion. In theory, sobriety will make a nigga need to get drunk, if you smell my cologne. The first 3 months of attempted sobriety are extremely delicate because of this, & the last thing I wanted to do, for the first 3 months of my program, was talking about God-damned alcohol. & for the record, I said attempted because the first 3 months is usually the relapse mark for people in recovery. My last 3 months were quite different, though, in that I’d come to embrace life without blinders & ear plugs. & it wasn’t that bad. I still felt regret about past decisions & whatever, but it wasn’t that bad. But I digress.

Slowly, that changed. Over time, what once hampered me has given me strength. Really though, when someone hears my story, I can’t fathom what they get from it. To me, it’s just what I had to go through. But don’t get it confused. That nonchalance is far from a slight at the hell I endured. It’s more of a comfort zone, a safe place, knowing that I went through a lot to have the authority to tell the next man, “Slow down, homie. That shit’ll kill you.” I’ve even had readers hit me on the email, about how my openness & honesty helped them in someway. & hell, if my stupidity is something I can bag-up & show to people so they can see what to avoid; awesome. I’ll add that to my list of sober living bonuses, which includes things like better relationship with my family & not dead.

The fact that I’m typing is a testament to true animal survival. The fact that I’m closing in on 3 years without a drink is a nod to the will of the mended human spirit. Anything you need to achieve, you can. & if you need some positively reinforced smoke blown up your ass, for motivational purposes, holler at a writer. That’s how I roll.

**For more info on my fight against alcoholism, enter “Alcoholism” in my search box. & learn something, or it’s a waste of time**

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The Second Chance Pt.3

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(Just in case, here’s Part 1 & Part 2…)

My first 24 hours in that ICU was a blur. Once the medications kicked in, & the alcohol started drying up, I became a groggy, incoherent hospital patient. Doctors where in & out of my room. Some in more of a hurry than others. Some rude & impatient, others gentle & friendly. One of my main doctors was a young, handsome Asian guy. He made me comfortable enough to ask him a few questions & I asked him if I was going to die, or something to that effect. I was joking, but not really. He didn’t say no. He assured me, though, in his best doctor voice, that they were going to do the best they could to get me out of there. But again, he never once told me if I’d leave on foot or on a gurney.

Eventually, I wound up in my own hospital room, & although the meds kept me extremely sedated (pain killers, my ass), & my detoxification was in full swing, I was still somewhat cognizant of my ordeal. I was diagnosed with pneumonia, mild cirrohsis, dehydration, malnutrition, high blood pressure, a colon infection, thinning blood, slight brain damage, my kidneys weren’t functioning properly, & my stomach lining was so damaged that bile had begun to seep into my intestines. Luckily, the 2 blood transfusions I had didn’t back fire. Time would tell if I needed a liver transplant or not, but just in case, my name was put on the waiting list. My drinking was so intense that in about 13 year period, I’d drank enough to corrode my insides to that of a 50-something year old, professional(!) alcoholic.

I spent about 3 weeks in the hospital. No liquor, no cigarettes, no weed, no salt, no sugar, no strength, no way was I dying in this cold ass room. & as often as visitors were there, that was the loneliest time of my life. Honestly, it wasn’t anyone in that room but God & myself, no matter who was talking to me. Trust me when I tell you that we became very close, & have been ever since. The day I was released, I promised myself, & my wife & dad, that I’d never do this shit again. On my way out, I thanked the staff who was gracious enough to help an ignorant booze hound stay alive long enough to hobble away on a walker with a second chance at life.

I weighed 127 lbs, my leg muscles were atrophied & swollen at the same time, my arms were bruised from IV needles, & long term withdrawal symptoms combined with a dozen daily medications gave me tremors & hot flashes. We finally made it out to my father’s car, & when I felt the sun on my bruised, exhausted body, for the first time in years, I felt alive. I may have had a personal, albeit unpleasant encounter with Karma, but when Death showed up, I kicked his ass in the chest. I knew what it felt like to survive something. My dad checked me into rehab the next day, at the same hospital, so for 9 months, I was surrounded by guardian angels, who had come to know me personally & treated me like they really cared. Actually, one of my counselors suggested I start writing again to help me cope with my arrested development.

Later, I’d hear crazy stories about my hospital stay, like when someone called my wife from the hospital & said she should get there quickly because I was probably going to be dead soon, or how my homeboy Bruce’s girlfriend, who happened to work at the hospital, was telling him about this young guy who all but drank himself to death. When he came to visit me, & told her where he was going, she said “that’s the guy.”

The reason I put this drop out there is because April 1 is my 2 year soberversary (as my wife puts it). I swear on all that I love, I haven’t had a drink since March 31, 2008. I’m not looking for outside praise, but I’m proud if myself. If I died right now, I’ve accomplished something. Something so big that I want to share it with whoever cares to listen. Or more importantly, anybody who needs to hear it. No matter what we think, we’re never alone.

If there’s a specific moral to this story, you don’t need me to say it. I think I’ve said enough already. Thanks for reading, y’all.

Fin…

The Second Chance Pt.2

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(If you haven’t read it, here’s Part 1…)

There were plenty of times I thought that I needed a doctor, but it was only to myself, mid-gag over the toilet or laying down after puking my guts out. Never to another person. That would be too much like admitting I had a problem, & if that meant that I couldn’t drink anymore, no thanks. It was that serious. However, in the truck, on the way to the hospital, I felt as if a huge weight had been lifted. This, in essence, was an admission of helplessness. It wasn’t the usual vomit, wipe my mouth, then quench my thirst (& mask my shame) with more alcohol. It wasn’t the barf-in-the-bushes-so-nobody-would-know ruse. It was me being finally fed up. Sick & tired of being sick & tired, as cliche is that sounds. & although I may not have waved a white flag & surrendered to my demon(s), I sure as hell made it clear that this was something I could no longer handle by my lonesome.

It felt good to know that I was going to Kaiser Permenente, moving in a positive direction. Literally & figuratively. I’d get to the hospital, probably be diagnosed with alcohol poisoning, get some fluids & pills & a stern talking to & be on my way. In the polluted place my mind had become, this was what I imagined. Well, hoped for, at least.

Exactly a week before this trip to the doctor, it was my friend’s birthday. Ironically, the same friend who was driving me to the hospital. He had a birthday gathering at some fancy dancy shindig, & of course, my wife & I attended. When we got there, it was a room full of liquor, smiling faces, food, video games, a virtual playground for adults. My eyes widened with the possibility of running around this place, having fun. Only, after 10 minutes, it was painfully clear that there’d be no “running” or “having fun.” I could barely walk. I was so weak in fact, that one trip across the modestly large room was all I could make. I sat, breathless & alone, hoping my wife would come looking for me sooner than later. The last time I felt like this, I passed out over the stove, onto the lit burners, & collapsed on the kitchen floor. & just like my wife helped me up then, she helped me up now. Believe me when I tell you that women are stronger than men. Really though. We slowly made our way to my buddy’s table, full of unfamiliar faces, made more unfamiliar by my drunkenness. I put my head down, & kept it there until it was time to go. Maybe it was embarrassment, maybe it was sickness, or a healthy mixture of the 2, but I just wanted to go home. Eventually, we were at home, & I took my medicine.

Cue Jay-Z.

We arrived at the hospital, & that same friend went to find me a wheelchair. I’m not saying I was any weaker than I was when we left my house, but I started letting go, if that makes sense. I felt like my body got heavier & heavier. I just wanted to give up. Not quite die, but I was tired of this place. Tired of fighting myself. Tired of punishing my body for what my mind couldn’t control. Tired of torturing my mind with what my body could no longer handle. I hadn’t yet come to the conclusion that I was finished living, but I was damn tired.

They wheeled me into the ER & before I knew it, I was whisked away to a bed. From that bed, I was put into a room. After awhile, I realized that I was in ICU. The intensive care unit. My wife was there, & I remembered asking her was she mad at me. Like I had a feeling this was just the beginning. I don’t remember what she said, but it was almost April 1st. April Fool’s Day. How fitting.

Continued tomorrow…

Easy As ABC

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I don’t usually feel sorry for grown men, because in most instances, they should know better, whatever the situation. But, Earl Simmons has found a special place in my heart. I have relatives who can’t stay out of trouble, & after all these years of incarceration & rehabilitation, to no avail, it’s finally being looked at as some variant of mental shortcomings. Fuck all the legal propaganda, DMX, like 60% of my family, has problems that need to be addressed, clinically. Yesterday’s arrest makes it official that dude has been locked HUNDREDS of times. That’s some type of record, however sad & pathetic it may be. Perhaps Dr. Drew (Pinsky) may be able to help, but there’s just something about rehab & Hollywood that don’t mesh well to me. There weren’t any cameras in my counseling classes, not like I would want my family to see me beaten down & broken anyway, but then again, who cares about my problems? Almost daily, I’d hear somebody, somewhere say “it takes a strong man to ask for help,” but only after substantial sobriety & a renewed outlook could I truly appreciate the magnitude of that assessment. & contrary to popular belief, God can help you, but he won’t do it for you. Blind faith is suicide. Just saying. This is the “A”. It stands for Addiction.

& just on the heels of me giving a much deserved salute to Allen “The Answer” Iverson, he gets hit with a combination that I haven’t seen since the last time I went to Church’s Chicken with the munchies. His wife is divorcing him, the hoodrats are circling his rapidly decaying carcass, like the scavengers they usually are, & his gambling addiction is out of control. I also heard he’s drinking way too much, but we don’t pay attention to that kinda shit until our liver’s fail. For the record, you don’t want your liver to fail. Trust me. What I do believe however, is that he probably let all those fast talking, fruit-smelling, sparkle covered females get too close to his inner-workings. It’s not a hard thing to do. Especially since AI thought he was a rapper who happened to play ball for a living, hence he should be privy to copious amounts of groupie ‘tang whenever he sees fit. Objectifying women is the equivalent of having a poisonous snake as furniture. Just when you get comfy with it’s necessary uselessness-if you will, you find it, or them, more clever than you estimated. I don’t know AI’s wife, but I know mine, & a good woman will stand by you, until. I don’t mean a Kelis-type, disposable chick who’s obviously not wife material, I mean a down ass woman who’ll do anything for you. I’m almost positive he had one of those, until. That’s the “B”. It stands for “Bitches”.

No disrespect to CoCo G, B_recorD & shante. I’m using the word in it’s context.

When I was in rehab, there was a lady. Literally, a Lady. Dainty, refined, high-falootin’, kinda like Mrs. Howell from ‘Gilligan’s Island’. She was modest about her blessings, but couldn’t help but make it clear that monetarily, she wanted for nothing. She was an alcoholic, but of a different breed. Grown kids, rich, disconnected husband, so basically, all she had in her life was access to cash & free time. Thus, she sat in Kaiser Hospital’s meeting room right next to me. She admitted time after time, all she would do is wake up to however much cash she wanted/needed, pour glass after glass of wine I couldn’t pronounce, much less afford, & get drunk. Then, once she was nice & red-nosed, she’d go shopping. Clothes, furniture, more wine, whatever. That was the miserable life she lived. When she spoke, she never really blamed her addiction for her current state of stagnation. She blamed cash. She spoke about money like it was animate, walking around in her life causing havoc to everyone in close proximity. One day she cracked a joke about how she would probably be happy if she were poor. I laughed, because oddly, I understood her sentiments. Of course she wouldn’t survive in the world that most folks live in, but I understood. Money is indeed the root of all evil. Best believe cave men died over beads & shiny rocks back in the prehistoric days. That’s the “C”. It stands for “Cash” or “Currency”.

Just to add insult to injury, per se, actor Corey Haim died this morning due to his much publicized drug addiction, which was facilitated by the endless stream of money he made from acting. & he won’t be the last this year. Guaranteed.

These are the things I teach my son about. He has a “better” chance of becoming a drug addict than being hit by a car. He could hit the lotto, meet a woman, then wake up dead, like Abraham Shakespeare. The true danger is right in front of us, patiently waiting, & once the guard is dropped, the result can be failtacular.

Just saying.