I came to, not woke up, on July 10, 1981 and every fiber of my being hurt. Being a hot summer, Pam and I had pulled our mattress from the bedroom, and thrown it on the floor in front of the air-conditioner. My eyes fluttered open and the sinking feeling of dread sank from my heart to my gut and shuttered through my body with total recognition that I had done it again. Just because I knew I’d done it again, doesn’t mean that right at that second I knew everything I’d done. All of that would come to me in pieces over the course of the next fractured period of time. I have never been blessed with blackouts. Every humiliating event of the previous night would come to me, but not at once. It would come to me in random pieces, like a jigsaw puzzle of events revealing themselves to me, piece by piece, until the whole ugly thing was filled.
Moving my head was a problem. It was a problem because it caused my hair to move, which caused my head to hurt which was already pounding. I reached to my side to connect with Pam. Her place was empty. I glanced and saw that she was curled up in a fetal position in the corner of the bed where the corner walls met and she could be as far from me as possible. I reached for her and she flinched.
The puzzle pieces started coming together. The previous night I was outraged. The people we were with not only prevented me from taking my clothes off at the public fountain in the middle of town, but also took my keys from me and gave them to Pam.
It was not supposed to end this way. In fact, I invited Pam for the exact reason that I’d been a few weeks without alcohol and had every intention of continuing that run. This was supposed to be a wholesome outing with the accounting class, with whom I was celebrating the end of the term. It started when I ordered an Ice Tea. They brought me a Long Island ice tea. The difference between an Ice Tea and a Long Island ice tea is significant. An ice tea has, well, tea and ice. A Long Island ice tea contains vodka, rum, gin, tequila, triple sec along with other unimportant things. It was an innocent mistake which I took as providence. How much could one drink hurt anyway? I’d never had a Long Island ice tea before, so, since I was no longer drinking alcohol this might be the only time I’d have to try one. Hey, and if one was good two was even better. Then I had a little beer and some wine. And then I shouted, “kamikazes for everyone!”
At some point I stumbled to the men’s room, trying to pick a couple of women up along the way. They went over to Pam to inquire, “What are you doing with that asshole?”
And that is how the night came back to me, as Pam shuttered at the far corner of the bed.
Whose idea it was to make the call, I do not recall. Probably mine, because I was so filled with remorse and because Pam was traumatized. She normally did not see the whole catastrophe in the making, but only the slobbering mess at the end of the night. But, I called for help: Westchester Counsel for Alcoholism.
This was my bottom. I thank God, literally, every day for the direction I got that led me to the friends who nursed me back to health and set me on a path that has led to this, 35 years and counting, of sobriety.