This post is dedicated to my mom.
I spent Saturday May 11, 2013 with family in my hometown for my grandmother’s 80th birthday. Before going to my aunt and uncle’s house, I stopped to see my other grandmother, to give her flowers and a card for Mother’s Day. My plan was to go and see my mom after the party (my parents divorced when I was seven), so I wouldn’t spend two days in a row driving back and forth to my hometown. I could have spent the night at Mom’s, but she understood. My mom doesn’t guilt trip like her mother has done for her entire life. If I can’t make it to a family birthday, she gets it. Of course she wants to see me, but she gets that I have my own life.
When I got to the family party, I was surprised to see that my aunt had a pitcher of fresh sangria sitting out in the kitchen. Alcohol is never served at family functions on my dad’s side of the family. My grandparents do not drink. In fact, my grandpa’s dad was a mean drunk who beat up on and eventually left his mother. My grandfather (who is a wonderful, caring man), never drank as a result of his father’s actions. My aunt and uncle have an entire temperature-controlled wine room in their mini-mansion. It killed them to never serve wine at holiday dinners. I am not sure why they did not serve alcohol at family functions after all these years. My brother and I were often puzzled by their actions. After all, it’s their house and they can do what they want, right?
Leave it to me to cheat death the day my aunt and uncle decided to serve booze at a family function.
It was a chilly day for a barbecue, but we made the most of it. Grilled brats, a ton of yummy sides. Cake and ice cream for grandma, and later we had s’mores over the fire. At first, I had one sangria an hour for the first three hours. No sweat. Later, my aunt started digging for wines in the wine room. While I preferred dry reds, a good Gewürztraminer always perked me up. As we all loosened up, we moved inside to play Apples to Apples at the dining room table with my younger cousins. And that’s the last of my memory for that evening.
I started taking antidepressants in spring 2012. My drinking spiraled out of control after that. Constant blackouts. I passed out in a public park, for Christ’s sake! And of course those drugs did shit for my depression, when I poured alcohol down my gullet on a regular basis to deal with my problems. In April 2013, I started another drug in addition to what I had already been taking the past year. That month I went to visit my best friend in St. Louis, a trip I make at least once a year (the city is my home away from home). I was there for the better part of a week, and I had two spectacular nights of drinking during my stay.
But back to that night. I don’t know what happened, but I didn’t end up going to my mother’s. In fact, my accident had me going toward the freeway in the direction of home. Who knows what was going through my mind? Did I pass out behind the wheel? Maybe I wanted to die at that moment? I have no idea. According to state troopers and witness statements, the crash happened at 10:03 pm. At 11:20 pm, mom sent me a message on Facebook that read: “Check in I’m worried. Just a beep when I try to call you.” At that point, I had been extracted from the wreckage and was at the first hospital, which was only a couple miles from the crash site.
Last night I prayed at 10:03 pm. I prayed to my Higher Power for sparing my life, and for sparing the life of the woman I hit. For giving me the brunt of the injuries that night, for keeping her relatively safe. I prayed for her, and hoped that she was doing okay on this anniversary of our lives colliding, hoping she had a good Mother’s Day with her family. She was picking up her son from a friend’s house when I hit her head-on. I prayed for my sobriety, and for being a completely different person today. I gave thanks. Thanks for my strength, my clarity, my new attitude. For everything. These days I am overflowing with gratitude. I prayed for peace of mind. I prayed for the strength to get through my jail sentence.
And I cried. And I cried. And I cried.
Back to my mom who probably worried herself sick before falling asleep that night. When she answered the phone at 2 am, it was officially Mother’s Day. She got the phone call that all parents dread: that her daughter had been in a horrible car accident, that she was in critical condition, that after being at one hospital briefly, she had to be lifeflighted to the number one trauma hospital in the state. Mom said that I was conscious when she arrived. She held my hand while the tears streamed silently down my face. I didn’t make a sound. I wonder what I was thinking then? I must have been terrified. I will be forever grateful for having zero memory of all the trauma involved with that evening.
As I’ve mentioned before, I came to (so to speak) sometime that following afternoon. Family and friends were surrounding me. I was intubated, on a backboard with a cervical collar, on oxygen, my arm in a giant soft cast. I found out I needed surgery for my three nasty forearm fractures, but that I would have to wait until Friday because the swelling was too great.
The day was a blur. I didn’t know what happened, and I was afraid to ask. Once my endo tube was removed, I couldn’t stop vomiting. The nurses were upset because I kept trying to lift my head to vomit into a container, but they were still worried about me having a neck injury. Mom stayed with me, and gently helped me to aim without using my neck (bit rough, trust me). Finally everyone went home for the night. I didn’t have my contacts in, but I was able to listen to “The Golden Girls” on television. Sleep is impossible in the ICU as your vitals are being taken so frequently, and nurses are coming and going all the time. My nurse that night was a man named James. He was also there when I came in the night before, but I didn’t remember him. He was in his late 20s, and very kind. We talked that night, and while I don’t remember our conversations that well, I will always remember his kindness. My mother felt the same way about James, as she spent that entire first night with me (and him). I’ve always regretted not getting his last name so I could send him a thank you to the hospital. Of course that was his job, but none of the other nurses treated me with that same level of kindness. I will always remember him, and be thankful for his soothing words during one of the scariest times of my life.
Here I am, one year later. That night in the ICU, I knew that I had to stop drinking. Hell, when I started this blog I couldn’t even call myself an alcoholic! I am astounded by how much I have grown in 365 days. One thing I have learned is that my experiences are unique to myself. I know it sounds silly, but I remember reading wonderful blogs here by folks with much less sobriety than I had. I felt like these folks had it together while I was still dealing with my mess. It took me a long time to get my “Aha!” moment. To know that I am an alcoholic, and to recognize that this accident was the best thing to ever happen in my life. To plead guilty to a felony, wait to be sentenced to jail, and still remain in a good state of mind. To those of you in early sobriety, do not base your recovery on the recovery of another. Just a guideline.
I had a great day with family yesterday. Most of it was spent with my mother and family at my grandma’s house. After, I visited my dad and grandparents. I talked at length with my grandparents about My Drinking for the first time. My grandfather started to cry as he recounted a time when his father came home drunk again, and starting hitting his mother. Pappy’s older brother (one of them – there were ten siblings total) attacked his father and drove him out of the house. Pappy eyed me and nervously asked if I was done with the alcohol. With tears in my eyes, I reassured them both that I was done with alcohol for good.