Part 2: High, Hope, and Hospital
Disclaimer: This is a blog post, not a memoir. As such I am condensing events and timelines, leaving out some details of those events.
my life has become a hangover without end.
A movie made for TV: bad dialogue,
bad acting, no interest.
Too long with no story & no sex.
-Pulp “TV Movie”
Sebastian is about a year and a half old when I stop doing blow the day after my wife’s 37th birthday. I’m not going to buy coke on her birthday. I have no intention to do so. I meet her in Beverly Hills for a lovely afternoon spent together; lunch on the roof at Barney’s Greengrass with a few glasses of wine. Shopping then coffee. Another glass of wine in there somewhere. It’s a brilliant March day, mild and bright, the babysitter is booked and dinner is going to be foreplay. I’m not thinking cocaine. Wine is just fine. Maybe I’ll add a few beers to the rotation. And a puff of weed. But no cocaine.
I volunteer to pick up Sebastian from daycare at the end of the afternoon. I feel at peace for a moment until the voice scrambles my peace. It doesn’t like peace. It is a smart voice, it’s the voice of a two-faced dictator. It’s charming and compelling as it arranges my destruction. The voice is quick to dare me, tempt me, seduce me. It’s all a game to the voice. A game the voice always wins. It has me calculating drive time, average cocaine delivery time, and my chances of making it to daycare before they start calling our phones and ask where the hell we are. I’m under the voice’s spell. I’m exposed to it and powerless, no matter how heavy I feel as I’m doing what I’m doing.
I call the number.
I explain the urgency to the guy. I explain the new, unusual location to him. I tell him I need to see him before 5:50PM on Orange Grove, just South of Hollywood. Daycare is on Orange Grove just North of Hollywood and closes at 6PM. For the first time he arrives right on time. ‘Told ya!’ the voice says to me. ‘I love it when a plan comes together!’ it says like Hannibal Smith. But we both know very well that I would have waited for the guy, no matter how long it would have taken. I would have watched the last of the daycare parents’ cars make their right turn onto Hollywood, knowing very well Sebastian was up there, waiting to get picked up, sad about being the last kid left. I would have ignored the shame. I mean, I can’t miss my window with the guy. Sebastian and the Russian daycare ladies be damned. The one dollar a minute late fee be damned. I stopped for cash on the way, I came prepared. And I was happier seeing the guy than I was seeing Sebastian. The guy was always happy to see me, he acted as if I made his day, smiling his bright toothy smile, calling me buddy, shaking hands/exchanging goods for cash. As fast as he appears he’s gone. His arrival signaling the official end of feeling at peace. But that smile, I need that smile in my life. There aren’t many smiles coming my way any more. Sebastian, he’s not quite there yet. He’s moody and cries. He must know that I’m all rotten inside, decaying and about to reek.
I get good and fucked up before dinner while she’s primping and getting ready. I mask the coke high with a little pot. At the restaurant I commute back and forth between our table and the restroom.
“My stomach is upset.” I tell my wife. “Must be from lunch.” I pound a glass of Sauvignon Blanc. She’s concerned about my recent stomach issues and the frequent bowel movements. She’s never dealt with a mess like me. How could she have known?
I’m a stuffy-nosed disaster. I’m sweating like a fighter after losing a prizefight but I layered my clothes. I’m smart like that. I barely manage to wash the appetizer, scallops or some shit, down with wine. By the time dinner arrives I can’t fathom eating a single bite on the plate in front of me. There’s steak and fish and sauce and vegetables and gratin and the smell of herbs and I panic. I run to the restroom again. I whip out the bag and the trusted mail key and take a couple of quick bumps. They don’t help at all. She knew that something was going on, she tells me later. Just not this.
I pick at my food, I manage to take a bite here and there and squeeze it down my esophagus. I offer her a large chunk of meat. We converse. Somehow I manage to talk.
I have an epiphany on another trip to the restroom. This is it. I’ll quit as soon as this bag is empty. Not now, I can’t waste blow like I waste money, food, my health, and the first two years of my son’s life. But tomorrow, once the blow is gone I’m done. It is decided during a flush’n’snort.
I take action the next day. I think I have a plan.
I take up running. I used to run a lot. Now I’m puking a mile at a time. I take up meditation. I used to meditate but have you ever meditated on coke? Yeah the two don’t go together like ham and cheese. It’s more like Sid and Nancy, grinding my teeth and screaming the mantra into my mind. MANTRA! MANTRA! MANTRA! TAKE THIS! MANTRA!
Anything to shut up that voice. This time around it might actually be working. I might turn into an adult after all. I drink like a fish and smoke more pot at 37 that I did at any point in my twenties. But hey, I’m doing better, right? RIGHT? RIGHT? RIGHT? MANTRA!
They fire my ass at the production company because I’m a dick. I blame them but I can’t. They’re right. I’m an intolerable prick to be around. I decide to take some time off and live off of my wife and savings and write, something I was always too scared to do. Now shame has me cornered with nothing else I can think of doing. I’m convinced that my name is blacklisted in commercial production. I don’t even try to find out. And I want to be a father. I mean, what the hell? I want to create a bond with my son I never thought possible with the powder hanging over my head. I want to create memories, share laughs, connect, and be present to his growth and development instead of accumulating more shame.
I start writing. I go from zero to novel, chaining myself to the next 50 lb lead object that’s gonna drag me under. I’m no Bukowski, no Dostojevski, no Chandler, I’m nobody. I’m no writer. I stop writing. I can’t handle the pressure I put on myself.
I do somehow stick with the running as if my life depended on it. And it does, in a way. I get in shape and train for a half marathon. I even quit smoking. The easy way. I continue meditating. I smoke pot medicinally. Sativa for the mood, baby. Indica to knock me out and silence the mind. Or is it the other way around? Who cares? I smoke whatever is there. I drink a bottle of wine in less than thirty minutes, if I pace myself, I pound beers as early as I feel is socially acceptable. I hide glasses under the couch so my wife doesn’t get a proper count in. I go out for lunches by myself and drink. Everyone drinks over lunch, no? And once I start drinking over lunch I might just as well continue. Why stop when you’re having fun? Besides, I’m doing better. Right? RIGHT? RIGHT? RIGHT? MANTRA!
I relapse on cocaine less than a week before the half marathon. I get triggered when I run into someone I used to do cocaine with when I was still social, before the isolation and nights spent on the couch. I’m hooked in a flash. The excitement is back. Getting the cash from the ATM, driving to familiar intersections to meet the guy, seeing his toothy smile almost an hour after he says he’d be at the spot where we agreed to meet. It feels so right to be back.
I think that cutting myself off 24 hours before the race is ample. It’s not an easy feat but I don’t want to die of a heart attack during a half marathon at age 37. That would be embarrassing and besides, Sebastian and my wife are watching me along the downtown course. They’re cheering me on, they’re excited for me. I can’t do that to them that day. Turns out a guy dies during that race. He’s 37. Heart attack. Could have been me. Should have been me. Would be me soon. I’m certain of it now. It’s a sign. Thing is, guy had to die for me to see the sign.
We spend Thanksgiving at my wife’s brother’s house in Ithaca. I experience my absolute bottom the day after the feast. Black Friday. Of course I do. All there is is alcohol and family. I forgot to mail a THC care package ahead of time. And I’m not flying with cocaine. I’m stupid but not that stupid. I’m not saying I didn’t research it extensively. Somehow better judgement prevailed. Besides, we were going to travel to New York after Thanksgiving and I had numbers to call there.
I have a psychotic break that Black Friday. I’m not going to get into all the details in this forum. All I can say is I lose my mind. The voice is taking over. No mantra could silence it now. It’s ferocious, it’s vulgar, it’s disgusted with me. It has me convinced that I am finished, desolate. It tells me that I am unlovable, lonely, without friends and allies. I’m worthless, it says. I’m a bad punch line, it says. What’s the point, it says. My son hates me, it says. My wife is laughing at me, it says. The in-laws hate my guts, it says. I’m ruining their daughter’s life, it says. It convinces me that this is the time to put an end to it all. What happens is inevitable. I’ll cut my wrists. I hold the knife in my hand. I press the blade into my skin. I push but barely puncture it. I can’t do it. I am dying but I can’t finish my part of the job. What a pathetic loser, the voice says. It has me punching myself in the face until it’s battered and bruised. I sit in the empty jacuzzi tub adjacent to the room Sebastian is sleeping in. I’m drinking beer, unable to stop crying and punching myself, with no relief from the pain in sight. I can’t put a stop to whatever is happening. It’s an all-night ordeal. I abuse my wife with words that no woman should hear from her husband. I can’t do this any more. I don’t want to be here any more. I don’t want to be any more.
Sebastian sleeps through the whole episode. It’s not until the next morning, as we flee the scene, my family and I, that he’s exposed to my crazy. I scream, I cry, I throw the suitcases against the rental. I break shit in the house. I am fury and insanity personified. I can’t die and there’s no relief. There’s no darker corner to be cornered in.
“What is Papa doing?” Sebastian asks. Over and over. He’s two now and he’s terrified of me. I’m scaring him. I’m scaring my son. I’ve exposed the monster to him. What is papa doing?
Papa doesn’t know. Papa is in for deep. Papa is bad. Papa is crazy. Papa is dangerous. Papa is ruining everything. Again. Papa starts smoking cigarettes again. Papa throws his cellphone out of the car on the interstate. Papa is sobbing without end. Psychologist and Psychiatrist are summoned via cell phone after the car is stopped and the phone, battered but not broken, is retrieved.
Papa agrees to admit himself to a hospital. Syracuse University Hospital. I think of Carmelo Anthony, for some reason. Psycho and Psychi agree, there’s nowhere else left to go.
I don’t want to take my clothes off and change into hospital dirt AIDS garb at intake. Fuck hospital policy. I am ready to fight the security over this. I call the nurse a cunt. Everybody is a cunt in this moment. Everybody, especially me.
I give in. I might have been able to take one security guard but they have several there, just waiting for head cases like me to walk through the doors. They put me in a room while they try to track down a shrink, a fellow, an intern, anyone mental health related. It is the day after Thanksgiving, after all. Black Friday. Shouldn’t they have shrinks standing by for these kinds of incidents on Black Friday?
A nurse is observing me. She won’t leave my side. For my own safety, she says. She squeezes my hand.
“You poor thing.” she says. I don’t understand. Why is she comforting me? After all I’ve done.
I snap back into reality hours later. I realize the shell shock on Sebastian’s and my wife’s faces. I realize the pain they are in, the pain I have caused. What the fuck have I done this time? The damage is irreparable. Irreversible. Inexcusable. Intolerable. I have burned the hollowed ground I walk on. I’ve destroyed everything. I’m in a hospital in fucking Syracuse and all I want is a smoke and a beer.
Maybe a Valium.
This is the eye of the storm.
It’s what men in stained raincoats pay for
But in here it is pure. Yeah.
This is the end of the line.
-Pulp “This is Hardcore”
-Bad Papa West