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Ground Zero: Part I

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Photo by Luke Laeser


Day One — Anno Uno — In the Year of Our DrunkI came to bouncing around in my car. It felt like I was crossing a field, but I had no idea where I was or what was happening. I only knew I was bouncing around in my car. I came to a stop in a stupor. While I could start the engine again, when I tried to put it in gear and go forward it stalled out.

Let me put this story in reverse a bit. I’m an alcoholic. I prefer to think of myself as a lousy drunk, but the common social term is alcoholic. I have lost my ability to control my drinking habits. There are lots of triggers that push that for me and they all seem inconsequential now but at the time, not so much.

The latest trigger was D, I’ll call him. Usually a good judge of character, I thought we had something special. I don’t date arbitrarily, but take my connections with people seriously. You know where I’m going with this – guy turns out to be a commitment-phobe, a player, has screwed half of his Denver co-workers and a third of the women of Tucson (as long as they pay their own airfare north) and lies through what he both does and doesn’t say. By the time I recognized it (and I am a gullible sort), my heart was involved. Bad, bad idea.


This one Saturday night I went looking for D. I wanted truth. I’m not a stalker, but I have an infinite need to know where I stand and since he wouldn’t tell me, I figured I’d play detective. His car wasn’t at his house but was at his place of employment. This was after business hours and well into the 2 AM witching hour, after I’d had a lot to drink, wandered lost on the streets of Denver, and gone back to his car hoping at some point it would be gone home and I would feel a sense of relief.

No such luck. I got in my car and drove. And drank. And disappeared into a dark place.

Now we can go back to bouncing around in the car. This is where I have big gaps in memory.

The police arrived, however they were notified of my demise. They asked me if I’d been drinking. Couldn’t lie, and I said “yes.” How much? “A lot.” An awful haze prevailed and next I knew my hands were zip-tied behind my back and I was put in the back of a squad car. I’ve never felt such deep shame and pain.

At the station I was booked and a blood sample taken. I recall someone saying I was cooperative. Rather, I was scared senseless. When they started going through my personal belongings, I sobbed quietly. In spite of my stupor, I knew I had messed up badly and my life was about to change significantly.


I was put in a police van and driven away. Still sobbing, I asked where I was being taken. A detox facility. Worse than a four-letter word. Detox. It was 5:30 AM and I was spent. We arrived and I was escorted in, my personal belongings in a green garbage bag. I felt like garbage. The staff took my vitals, took a breathalyzer, took my pride. I was given a blanket and told to go to sleep. Wrapping myself up like a cocoon I kept a roll of toilet paper nearby to wipe my now swollen eyes dry.

The house was more like a jail except there was no privacy. Women slept collectively on cots in the women’s dorm, men in various rooms throughout the facility. Peeling paint, bad plumbing, no towels to shower, no toothbrushes, nothing but naked survival in the clothes we arrived in with 30 other drunks trying to sober up and go home. Offered three squares, the food was worse than bad. In spite of it, we were required to show respect by lining up and we walked together, sat together, and left together. I think I’d have preferred shackles and a small cell to this, but then be careful what you wish for.

Vitals were taken every two hours as we went through withdrawals. Blood pressure, pulse, visuals, it was all required to be certain we were medically stable enough to be released. I was told, because of my BAL, that I’d be there at least through the afternoon.

By 2 PM the shakes had started. My BP raced at 200/128 and by 4 PM they said they couldn’t hold me there any longer because I was a risk to the facility and to myself. I was shipped off to the local hospital emergency room and admitted for treatment. No choice regarding where, just shipped off.

We weren’t given warm jackets during transport to protect us from the Rocky Mountain cold and I shivered uncontrollably. We continued to wear the blue hospital slippers required at the detox facility even crossing the icy pavement to and from the van. I guess they figured if we had real shoes we’d try to escape. Who wouldn’t want to?

After blood tests and examinations, I was kept under observation, given meds and IV fluids, and monitored until my BP went down. I was sent back to the detox facility and, while I’d hoped to be released, they said they “didn’t have enough staff to release me” so I had to spend another night there. I begged them to let me go home, let me have my cell phone to call for a ride, call for support, let me have my freedom back, all requests which went ignored.

There are hells more attractive than a detox facility. Sleep continued to be interrupted every two hours for vitals checks. While I had blown .000 since the evening, a requirement for release, I was still held captive.

By 7 AM the following day, when I should have been on my way to work, a facilitator asked if I wanted to go home. We had a release conversation and in spite of the fact I didn’t know this woman, I was the most honest with her I’d ever been with anyone.

It was an ugly beginning.