|It was 1:30 a.m. December 26, 1991. I was sitting alone on the living room sofa in my parents’ house. As I poured the last of the can of Budweiser into the half-full glass of vodka, it struck me that after all I drank today I was still too sober for sleep. Up until this very moment, I had spent approximately 25 of my 45 years in an alcoholic fog. More and more over the past year, I had been mentally reprimanding myself for drinking so much. But I could not sleep until the alcohol allowed me to. I hated the world and everything in it until I was high. I did not feel alive until I was high. Getting high kept at arms length that agonizing feeling of fear that lingered inside me every waking moment of every day.
Today I had been drinking heavily for hours trying to drown the feelings that seemed more determined than ever not to let the alcohol silence them. I wanted to scream but someone kept telling me to be quiet. I wanted to cry but a voice told me that if I did I would get into a lot of trouble. My heart was racing and my head hurt. If I could have, I would have reached down my throat and pulled out the demons that kept my mind imprisoned in such terror.
Where the courage came from to allow those fears to surface I do not know. I did not understand them but knew they would kill me if I did not get some help. Panic took over my actions. Tears flooded from my eyes. I became hysterical. At that moment, I did not care if I got in trouble for screaming and crying, so I screamed and cried. At the same time, I heard someone nice tell me to pick up the telephone and call the operator. To this day I can remember the calm voice of the woman who answered my call for help. She asked me what was wrong. I kept saying, “help me, help me.” When she asked me my name, I hesitated a minute. Who am I? What is wrong with me?
I do not know how long it took her to render me coherent. All I know is that listening to her composed voice made me feel safe. She explained that she could only help me if I told her what was wrong. “I’m an alcoholic,” I responded. “Do you have insurance?” she asked. I told her yes. She then asked me to get my insurance card. I placed the telephone on the arm of the couch so that I could go upstairs and get the card out of my pocketbook. With the card safely in my hand, I returned to the living room, picked up the phone and asked, “Are you still there?” She was.
With patience I had never experienced from another person before, the operator asked me for information off of the card. When she had what she needed, she asked to me hold on for just a few minutes more while she checked on the information. It never crossed my mind to hang up while she was off the line. Suddenly I felt sober. The fear went into remission. I knew I was going to be okay.
“Thank you for holding on,” the calm voice said. “Can you be ready to go to the airport at 8:30 a.m. this morning?” Without hesitation I said yes. She went on to explain that an airport bus would be picking me up at that time to take me to Bradley International Airport. From there, I would be flying to Orange County Hospital in Orange County California. The hospital would have someone meet me at the airport in California to transport me to the facility. I thanked her sincerely then hung up the telephone.
I called my sister Rachael. When she answered her telephone I told her about my conversation with the operator and what I was about to do. Surprisingly, instead of supporting me decision to get help she told me to go to bed and get some rest. “You’ll be fine in the morning,” she said before hanging up the phone.
Unperturbed by my older sister’s reaction, I took the boilermaker I was drinking to the kitchen and poured it down the drain. I was not going to arrive at the hospital stinking of alcohol. I went upstairs to pack. Everything was going to be all right now. We were on our way to get help.