Three and one-half short weeks ago, I was benching my weight and doing 15 pull-ups at a go. Granted, I don’t weigh much more than a jockey holding a lapdog, but still. My steps were so surfeited with pep my feet barely grazed the ground, even when traveling somewhere undesirable, because when you’re in the condition of mind and body I was in, everyplace seems to be creaking at the seams with opportunity and possibility.
I greeted the morning with spontaneous terpsichorean exuberance and admired in the mirror the well-developed gent with the age-defying moves cuttin’ rugs and buggin’ jitters (jittering bugs?), not feeling a bit silly. I had a job which, while not particularly rewarding financially, I enjoyed going to and performed with verve and conscientious exactitude, impressing the boss daily with my powers of recall by rolling out names and room numbers old-school and learning the various rote tasks more or less immediately (I was once clapped on the back and told Good job! [without irony] after mastering, the first time, the extremely demanding technical challenge of setting a wake-up call for a guest, which involved mashing three or four buttons on the phone in the proper sequence. I felt, literally, like one of the special kids being given a certificate of accomplishment for not shitting on the floor), and was certain that even though I was in the very maw of the beast that is Ukiah’s Drug Problem, I was loaded up with defensive weapons and barriers enough to withstand any onslaught that great slavering needle-furred rapacious monstrosity could muster against his old cohort.
Such an outlook flies directly into the face of the historical record as my stats indicate a relapse rate of 100%, usually the moment anyone asks me to, but I believed in myself and for a moment it seemed that confidence might not have been pure folly, that fateful day when Jimmy the Dentist came into the office with a thank-you gift for alerting him to the managerial machinations afoot to eject him from his room for turning it into a scrap-yard. Said gift was a 1/4 oz. rock of quite the finest meth in the region. Dentists, even disgraced and desmocked ones, do not fiddle about with the heavily adulterated slapdash chemical potpourri we plebes must tolerate. They deal in weight and they go to the source. This shit, I knew long before applying torch to tool, was the bombeezy for sheezy and that’s why the fact that I took it and did not immediately hie to the bathroom filled me with so much pride and confidence.
I called a friend who moonlights in recreational pharma and asked him to sell it for me, which he did, but oddly enough, even though that boulder was gone it was somehow still there, lodged firmly in my weakening gray matter atop an ornate pedestal, taking on epic proportions and dramatically backlit, bearing the prophetic title DOWNFALL.
Quick cut to some weeks later— truthfully, I couldn't get near an exact figure without some dogged investigation of the sort practiced but neurotic British TV detectives and I have neither the ability nor desire to do so— and the lively pre-senior has aged in a manner commensurate with progeria victims or sunlight-exposed vampires, barely able to lift his own limbs and existing in a strangulating web of pain so severe, so thoroughgoing, and so debilitating that the very act of breathing arouses six or seven impinged nerve clusters into shrieking, stabbing life, never mind walking or simple motor tasks. I cannot unscrew the top from a beverage bottle. I cannot operate a manual toothbrush. I cannot don outerwear without hanging it from a certain height, backing into it, and canting my body sidewise to slide my arms through. Every letter typed necessitates uncurling a finger from the natural claw-shape my hands have degenerated into and my speed has gone from 60 wpm to about 8, and I hope you appreciate the sacrifice. I could, of course, utilize a speech-to-text program, but that would be giving up, which I’m not going to do.
And my brain? Well, that formerly nimble and robust organ is hobbling along at about the same rate as my ravaged physiology, and I’d say that right now I’m about as smart as a moderately gifted rhesus monkey. Don’t let the fact that I can still put together complete sentences fool you. Apparently that particular ability originates elsewhere in my body, or maybe outside of it, as Plato suggested, because when I put my hand on a doorknob I have to think for awhile about what the next step is and when I do finally arrive at whatever place is on the other side of the door I have no idea what I’m doing there.
I think we can all agree that this is no way to live, and the fact that I—in a condition of complete sobriety, thinking clearly and rationally, voluntarily chose this path—is indicative of something amiss. I have stopped, and having gaffled up the last of my stash last night I will, after what remains in my system stops singing through my veins, commence a period of depression, inactivity, immobility, even worse pain, insatiable hunger, constipation, and worst of all, an endlessly looping litany of recrimination as I mercilessly flagellate myself for the sin of becoming the absolute worst version of me possible.
I will be unable to take pleasure in anything at all besides sleeping, and only the fact that I know somewhere on the other side lies recuperation and redemption will keep me from dashing myself onto the rocks. Despite all this, I am going to get up every day and write a few sentences about what I’m feeling, sort of put together a real-time diary of post-binge torture, and when I have (hopefully) snapped back in a couple weeks I’ll report it all to you, lucky reader, and maybe next time I get the urge I can pull it out and reread it as a prophylactic measure.
Whenever I write about this particular flaw in my character, which is altogether too often these days, several people always respond with words of advice and support and I would like to invite as much of that as possible, and this time I’ll try and actually use it. Apologies for more of the same old same old but the AVA is something of a shrink’s couch for me. Onward and upward.