14 Drink the Puke
Back in Manchester, Jenny and I do a deal: she gets the car and I get the cooker and the washing machine. I don’t tell her but I am actually very frightened of being alone here. I know my drinking will escalate without her.
She drives off one sunny Saturday morning. I talk to her on the phone a few times but I never see her again. I hear from mutual friends that she’s seeing her old boyfriend again and she’s pregnant by him. Good for her - she really wants children.
The flat is very empty without her - no surprise there. Work is just desperate. Every lunch time I walk back to the flat and drink vodka. I have a regime. 1/3 bottle of vodka before work, 1/3 bottle at lunch time. After work I buy another bottle and continue drinking until I fall asleep. Sometimes I am so tired at work that I go into a quiet corner of the computer room and sleep for an hour. So far I haven’t been discovered.
At the weekend things get silly. I wake up at about 8am and force myself to have a quick shower. I begin drinking vodka and coke while I try to do some housework or go shopping with a hip flask. I drink continuously until lunch time when I try to eat something before sleeping for 3 or 4 hours. I wake up again in the afternoon at which time I repeat the morning scenario until I fall asleep about midnight. Effectively I split each weekend into four short 12 hour days. During each 12 hour day I drink a bottle of vodka.
Physically buying and carrying this amount of alcohol is a problem. I try to visit different off-licences but it's obvious to most of them that I have a big problem. How I work during the week is beyond me. It’s mind over matter. However, this kind of physical abuse can’t continue. Every time I drink, I throw up the first tumbler-full as my body tries to reject the poison. I just refill the tumbler and drink again. Every now and then I puke up green bile as my digestive system begins to collapse. It’s disgusting. I am disgusting.
I wake up early on a Sunday morning. It’s 6am. As I wake up, I remember what I was thinking last night as I fell asleep.
"I don’t have enough vodka for the morning."
I was right - there's barely 1/3 bottle left and half of that I'll just throw up. And it’s Sunday opening today so I can’t buy any more until noon. I am also very ill. There are small spots of fungus growing on my body. Even if I survive today, work tomorrow will be impossible.
I pour the vodka into a glass and add coke. I gulp it down. I have collected a bowl from the kitchen to catch the mixture when it reappears from my stomach. On cue, I puke up. Because I have so little vodka, the idea is to drink the puke. I haven’t done this before but I need the alcohol. My body needs the alcohol. I look at the puke in the bowl. I can’t face it. I panic. I ring my parents at home.
"I've lost it. I've lost it" I admit tearfully. I explain my situation to my Dad.
"Dial 999 and call an ambulance" he advises.
This seems a bit drastic to me but I do need to go somewhere.
"Call an ambulance" he insists.
"OK, OK, I’ll call an ambulance."
I put the phone down and pick it up again. I dial 999.
"Which service do you require?"
"Ambulance." I feel embarrassed.
"Manchester Ambulance Service. What is your address?" I give it.
"What is the emergency, Sir?"
"I need to go to hospital. I am throwing up and I have psychological problems." I think this is true.
"Ok, Sir. An ambulance will be sent. Estimated arrival 15 minutes."
I ring my Dad back and tell him the news. I tidy up the flat as best I can. I have already got the shakes from alcohol withdrawal but my mind is calm. The prospect of an ambulance rushing full tilt to save me seems absurd.
While I wait, I go and look in the mirror and a haggard, sick, alcoholic stares back at me. He has a short unkempt beard and his long hair is tied back in a pony tail. He is chubby and pot-bellied from a long history of drinking. I don’t know who he is. I don’t recognise him at all.
The ambulance arrives and there is a knock at the door. I open it and two ambulancemen stare at me.
"Where's the patient, Sir?" one asks.
"Er, I'm the patient."
"And what's wrong with you?"
"I keep vomiting and I need tranquilisers. I'm an alcoholic."
"OK, Sir, we'll take you to the hospital."
Sitting in the ambulance, it does seem excessive. Why didn't I just get a taxi?
"How much are you drinking?" the ambulanceman in the back asks me.
"One or two bottles a day. Vodka."
He nods and seems impressed.
At the hospital I quickly see a young lady doctor. It's early Sunday morning and the Accident & Emergency department is quiet. The doctor looks tired. She looks almost as bad as me. Well, almost. She takes my pulse and blood pressure and examines the fungus.
"I need tranquilisers" I say. The shakes are getting bad and my voice is trembling.
"I can't give you anything. Do you want to go into a rehab unit?"
I make a sensible decision.
The doctor makes a few phone calls.
"There's a bed at Turning Point. Do you want it? You’ll have to go straight there."
"OK, I'll go."
The A&E reception desk phones a local taxi company - no more ambulances for me. At the Turning Point facility, I am taken into an ante room and asked a lot of questions.
"Have you ever assaulted anybody?" the attendant asks.
"No." That's almost true, I think.
"Have you ever taken drugs?"
"Only alcohol." That's almost true too. On and on with the questions. They decide I am not a homicidal maniac. I am admitted and an attendant takes my blood pressure - it’s 200 over something. Way high. I can’t stop shaking. They give me tranquilisers but the pills have no effect. I go to my room, get in the bed and go cold turkey. It’s not nice. I try to sleep.
Later in the afternoon, I venture out of my room. There is a group of inmates sitting, talking in the main meeting area. I sit and listen. They seem nice but I am too ill to talk. I just smile and nod. They understand. They have been there. I ring my Dad and he says he is coming to visit me tomorrow afternoon. He’s getting the train to Manchester.
That night I manage to get some sleep and in the morning, I am feeling better. I attend a meeting. It’s the usual AA stuff; confessions, stories, higher power, 12 steps. At lunch time I eat something and talk to some more inmates. Overnight they appear to have admitted some homicidal maniacs. I need to get out of here - it’s starting to feel like prison with free sedatives. Dad arrives and we talk in my room.
"I need to get out of here. I need to get back to my flat" I say.
"OK, OK, how about tomorrow?"
"No, now. I need to get out now. Take me to my flat. Talk to them. Get me out."
"OK, I'll talk to them." He goes out and returns sometime later.
"They say tomorrow. Best that you wait till tomorrow."
"I want out now."
"I'll take you tomorrow." He’s adamant. I give him the keys to my flat and he leaves.
Time for the evening meal arrives. Most of the residents go to the restaurant. I put on my coat and walk to the reception desk. One attendant is on duty.
"I'm leaving" I say, matter of fact.
"OK" says the attendant, "Can you please sign this release form?"
I sign and walk outside into the fresh air. I feel quite good considering - the tranquilisers must be helping. I hail a taxi. Dad is eating fish and chips when I arrive at my flat and he is surprised to see me. But it is a fait accompli.
The next day (Tuesday) we go to see my doctor. I should have done this before but alcohol also confuses the mind. Mum has in the meantime rung the Imasys office and told them I am sick.
The doctor checks my pulse and blood pressure and examines the fungus - I am getting used to this routine. She says my immune system has been weakened by the alcohol and, as long as I don’t drink, the fungus will just clear up on its own. My blood pressure is still high. The doctor takes a blood sample for liver tests and writes a prescription for more tranquilisers. She wants to see me in a week’s time. I like her. I prefer female doctors - they’re just so much more sympathetic in general.
It’s Wednesday and my Dad has to go home. He’s retired but my Mum needs him. They keep goats.
"I’ll be OK. Yes, I’m sure. I’ll see the doctor next week. Yes. Yes. Yes." Eventually he’s reassured. Will I be okay? I haven’t got a fucking clue.
On Thursday I am bored out of my mind. Alone. No booze. Just boring. I ring the office and tell them I am getting better and I’ll be in tomorrow.
"What’s been wrong with you? Your Mum wasn’t sure but thought it might be serious."
"I’ve been puking a lot. Yeah, I’ve seen the doctor. I’m fine now. Must have been something I ate." I don’t know if they believe me but it doesn’t matter. They need me. I need them. Even if they hate me, they need me. And even work is better than being bored - I think.
It’s Tuesday again, so I take a day off work to see the doctor. I feel remarkably healthy. The fungus has gone - it’s surprising how quickly a body can repair itself. I am almost energetic. The doctor surveys the test results.
"The main drinking indicator is the highest I’ve ever seen - over 2000" she says. "It’s supposed to be no more than 150."
Wow. Have I set a new record? Maybe the Guinness Book of World Records would be interested.
"Fortunately, it doesn’t look as if there is any permanent liver damage yet" she continues. "Have you been drinking at all this week?"
"No." This is true. I thought about it but I’m not stupid, am I?
Another week passes. That's 19 days without a drink. A world record for as long as I can remember - probably since I was 16. It’s Friday night and I’ve finished the tranquilisers. I feel great. I look, well, ill actually. But not as ill as before. I need a shave and a haircut. And a new job. I definitely need a new job. It’s Friday night for Christ’s sake. One drink won’t hurt. I seem to remember that from somewhere before. Look, just one. One teeny, weeny, tiny whisky to celebrate my recovery. I buy a bottle of whisky and some lemonade. Half a bottle later, I fall asleep. It’s only half a bottle and no liver damage. I’m fine. Really.
Desperately Seeking Sex & Sobriety - Copyright Paul Pisces 2002-2004
(A Cautionary Tale of Sex Tourism, Drugs, Alcohol, Prostitution & Suicide)