road to damascus (part one)

My trip to the promise land was via Rancho Mirage, California, and the Betty Ford Center. By the time I got there, in February 1991, I was a complete basket case. I was pulling my life apart but was powerless to stop it. I was powerless over booze and dope. I was powerless of people, places, and things. I was fucked up.

This particular collapse was facilitated by the first (and only) girl I loved deciding I was bad news. Ironically, I was doing pretty good for me. Before she told me she was splitting I’d been sober about 90 days and was happier than a pig in shit. I was running, working, making straight A’s and having the most passionate sex I ever had in my life. The girl had a different take on the situation however.

We’d been dating about a year and a half and I think she knew about two or three of my slips. In reality there were probably twice that many. One lasted all summer when I went on the road scalping tickets with my two dead buddies. When I came back home for fall quarter (the school was on quarters back then) I probably stayed sober for a week or two. It took me about that long to recover after some serious and consistent abuse. Then, a week or so into the term, I pitched what at that time was the mother of all benders.

It started with Rudy and a crack whore and ended about three days later after I’d been kicked out of one luxury hotel and run up close to $1,000 worth of room service in another. (In one, maybe two days mind you.) I damn near killed myself that time. I almost certainly had alcohol poisoning. The only thing that saved me, I believe, is that I finally got deathly ill and couldn’t drink any more. It took weeks to get over that debacle. And I forgot about it. Not so the girl.

In reality I was ruining her health at an even faster clip than my own. She was having psychosomatic stomach problems that were serious enough to warrant a colonoscopy. While I thought a $1500 dollar booze and dope binge was acceptable on at least an annual basis, she had other ideas. When she told me she was leaving me and town I freaked completely out.

The girl was the glue that held my ridiculous excuse for a life together. Before she came along I was unwilling to even seriously consider staying sober. Suddenly, in the girl, I cared about something almost as much as I did about escaping reality. (She was just a different means of escape, or at least a buffer between me and it.) 18 months before the split we were both relatively sure she was powerful enough to fix me. On the outside it looked like she was doing a pretty good job. I honestly thought I was doing well. Most people view recovery pretty much as pass or fail. What I figured was a solid “B” was in fact a glaring failure to her.

So I fell completely apart. Quit going to school. Started drinking and drugging pretty much all the time. Quit my job. Smashed my car and my head (yet again). Tried to cut my wrist but was too chicken shit to go through with it. (You cutters have balls. That shit hurts and I was fucked up to the nines when I tried it.) Was ejected from the house. I was living a complete emotional nightmare. And I recognized the feelings. It was exactly how I’d felt over 20 years before when my father left.

To make an almost two month story short, I wound up all the way across the country at Betty Ford. I may have had $5 bucks to my name at that point. On the flight out there I had plenty of time to scheme on what I was going to tell the counselors when they interviewed me and asked the inevitable question.

“So Prester, why did you come to Betty Ford for treatment?”

Without flinching I looked her right in the eye and told her “I’m her to try and save my life”.

Perhaps there was an element of truth in it. Mostly, though, I was there to get everybody back home off my back and to try and con the girl into coming back. It was a pretty good plan. And if I’d been in better shape, physically and emotionally, I might have pulled it off. The folks at BFC are the best in the business though. Within a very few days I’d decided to make the most of my time there. Then, after about two weeks, the miracle happened.

(Part Two)


3 Responses to “road to damascus (part one)”

  1. 1 beartwinsmom April 22, 2008 at 8:24 pm

    I can’t wait to read about the miracle.

  2. 2 etta April 22, 2008 at 10:38 pm

    great post!
    …and did I read something about you running in a previous life?

  1. 1 death of a con man (road to damascus part two) « Cracked Head Blog Trackback on May 5, 2008 at 5:19 pm

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If you're interested in reading a fairly detailed account of addiction and depression, Cracked Head Memoirs might be for you. It basically tells how it was and what happened. Writing it helped me go from active addiction to recovery yet again.

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