This is my 2-year-old Jack Russell Terrier, Rusty Jack. Rusty is an amazing companion. He is a ball of energy and unconditional love. I have been diagnosed with Clinical Depression and have struggled with it for all of my adult life. I also fell from a ladder at work in 1997, and injured my spinal cord. In 2003, I went through a difficult transition in my life. In order to cope with everything going on, and my life crashing down around me, I turned to narcotic pain killers and alcohol to deal with life. I thought the bottle was my best friend, but after several years of near constant drinking, I found that this friend stabbed me in the back and enslaved me.
The longest time of sobriety since 2003, has been about 4 months. Weekly binges have been the routine for the past 8 years. The alcohol I used to self medicate came with a heavy price – more health issues, and worsening depression. It’s not been a fun time.
It’s awful. Shaking, anxiety, and terrible nightmares keep me awake all night. Dehydration due to the excessive alcohol consumption keeps my mouth dry, and my tongue glued to the roof of my mouth. The one thought that keeps going through my minds is this: “I am going to die. They are going to find my lifeless, decomposing body in this bed one day. Soon.”
So, I will lay there and began to mentally go through what I know is coming over the next few days. First will be the pain. Pain in my back. Intense, near paralyzing pain will be upon me within hours. I knew I will be barely able to get out of bed. Pain is always with me. Twenty four hours a day, seven days a week. It’s my constant companion. It’s always worse after a binge. So, to escape this excruciating hell, I will sleep. I will sleep upwards of 20 hours a day for the next few days. I will only get up to take the dog out to the bush across the street for him to relieve himself. I will apologize to him for not taking him for longer walks and the runs he so loves. I will go back in my apartment. Crawl back under the covers. I will not eat. If I do eat, it might be soup from a can. Uncooked soup. Open the can. Spoon it out. I won’t have the energy or even the will to put it in a pan and add milk or water. I will throw the can in the sink. I will crawl back under the covers. I will apologize to my dog for not being a better owner. I will feel guilty. I will sleep.
In three or four days I will feel the first twinges of stomach pain. Over the next 3 – 4 hours, that pain will only get worse. I dread what is coming as I realize that I have been totally constipated for the last week. I will run back and forth from my bed to the bathroom for hours, straining until I almost pass out. I will remember when that really happened. It was not fun. Regaining consciousness in a pool of your own blood is never a good thing. Even though that was many years ago, the memory still haunts. I will come back to reality as I am going to be doubled over in pain.
I know what will come next. It ALWAYS happens this way. I know it will be disgusting. I know it will cause me to almost vomit. I always hope will make it to the bathroom one last time. Sometimes I don’t. Either way, it will NOT be a pretty sight. I know that after a few hours of filling the toilet with all the sludge and crap of my latest binge, I will feel better. I know my energy will come back. I know I will begin to eat normally again. I know I will be careful to drink lots of water to get my body re-hydrated. I will feel better. I will clean my apartment. I will go for longer walks with the dog. I will forget the vow I made several days earlier as I lay in bed recovering from my binge:
“I have to stop this. I will STOP drinking. This time is THE LAST TIME!
Then, I will make a choice. I will choose to repeat the cycle again. Then again, and again. It happens this way every single time.
I don’t know what time it is. I don’t even know what day it is. All I know is that for the past 4 or 5 days I have drunk a lot. It’s starting again. I start to mentally go through everything that I know will happen over the coming hours.
This time, something different happens. I feel something stirring against my back. I roll over to see Rusty making his way slowly up to my face. I look at him. I see the look in his eyes. Trusting and loving. For the first time I realize that this, living, breathing creature relies upon me for everything. I start to think about what would happen to him, if, one day, I did not wake up? I realized that I owed him something in return for the unconditional love he gives to me, even in the midst of endless binges. He never condemned me. He always snuggles up to me, crawling up on my lap.
He is my best friend.
I look at my watch. Tuesday, January 27, 2012. I come out to my living room. I kick the dozens of empty beer cans out of my way. I survey the wreckage of the almost week-long binge. The previous twelve hours tops out at 45 empty cans of cheap beer. The day before that, another 45 empty cans. The day before that… Forget it. I don’t even bother counting anymore. I just grab the garbage bags and start shoving empty cans in. Four large trash bags later I can see my floor. I find my phone, and finally reach out for the help I desperately need. I can’t make it on my own.
I’d like to say that January 27 was the last time I had a drink. I made it three days shy of two months sober. I fell. I hid away. Then, I got back up, and went back to the one place I have been able to find support and encouragement. I have fallen 3 times since January 27. I thought it would be easier to beat this. It’s hard. Very hard. Old patterns are hard to change.
Despite my failings, my best friend, a little Jack Russell Terrier has been my loyal companion. Every time I look at him, as I am now as he sleeps, curled up next to me in a tight ball, I realize he needs me. But, as I travel this road of recovery, I think I need him more.