On September 29, 2008, I made the decision to change my life. To end the dependency I’d developed on prescription painkillers, and get help.
Recently I dug out something I was asked to write while in treatment at Hazelden-Springbrook in Newberg, Oregon. I was given the assignment, during my final week (it was a total of four weeks I stayed there), to do a write up, in prose format, of what had led me to the center in the first place. All I was given was paper and pencil, and so I started to write.
This is what I came up with.
It turned out to not just be good therapy; it was also fun experimenting writing in first-person present tense. Something I’ve never done before. I enjoyed it.
Here’s the first part. I’m sharing it for the addict out there who still suffers and wonders if there’s any hope. Because I’m here to tell you that there IS hope. You’ll be okay. Sometimes we have to fall in order to rise up stronger than we were before.
“Meghann? How are you feeling now?” A hand touches me on my naked shoulder, and I hiss and recoil from it.
Immediately the hand is gone.
The weight of it is too much. The warmth too much. It’s all too much, because everything hurts. Absolutely everything hurts. I can’t breathe without gasping for air. I can’t shift on the bed without whimpering in pain. And I don’t dare open my mouth, lest I throw up again.
In this moment I am completely and utterly trapped, my body forcing me to lie down and take my punishment for what I’ve done to myself these last several months.
The voice is back again, and this time I try to respond, tilting my head a few inches and no more. It’s too heavy, and I’m too weak. “Yeah?” My voice cracks, and I feel the vibrations running up and down my throat, which is dry and in desperate need of water. Of milk. Of something that could soothe the tissues that I know must be scraped raw by now from all of my vomiting.
But that doesn’t seem to help much.
“How are you feeling now, sweetheart?”
It’s my father. He’s been with me since this all started what feels like weeks ago. And I want to reach for him. I want him closer. “I hurt, dad.” I wince as I feel even more pain in my stomach. It’s like a blow torch has been set off in the pit of my abdomen, and someone is trying to drill a hole straight through me to the other side. The fire has been lancing at my insides for so long now I wonder if I can possibly survive another second.
Cringing, I feel my body’s desperation to move, and without even really realizing what I’m doing, I flip over violently from my left to my right side.
An involuntary movement.
Something my body has to do.
I can’t explain it, even as it is happening to me.
I think people call it some kind of a convulsion.
Not that it really matters what it is. I do what my body demands; being put in my place over and over again as I’m shown just how powerless I am over this whole process. All I can do is ride it out.
“Do you think you were able to keep down that last bit of antacid I gave you?”
I can see dad’s eyes right across from me. He’s lowered himself to my level, and I’m peering straight through his glasses into an endless sea of brown.
I would do anything for those eyes.
For this man that I adore.
Especially right now.
Right now, knowing everything that I’ve done and everything that I’m asking of him to help me clean up my mess…right now I would do anything.
Which is why I hate having to tell him what I know he doesn’t want to hear; namely that the Prilosec didn’t stay down. That I saw it come up into the blue bucket about twenty minutes ago, during one of the many moments when I’ve heaved all the contents of my stomach onto the floor in the last several hours.
Honestly, there’s not much left in my stomach to expel at this point.
Those two little pink pills were the first actual things I’d seen in a long time.
Which is why I know exactly what they were.
Why I know they didn’t do me one damn bit of good.
And as I tell him this, in a soft, painfully slow voice, I see him sigh and shake his head. See the frustration that passes over his face. The helpless bent of his shoulders.
And if I could cry at that moment, I know that I would.
But instead I just throw up again, leaning over the side of the bed as dad holds the bucket up close under my chin until the episode passes, his fingers stroking through my hair as I cough and sputter and rebel against the taste of bile in my mouth.
Finally my abdomen stops clenching, and I fall back, exhausted, onto the pillows and sheets, which are damp with sweat.
I’m chilled, but I know that in another moment I’ll be tearing the covers off of me as I start burning up all over again.
That’s how this dance seems determined to go.
Dad leaves to wash out the bucket for the thousandth time since all of this started, and when he returns, I’ve flipped over violently again onto my other side, so that now I’m facing away from him.
I want to stretch.
I want to curl up into myself.
I want to rend and tear my mother’s favorite white sheets into shreds.
I can’t seem to stop moving.
I find a position that feels blissfully perfect for all of two seconds, and then my body is forcing me to move again. Spinning circles on the king-sized mattress. Making a mess of everything.
I’m good at that.
Making a mess of things.
Dad comes back again after what could have been minutes or hours…I have no idea which…and tells me that mom is on the phone. That she wants to talk to me.
I’m afraid as he hands me the cordless device and puts it to my ear, though I don’t know if it’s that or something else that’s currently making my hands shake.
She is crying on the other end, and it breaks my heart.
I don’t think I can stand it.
“Your life is over, Meghann! Over! Do you know that? Do you know what you’ve done to yourself?”
I swallow, the feeling painful as my chapped, raw throat protests the clenching and unclenching of muscles, and try to speak. “I know, mom…I know…”
“Is that all you have to say for yourself?”
“I-I’m sorry…I never-”
“You’ve ruined your life! They’re going to arrest you, Meghann! They’re going to come and throw you in jail like a common criminal, and you’ll never get to do anything again! You’ll never finish school! How could you do this to yourself?”
I know that my mother is just afraid, as are we all.
I know she’s just angry that she can’t be there to help me.
I know that she feels trapped and powerless, and is hating every minute of it.
But it doesn’t mean that I don’t feel a lance piercing straight through my heart with every single word that pours into my ear. The ring of truth stinging like salt in a raw, gaping wound.
I don’t know what I’m begging for exactly. I just know I need her to stop. So maybe I’m begging for mercy? Begging for her to give my guilty conscience a rest? Because God knows it’s had plenty of time to build up to this moment in the past several days.
Unfortunately, she has other plans.
She’s an unstoppable force now, and I just have to sit there and listen. Sit there and listen, and know that it’s all my fault that we’ve arrived at this moment in time. Know that I deserve it, whether I think I can stand it or not.
I have to stand it.
There is no other option.
“You fucking selfish bitch!” She rails at me, pulling out the big guns, and my heart shatters just a little more, leaving me to wonder if I’ll ever be able to pick up the pieces again. “How could you do this to me?”
I want to tell her to stop making it all about her.
To say it has never been something I’ve consciously done against her.
But I can’t form the words.
Instead I drop the phone and throw up again, leaving dad to clean up two messes; my literal one in the bucket, and the far more complicated one on the phone with my mother.
He moves away for a moment, undoubtedly so I don’t have to hear exactly what he’s saying to her. Not wanting to cause me any more pain than he can probably already see written plain as day on my face.
When he comes back, he’s trying to smile for my sake. And I want his comfort. Need it as much as I once needed the drugs now being expelled from my body with all the violence of a Category Five hurricane.
He reaches for me.
I yearn for the contact.
And then when I get it, I hiss again and recoil backwards, my skin immediately protesting the contact, and the process starts all over again. I violently flip a few more times on the bed while dad watches, helpless, beside me. And I know he wants to help.
That he’s desperate to make it all go away, partly because he’s a doctor trained to help people, and partly because I’m his baby girl.
I know this as surely as I know that I want desperately to die in this moment. Because I don’t think I can stand it any more. This pain. This endless suffering. The black hole that I see before me, threatening to consume my entire life in a matter of seconds.
I don’t want it any more.
I can’t stand it.
I want out.
Out of this all.
I have no idea who I’m calling out to. No idea what divine being I think will even bother to pay any attention, given the fact that I’ve never turned to anyone before.
But it’s definitely true what they say; crisis can bring out the spiritual side in all of us.
“She’ll be okay, sweetheart,” dad is saying to me, trying to reassure me that mom will be okay again. That she’s just hurt. Upset. Scared.
All these things I already know.
But I’m not sure I believe it, which is why I shake my head once from side to side before falling back onto my pillow. “No…” I whisper the word, feeling the truth of that single syllable slam all the way to the marrow of my bones.
I’ve lost her.
She is gone.
My mother; my best friend and greatest support. My biggest obstacle and greatest source of heartache. The being I don’t want to live without.
I’ve lost her.
I’ve finally found what will drive her away.
I’m sure of it.
And it is that thought, more than the physical pain…the endless vomiting…the ants that seem determined to crawl over every inch of my skin…the sweating…the convulsions…it is that thought that matters most. That thought that makes me think I want to die.
To just close my eyes and not have to worry about any of it, ever again.
I am alone.
“I can’t…I can’t do it…” I think of that moment on the bridge, only about a month ago, when I ran, terrified, from the bungee jump. Saying those same words. Feeling that same futile terror.
Only this time my cliff is in the form of a future that holds too much uncertainty. Too many holes open for questions.
Help me…save me…
Suddenly I feel a hand again on my cheek, only this time, for one blissful moment, my skin seems to calm down, and I can stand to be touched. I turn my eyes up towards my father, and he is there, smiling at me, and I know that I’m not alone. That I have at least one ally still in my life.
For an instant, I feel just slightly better. And unbidden the thought comes into my head: this too shall pass.
I repeat it like a mantra in my head, even as I once again shy away from dad’s fingers. Once again require the bucket as I heave-ho over the side of the bed.
This too shall pass.
And hours – maybe days – later, I finally, mercifully drift off to sleep.