Some folks whispered, some folks talked,
But everybody looked the other way,
And when time ran out
there was no one about
on Independence Day...
("Independence Day", Martina McBride)
Every now and then The Lord does me a slight favor. But also, every now and then He plays little jokes on me...
And I don't always think those jokes are very funny.....
I was purely mortified to show my face in town when Bonnie and her husband brought me back from the detox center after my relapse on alcohol. I kept asking myself how it had happened? But I knew only too well why it had happened.
I had stopped attending AA when I moved to tiny Podunk. I hadn't gone because I hadn't wanted anybody in this small, gossipy town to "know" that I am an alcoholic.
Anyway, I told Bonnie that I was too embarassed to death to be seen in public. I didn't want to go to Walmart for groceries or anything.
"Don't worry about it," Bonnie said, as we entered my apartment. She was going to help me pour out the rest of any leftover liquor still in there and then help me take all the empties out to the dumpster.
"You just hold your head high and go on with things," she continued as we worked at the unpleasant task.
"Hold my head high?" I asked incredulously. "You've got to be kidding me! I'm scum. I'm a loser. And it's all over town, Bonnie. Every dang person in a three county radius knows what I did. I've already seen the stares and heard the whispers. Somebody should just take me out back of a barn somewhere and shoot me like they do to useless horses..."
"Well actually...." she stated haltingly. "You just may have lucked out on the gossip deal. Because actually....your drinking of the alcohol isn't so much what they're talking about as much as they're talking about a couple of other things...."
I waited....and then I exclaimed: "Oh no!---did somebody die?"
"No," she replied. And then she filled me in. "Everybody's talking about LuLu. She stole your thunder, thank goodness. She got arrested the other night for Public Intoxication and Disorderly Conduct. She got into a bar fight again and tore the shirt clean off some girl she was fighting with. All the boys were happy as larks because they not only got to see gorgeous LuLu in another catfight but they also got to see Lorinda Madison's tits."
(Remember LuLu, my old boss? The Manager I had replaced when she got fired for being on drugs and having affairs with married doctors? Got drunk one night and plowed through the town surgeon's landscaping and over his $3,000 bricked mailbox? That LuLu.)
"Oh crap!" I exclaimed. "Do you realize what this means? When LuLu gets convicted of that Public Intoxication charge, she'll get placed on Probation---and you know what that means. She'll be required to attend mandatory AA meetings for the duration of her probation."
As Bonnie looked puzzled at this revelation, I explained further.
"Here in Texas, any misdemeanor charge involving alcohol gets you put on probation for a year or two---and they always require at least 3 mandatory AA meetings a week during that time. And there's only one dang AA meeting here in Podunk. And that's all I need---is to have to sit next to LuLu at an AA meeting. Oh, the irony....."
"Hell, don't worry about it, Bo," Bonnie replied. "Her lawyer might get her off of the charge like he did for that DWI she got last year. Or else he will be sure to drag her case out for the next entire year. And if she does get convicted, once she hears about you joining Podunk's AA she'll be sure and go to that other AA meeting in her own county."
We worked a little while longer and Bonnie helped me unpack my bags. And then I remembered.
"Hey, wait a minute," I said. "You said the town was talking about 'a couple of other things'. What is the 'other thing' besides LuLu's stuff?"
She hesitated before replying--- and I felt a degree of dread rising in my throat.
"What IS it?" I demanded. "Oh Lord, I knew it. What did I do while I was drunk? But.... I couldn't have done anything! Because for the entire time I drank I was hiding in my apartment---- so I couldn't have done anything strange!....did I?"
"Well... it's what you did in the ER..." she said haltingly, not wanting to divulge the "bad news". "I guess I can tell you because Belinda will tell you about it anyway when she calls you later tonight."
And so she told me.
"Apparently, when the paramedics loaded you into their truck they were scared shitless because you were nearly dead. One of the ER nurses said later that the medics had screamed into the ER's radio that they were just across the street from the hospital at your apartment, less than 200 yards away, but that you were nearly dead and they didn't think they were going to get you there in time. They ran you into the ER like bats out of hell and the team was waiting there to receive you---but then they couldn't get an IV line into you. Not one of the ER nurses was able to successfully stick you. Finally, they rushed an ICU nurse downstairs and she was able to get a line into you. While all this was going on, the doctor was examining you and yelling out orders and.....and....well....you said something to him...."
"Oh my God, what did I say?" I cried in anguish. "What in the hell did I say?"
I was imagining awful things---and with good reason. I mean, I've said some strange things to doctors before. Once when I was being put under anesthesia for oral surgery, the nurses told me later that I had turned woozily to the doctor and said: "Baby, you are DAMN good-looking" before I fell asleep. Although it had cracked them up, it had utterly mortified me to death--- and so ever since then I've been afraid of being in a senseless state in front of good looking doctors.
(I think it's that starched white labcoat with their name embroideried on it that gets me....)
(Or if they have nice chest hair that sticks up out of the V-neck of their scrubs....)
Where was I?
Oh yes....I had asked Bonnie what in the hell I had said to the doctor.
"What DID I SAY?" I demanded.
"Okay, okay," Bonnie replied. "The way I heard it, you suddenly became conscious for a minute....and you whispered to the doctor that you 'knew what he was thinking'. And it startled the hell out of him that you were able to speak, considering the state you were in. I mean, you were actually dying right in front of them and they couldn't get a line into you and Belinda was crying and everybody thought you were a goner for sure. And then you shock the hell out of everybody by speaking up and telling the doctor that you knew what he was thinking...."
"And?" I prodded, as she had trailed off again.
She sighed before she spoke, and then she resolutely blurted it out.
"So... the doctor leaned down to hear you better and he asked you exactly WHAT it was that you thought he was thinking. And you said....you said....oh shit---YOU SAID THAT YOU KNEW THAT HE WAS THINKING THAT YOU WERE AN ER DOCTOR'S WORST NIGHTMARE!"
"I did?" I asked quietly, looking at the floor in shame.
"And...uh...that's not quite all of what you said..." she replied quietly---and my head suddenly snapped back up to attention. Oh GOD, I thought. Here it comes.....
"Did I tell him he was good looking or something?" I asked fearfully. "Please don't tell me I said that he was good-looking---please don't tell me that. For God's sakes I know I looked horrible....my hair was messed up and I was wearing that damn biker girl T-shirt that says 'This Bitch Don't Fall Off'...."
"Uh...no...," Bonnie continued, the corners of her mouth turning upwards with the beginnings of an involuntary grin. "You didn't say that. But you did blurt out 'I'M A DRUNK...AND I DON'T HAVE INSURANCE!'"
* * * * *
I don't want to think about that day anymore.
* * * * *
I took my last drink on the Fourth of July---Independence Day. I joined Podunk's local AA meeting last Friday night and I've attended every day since then. I've already got a sponsor--- and she's a nurse, too. And she has 14 years of sobriety. I'm already earnestly working the assignments she gives me.
When I got to that first meeting I was so relieved----I hadn't realized how much I missed my AA meetings. Sadly, I realized what a dreadful mistake it had been to stop going to AA when I had moved to Podunk. I had been so frightened of "the whole town knowing I was an alcoholic".
But now I don't give a shit if anyone knows about it anymore. I want to live. I want to be sober. And I simply WILL NOT let this damnable disease beat me. I refuse to be a statistic. I will beat this monster if it takes every last damn ounce of strength I have.
And the fact that my family abandoned me isn't anything I'm going to worry about right now. I never could meet their expectations anyway, so this relieves me of a lot of pressure and anxiety I had been feeling for quite awhile. My first night at AA, the person chairing the meeting said: "We'll be your family now. You are home."
And so I begin again....thank you God.....
* * * * * *
Amazingly enough, the owners of my company didn't fire me, even though they sure had a damn good reason to and I wouldn't have blamed them a bit. And so I am grateful beyond words for that. I love working there with my good friends and I was relieved to be able to stay there. Their only stipulations are that I give them the phone number of my sponsor and also that I give them a key to my apartment so that they can get into there if I ever "hole up" again. But I told them that I don't intend to do it again.
Because I'd die for sure next time......
The first thing I did when I returned to work Monday morning was to send Belinda home to begin her maternity leave. She is almost full term and she looked tired as hell. The baby is due anytime now. I told her to turn over her schedule to me---and announced that I would be the field RN while she was on leave. She gratefully took me up on my offer.
One neat thing is that while I was gone, the owners finished training a new secretary and brought Jane-Anne up to par on being Office Manager. They had trained the two to do more of the office's daily paperwork, chores, and chart audits so that I won't be so overloaded with trying to manage the place and do mounds of paperwork while trying to train new employees or rookies at the same time. Now I will be able to mostly devote myself to seeing the patients along with Bonnie. What JOY!
When I told the new secretary that I would be taking over Belinda's route, that sweet little girl (who happens to be Belinda's cousin) brought me my week's worth of patient visits paperwork. She had painstakingly put together my whole week's schedule and had organized for me all the visit paperwork that I would need---day by day---including Post-It's stuck here and there to remind me what teachings or tasks needed to be performed for each visit.
I almost fainted. It was the nicest blessing I've ever had. And then she shyly told me that she would do it for me every week.
Lord knows that I don't deserve this.....
Thank you GOD......thank you thank you.....
* * * * * * * *
And so, stubbornly, and with a new resignation in my heart to beat the hideous beast called alcohol, I am on the road again.
I am once again riding the trusty Jeep on the roads, free as the wind.....seeing patients out in cattle ranch country, chicken farm country, and in horse pastures. It is almost like medicine for me. I have returned to visit my favorite cows and paint ponies. I have walked down to the ponds to see the turtles sunning themselves on rocks and the cranes swooping in for a landing. I have again been able to breathe in the pleasantly sultry air of Texas cattle country...
And I forgot to tell you.....
When I returned to my apartment that day with Bonnie---guess what was on the balcony in one of my hanging plants?
You guessed it----another nest---a THIRD ONE--- with four baby mockingbirds in it, cheeping away! They seemed about a week old, already getting feathers. And I couldn't resist taking more pictures.
But that got me into a little trouble. Because yesterday I went to a retirement home to see several patients, and they have a parakeet in the main lobby there. Thinking that I am now a bird "expert", and the dear little thing WAS singing in such a friendly way, I went over to its cage and stuck my finger in there, saying: "Pretty Birdie? Pretty Birdie?"
And the little asshole hopped right over to my finger and PECKED it.
I started arguing with that stupid bird, saying in a belligerant tone: "Peck ME will you?..." But I stopped when I noticed that the cleaning lady was nearby---and was looking at me like I was a lunatic.
Damn parakeet. Who does he think he is? I mean, I never minded getting pecked to death by a parent mockingbird protecting their babies. But a pissant PARAKEET?
I'm never going to call him a Pretty Birdie again.
* * * * *
A Note to my Readers:
Thank you, dear friends, I can never thank you enough for your notes of encouragement and support. I am grateful beyond words for your comments, kindness, and concern. I think of you daily, every day, and I am embarassed to death to disappoint you with this relapse. It was unprofessional of me and damn stupid, so very very stupid. I let you down. And I let my co-workers and patients down. I let everybody down. So I am going to do my best to work very earnestly to not allow this to ever happen again. I am going to follow the program of AA, beginning again at Step One, and try to again become a contributing member of society instead of an alcoholic hiding in a back room drinking alone in desperation and despair. Because there is a way out for me---and it has always been AA---and I'm going to take this chance that God gave me and run with it.
Again, thank you so much for your notes. I bawled my eyes out reading them because of your kindness. Words simply cannot express my gratitude. I don't know what to say except thank you--- from the bottom of my heart.