Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Let's Drink To Sobriety

This day has marked an official turning point in my life I'm quite sure. I have no idea as I write this how things will turn out, but I have hope. Here's my update on the last post in which I asked for your thoughts and/or prayers.

I want you to read what happened. I'm not posting this because I'm proud of it. Quite the contrary, I wish I could forget. But if by posting this I can make one or two people think about their lives and consider the consequences of their actions, perhaps a similar misfortune can be avoided.

The following text in color was written on Sunday and I will add follow-up comments at the bottom of this post.

I should learn to trust my instincts. Having endured several days of manic depression which reached a peak on Saturday in which I could have cared less whether I lived or died, I knew a party was not what I needed. All I really wanted was to watch the George Carlin special on HBO. I accepted an invitation to that LONG before I accepted the invitation to the party that night.

We were invited over for dinner and drinks at a friend’s house last night at 7:00. I really thought we'd be out of there by 10:00 or 10:30 at the latest. It required a major effort to psyche myself up for it but we went and had a pretty good time. We were the first guests out of a total of eight to arrive. I made a pitcher of margaritas to get us going; they were good and strong. Upon feeling the effects of the margarita I realized I needed to alternate between margaritas and beer -- the beer serving as a down-time of sorts. When I discovered there was no beer I was about to go get some when our host told us that another guest -- also a friend of ours was bringing the beer. Sounded good to me. Most of the other guests were running quite late and eventually arrived around 9:00. And when they arrived, of course they were ready for margaritas and I had another with a beer.

Once the conversations got going time really passed quickly. Suddenly it was 11:00 and most of the other guests had to leave. Txrad and I stayed to continue chatting and had a few more drinks. Dinner was great but light – not the type of meal conducive to soaking up alcohol though.

Around 1:00 our host and her other remaining guest went out to the store for cigarettes. I was clearly in no condition to drive at this point although I do remember making the decision to leave. And I left without txrad although he might have followed me out to the car. I’m not sure about that part. Because there is very little I remember after putting my hand on the door knob. Just exiting the rather large apartment complex proved to be problematic. One of the only other extremely vague recollections I have is the feeling of a retaining rock wall approaching the car, thankfully at a pretty slow speed, but not without impact and some front-end damage to my prized automotive treasure.

What I am absolutely positive about is the fact that I didn’t actually get home until around 6:30, even though the distance was only five miles. I decided to pull over in what seemed to be an immediate dead-end cul de sac – a road to nowhere. I awoke around 6:00 on the rocky ground with dirt and debris in my hair. I think I spent about 15 minutes looking for something – perhaps my car keys and maybe txrad. I recall a feeling of helplessness and despair. I didn't know where I was and I didn't know how I got there.

When I got home I called my friend who hosted this exquisite gathering and told her where I thought I had passed out and asked her if she was in any condition to drive around to find txrad. Unfortunately, she had taken Ambien. Yes, a sleeping pill, in addition to copious amounts of alcohol.

Knowing I was incapable of driving I decided to lie down. I awoke about 10:00 in a somewhat more sober state and realized txrad was not in the house. I began to panic. I took the other car and drove over to the street where I assumed I had passed out. There was no cul de sac in the area, and this street was not a route I would have taken when driving from my friend’s apartment to our house, at least not in a rational state.

I drove back to the apartment, up and down that street and still could not find anything resembling the area where I stopped for my nap.

I came home and I was frantic. I called my friend and she said I might need to report him missing. About that time I heard the back door open and it was txrad. He still seemed intoxicated and was not very responsive to my questions. He was speechless which is understandable.

It was several minutes later when I realized he was literally speechless. He could not utter a word. It was when he tried to write down the words he was trying to say that I realized something was terribly wrong. His written words were incoherent and he was struggling to even write.

The one word he did manage to write which made sense was “stroke.”

My world, which I felt was looking brighter when he came through the door, suddenly darkened and began to spin in a way that made the prior events of the evening pale in comparison.

Keep in mind that I was still not feeling at all stable myself. And having to face this particular reality under the circumstances was unlike anything I have ever experienced. I will not even try to conjure up the words to express my feelings.

We spent some amount of time seated together at the kitchen table without saying a word and with me having a million possible scenarios flashing through my brain. With all the other bad shit that had gone on, how could he have a fucking STROKE?

Later, txrad motioned to his head and I parted his hair to take a look at the spot where he pointed. He had a pretty nasty wound, probably suffered from a fall. I quickly came to the computer to Google the word “concussion” and I felt a sense of relief and hope upon reading that a severe concussion can cause temporary brain malfunction, slurred speech, etc.

I asked txrad if he wanted me to take him to the emergency room and he said no. I quizzed him about his condition, asked him if he could move all his fingers on both hands and he could.

He also managed to relay a bit of interesting information regarding how he got home. He walked home – all five miles of it -- from the apartment complex where he had apparently fallen during his blackout. That would be remarkable with a nasty hangover. The fact that now he could barely move and possibly having a concussion, or worse, made it seem like a miracle. I suspect he had to utilize every bit of adrenalin he could muster, and then walking in the door (after having stooped down to pick up the Sunday paper on his way in), his body just seized up on him.

I have no idea what tomorrow will bring. But I prayed to a God today that I don’t know for certain exists. It couldn’t hurt.


Well, let me tell you what "tomorrow" brought. Tomorrow (Monday) brought a bit of false hope. Because I felt better, I think I projected some of that onto txrad. He seemed 10% better, which under the circumstances would be a decent improvement if indeed he had a severe concussion. I really wanted to take him to the ER but because I thought he might well be on the road to recovery, I decided to give it one more day. I'm not sure why I thought his inability to speak a sensible word was encouraging except that maybe he was trying to speak more of them.

One more day didn't do much to alleviate my anxieties. And as I slowly broke the news to one friend at a time, I was hearing the same response: "Take him to the hospital." And because he wasn't any better on Tuesday than he was on Monday, I began to panic again.

He was pretty bruised up with scratches here and there. But then again, so was I. But at least I could speak. Talk about being in denial.

On Monday night we were watching the MSNBC crap about the Texas primary on Tuesday and txrad starting saying something. I didn't know what he was saying so he came in the kitchen and pointed to March 4 on a calendar. I realized he was pointing to the primary day and I asked him, "do you want to vote tomorrow?"

He nodded yes. It didn't happen.

I did go vote while I was out picking up lunch for him. I didn't want to tell him I voted because I didn't want him to feel bad. But he found the folded up page of endorsements from the Austin Chronicle I had taken with me, and he came to me at my desk and pointed to the endorsement of Barack Obama and grunted as if asking me did I vote for him. I said yes. He walked away with a feeling of self-accomplishment on his face.

This ate away at my soul on Tuesday. There's a reason I'm not a parent. I'm 47 and have never had to take care of anything except a cat, and even then I had txrad's help. I want with all my heart to believe everything is going to be OK without help. Sometimes it's not; sometimes we do need help and we often need to give in to the reality of a situation.

However wild your life may be, when your beloved partner of 17+ years walks 5 miles to your house with a hangover and a fractured skull, just a few hours after you have smashed the lips off your BMW and banged yourself up thrashing about in a vacant lot while peeing all over yourself, take note. This is not normal behavior. That is not "dinner and drinks." I don't know what to call it, but I wish to hell we'd stayed home and watched George Carlin. That's the honest-to-God truth.

Yes, you heard me correctly. txrad has a fractured skull but the prognosis is hopefully going to be OK. What finally made me snap and realize I had to get to to the ER was when I went to him this afternoon and I said, "I will be so glad when you can speak again because when you start rambling about UFOs incessantly, I will never tell you to shut up."

He has a knack for that sort of thing and normally he would get the joke. He blushed and looked confused as if he had no idea what I was saying. That was my big clue to get his ass to the ER. After about 3 hours of check-ins, waiting, then seeing a nurse, then a doctor, then going for a CT scan, and then X-rays, they decided to move him to a hospital downtown for an overnight stay, much to his dismay.

But this is a good hospital where they specialize in brain trauma injuries so I'm confident he's in good hands. I followed the ambulance to the hospital and spent some additional time with him before I came home. They said they may keep him a couple of days. Maybe I'll have my boy back in the house on Thursday, or Friday at the latest.

He may need speech therapy. There's a lot we don't know yet. As the doctor told me, when you're dealing with brains, it can be odd, and I know I'm paraphrasing. I can't help it. I'm freaked the fuck out, but I pick up on the things I want to hear, like home in 2 days. Physical therapy, speech therapist, whatever, we'll deal with that. At least all his vital signs were pretty steady during the time he was at home and SHOULD have been in the ER since Sunday.

I'm not here to get on a chair and preach, but please take this story to heart. Lots of people go out and have a good time, drink excessively at parties, and try to drive home. I happen to be one of those people who hates to impose -- I feel like I have to leave because I like the privacy of my own home, and I don't like to infringe on the privacy of others.

If you are like me, here's my advice: Don't go to parties, and if you do, stay away from excessive hard liquor, have a plan in place, arrange for a taxi, or just fucking sleep over! Because you know what? It may sound stupid to suffer the expense and/or inconvenience of a taxi or a sleepover, but when you weigh that against the cost to replace txrad's new $500 pair of bifocals, the $2,000 (if I'm lucky) repair on the car, the prospect of a loved one being disabled for life, or the possibility that both of you could have died, or that I'm surprised I wasn't found by the cops parked in a remote area and passed out for a few hours on the ground, in which case my life would be even worse than it is right now, a sleepover or a taxi sounds pretty fucking cheap.

And wait until we get txrad's medical bills for which I'm not sure the lapsed insurance will cover. That's another story.

Have we learned anything yet?

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