With a decade of sobriety under my belt, I look upon my darkest hour in life with gratitude. That may seem a strange thing to say since my bottom in addiction involved crawling around on a carpet and culminated in a drug and alcohol induced seizure. I must concede, however, that without the terror drenched occasion I would probably continue to use drugs, be insane or be dead.
In “Purple Fingers, Purple Toes”, an excerpt from my forthcoming memoir, you bear witness to the time when Johnny Walker and cocaine gripped me by the throat.
PURPLE FINGERS PURPLE TOES
I haven’t slept a wink. It’s 5 a.m. A vast quantity of cocaine circulates in my bloodstream. Birds chirp outside my window to wish me a good morning. I cover my ears. I have nothing to whistle about.
My party is over. I am toxic-liver drunk. I am parched-mouth dry. I am buggy-eyed paranoid. I am little-men-running-around-my-apartment delusional. I am hung over hard.
My friend dresses for work. She searches for her keys. She is sorry for leaving me. She will be fired if she doesn’t go. I wonder how she can be responsible at a time like this.
How can she function? I am barreled over by the reality of her departure. Oh my G-d, she is leaving me. What am I going to do? I am sick as a dog. Something is very wrong with me.
“Please, don’t leave me here alone,” I beg.
“You’ll be fine. Get some sleep.” she suggests.
I tell her I am not fine. I tell her I am scared. She promises to check up on me. She gives me a look of reassurance. She walks to the door and says goodbye to me. She closes the door behind her. Oh my G-d! I am all alone! Oh my G-d! I can’t catch my breath.
My heart drums against my ribcage. Marbles spill from my head on to the floor. I am a drooling mental patient. I am a walking zombie bandaged in panic.Oh my G-d, please help me! I am going to die.
I am drowning in Johnny Walker. I am sinking under a pile of cocaine. I am dangling by my desperation. I scour the carpet for more cocaine. I reach for a bucket of hope. I come up empty handed.
The hairs on my neck stand up like the fibers in the rug. My nose is pressed to the shag like a hound chasing a fresh scent. Why am I looking for more drugs? What the hell is wrong with me?
I wear a lunatic costume. I am only sane enough to comprehend my insanity. What’s a nice girl like me doing in addiction like this? I cry from my awareness. I am teetering on a brink. I am about to fall off the edge.
A monsoon of emotion hits me. I cover my eyes with my hands. I tell myself the feeling of death will pass. I pace the floors from room to room. I scan for something to distract me from my Goliath fear. Fierce dogs cower and retreat in the face of such terror.
I can’t catch my breath!I can’t catch my breath! Less air fills my lungs than fills a straw. A coffin shaped chariot arrives and awaits me.Oh, my G-d. I am going to die. I imagine my lifeless body facing down on the rug.
Carpet strands hold my body up like nails. I am the human sacrifice. This is not the happy ending my parents had in mind for me. This is not the way a parent should find a child. This is not the way a child should find a parent.
I grab the phone and dial my friend for comfort. She hears the terror in my voice. “What’s going on? What are you doing?” she asks.
I tell her every detail. Lines, liquor, cigarettes. Trying to relax. Can’t calm down. Can’t catch my breath. I sob uncontrollably. I fall to my knees. My body prays for help.
I look at my fingers. They are purple. What the hell? Am I imagining this? I shift my attention to my feet.Holy Sh--! My toes look purple too! I stretch my legs out in front of me. I need to get a better look. I squeeze my eyes shut hoping to change the image in front of me. I am alarmed.
I try to get up but can’t. My arms and legs won’t move. I have no idea why I am stuck. I suspect I am dying. Oh my G-d! Am I paralyzed? I never meant for this to happen. I will never do drugs again! Please help me! I promise, I will never do drugs again!
I rock back and forth on the ground to console myself. I choke as I gasp for air. My friend hears me choking. She starts to cry. She begs me to call 911. Her tone is serious. Her desperation frightens me.
“Hang up and call 911 now!” she demands.
“I can’t. There is cocaine all over the glass table. They will arrest me.”
“Call 911 now! If you don’t, I will.”
My pride prevents me from surrendering. If I call for help, people will know I have a problem. I am unreasonable. I cling to my good girl image. A voice from inside of me shouts: DO IT. DO IT NOW. MAKE THE CALL. IT IS A MATTER OF LIFE OR DEATH.
The voice is firm. The voice is certain. The voice is not mine. Once more, it commands me. DO IT, DO IT NOW! The presence shocks me into submission. I agree to call 911.
A screaming siren alerts me of the paramedic’s arrival. A large man breaks through my front door and lifts me up in his arms. I am totally out of control. I am screaming louder than the siren. I believe my heart is under attack.
I do not care if the neighbors hear me. My pounding heart punctures a hole in my chest. Thump, Thump, Thump. Thump, Thump, Thump. Thump, Thump, Thump. My heart is aching. My heart is breaking. My heart is begging for help.
Paramedics whisk me into the ER. It seems hours before a nurse injects me with peace. What the hell took you so long?? My thumping heart slows down. My racing thoughts cease to run. My tangled body untangles.
Thank you, G-d. Thank you. I am drained of all fight. I am beaten beyond recognition. I am empty of every excuse. There is nothing left to say and nothing left to do. I am reduced to nothingness and I am ready to change.
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