I'm almost done with this, I promise. Tomorrow I'll write about football or how sad Jennifer Anniston is about not being informed about Angelina Jolie's pregnancy. Or something.
Tonight I want to try and finish off this thread about James Frey and the "truth." And addiction. And what it means to be an addict.
I was surprised by the acrimony in the comments I received on the last blog - "A Few Days Later." This guy wrote a book about being an addict. He said it was the true story of his ordeal. Turns out the story wasn't completely true. Parts of it were exaggerated for dramatic effect and details were manipulated. Does this make the story any less real? Probably. Did he do things that he should be ashamed of? You bet.
He was doing things he should be ashamed of before he started writing the book. I've been sober for coming up on two decades and there are still stories that I don't tell because I'm embarrassed by my behavior. Sometimes I like to trot out the more amusing ones to share with people who ask me "So Dave, why don't you drink anymore?" Here's some truth: I did plenty of stuff that should have gotten me hurt or arrested or killed, but mostly I just got really sick or bruised or tired the next day and had to walk around feeling like I was stuffed with straw and my skull was shrinking rapidly around my swelling brain.
The last time I had a drink I was asked to leave my good friend's house in Phoenix, Arizona. I had spent the day drinking, then taking LSD, then drinking more, and then trying to figure out how more drugs could be purchased so the drinking could continue. In my exalted altered state, I began to waver mightily from the stated "good friends" understanding that I had and began to push mightily for the love that I believed that was once ours.
I was drunk. I was high. I had no idea what I was doing. Did that stop me? Nope. It make perfect sense to me. This was the night that I was going to win her back. I made a scene. Compared to some of the scenes I had made in the past, it was not hall of fame, but it wasn't pretty. She asked me to leave. It was one thirty in the morning.
Many miles away in Mesa, Arizona my mother was trying to get to sleep. She had helped arrange our little vacation to the Grand Canyon State, but she had spent most of it alone at the hotel. I had spent most of it drunk. Starting from the airport on the way down, on the plane, at dinner the first night, and on and on. Now the trip was winding down. Our flight was at six thirty out of Sky Harbor. I was across the vast urban sprawl that is Phoenix in a rental car looking back at the profoundly closed door of my friend's house - under the influence of whatever I had poured into myself for the past eight to ten hours.
As I sat staring at a Hertz map spread across the steering wheel, stereo blaring, air conditioner blasting cold air into my face - my mother had decided that if I didn't make it back to the hotel that night she was leaving without me. I have no recollection whatsoever of the drive across town that early morning. I know that I made it back to the hotel, and as I sat in the parking lot with the stereo still up high and the fan still blowing I had a thought, "Maybe this is my chance. Maybe I should knock it off before I don't have a choice."
I may have gotten an hour of sleep before it was time to get up and head for the airport. I was still drunk and starting to feel more than a little sick. The plane ride wasn't much fun either. I don't recall that my mother spoke to me much that morning - if at all. When we arrived back in Boulder I was scheduled to start my first day as an installer of modular office furniture. As the new guy, it was my job to lift and carry the parts that were needed from the truck to our staging area, then break down all the cardboard boxes. It was a full day of manual labor that nearly killed me. When I finally made it home, I collapsed on the couch.
The relief that awaited me was only momentary, as I realized I still had one more crappy phone call to make. I called my friend in Arizona and begged her to forgive my slovenly attempts at rekindling our romance and whatever ancillary ugliness that occurred before, during, and after. I told this to her answering machine. I wasn't getting off the hook anytime soon.
That was the week before Saint Patrick's Day. I had always taken great pride in my Irish heritage on that particular day, as it was my best excuse each year for drinking green beer (as opposed to all the other days of the year when the yellow stuff worked just fine). I made a mental note then to skip the Saint Paddy's celebration that year. No beer. No LSD. No Coke. No Jagermeister. No pot. No more. If I could make it past the end of the week, then I might have a clear view of what comes next. Bob Dole was President. I was twenty-five. I never spent a night in jail. I went to the emergency room once to have a piece of a beer bottle pulled out of my hand (I put it there when I merged my fist, a wall and the aforementioned Moosehead bottle). I had become all to accustomed to making calls to friends the morning after to check on the status of their health, my health, the health of our relationship. I had a Saturday and Sunday morning conscience.
That's my truth.