Suicide no. 12: Delirium Tremens
–by Derek Alan Wilkinson
(This time, not inspired by a daily prompt. But, rather, true life events…and 1,000 words instead of the boring 500.)
He knew he could put it down. Or, at least, there were methodologies out there—even if he did or didn’t have the bullocks or psychological makeup to follow through—to “shape up” or “get fit.” Everything from Alcoholics Anonymous to medicine, there were ways to quit, and to “get in shape.” There existed patterns and instructions you could follow “if you wanted it;” which was the problem for him. Even the habitual, fall down, fist-fight guy that shows up at the run-down, hole-in-the-wall wherever-the-fuck pub has his moments—his unhinged but wide-open gaps of sobriety amid his screaming, falling out, have-his-mum-bail-him-out-of-jail rampage.
Even if somebody or something outside of that kind of person’s self makes him get sobered up long enough to keep a job, a family going. A life. Just like John, who knew he could give up whisky. But then, he’d shamelessly ask himself, “Why should I do that?” Almost adolescent: Like questioning himself as to why he should get a job or a flat or responsibilities. Or, more appropriately, why he should care about anything that he was expected to care about at all.
It wasn’t as if health concerns, or family issues, or even statistical measures couldn’t explain it to him—he was a statistician for fuck’s sake. He knew the probability that he would die from something ethanol-related, and, on some level, he even cared. Above and beyond it all, John was a “functioning” drunkard amid a whole office full of them. They all drank, but it was a social thing for them. John, however, drank alone mostly, and didn’t care who tried to slow him down a bit.
As if “functioning” meant anything at all to someone like John.
And “alcoholic” was such a stupid catchphrase, too. For all anyone could tell, the entire region of Scotland was “alcoholic.” For John, drinking was different. It was…coerced. Like the old adage goes, “you’re powerless to control your cravings.” Well, he didn’t feel “powerless,” just…unable to reconcile the ideas of “power” and “alcoholism;” he just thought of the two concepts as mutually exclusive categories.
But it wasn’t the cravings, at all, that kept a man like John coming back for more alcohol.
No. He knew what “cravings” were. This was something different: something you define as the mere absence of something else—an empty space. When he drank, he did to fill that empty hole—that deep, unexplainable void of things that simply could not be filled with other things; indeed, “other things” drank from the same watering hole. He didn’t do what he did daily to escape a bad experience, or because his body “needed it” (he’d quit smoking, after all—and that was bad enough). No, he drank because of the absence of something that, he felt, was there in other people. He felt that, if he could just figure out what that absence was…. Well, not only could he quit drinking cold turkey, but he wouldn’t have had a reason to drink in the first place.
The thought of which just made him want to drink more.
So, what was this “void?” What did it consist, or, to be fair, not consist, of? The only answer John had was that the people around him seemed to have something—a reason to enter AA’s “step one,” and John didn’t have that. He just flat out looked at his life, his lot in it, and said, “Fuck it. The only reasons I have to quit are the ones where I’m avoiding something bad from happening—not because my drinking stands in the way of something.”
John thought about his family. He thought about his goals—both of which felt were hackneyed to begin with. It felt as if the thought of coming up with something as simple and stupid as a “goal” was just a means of prolonging the inevitable—that is, to say, death. He felt, whenever he’d come up with something, like he was “making it up.” He looked at most of the things we do in life as just an exercise we do, one in which we’re just waiting on the God-damned Grim Reaper to show up, uninvited, and that he’d best have a good scotch handy when the fucker showed up.
And he thought and felt all of this before he’d had his first episode of delirium tremens.
Most people don’t know what it’s like. You feel fine one minute, then you start to go into what John would call a “bad hangover.” Then, you get light-headed. Then, you’d get the “shakes,” which was nothing a little pot and ass-loads of sugar wouldn’t solve. All’s well that ends….
But no, this isn’t what happened.
John’s eyes rolled into the back of his head, and he became delirious when the hotel’s maid asked him if he needed anything. Then, he got the usual “shakes” when he tried to open the fridge or fix breakfast. But his thoughts flew at the speed of light—like they were happening at the rate of a…seizure?
And they were. John was alone, and he felt his eyes drift into the back of his head, and his thoughts felt like they’d just been thrown a-hundred-twenty miles-an-hour through his front windshield. Every time he’d open his eyes, it looked like rats and cockroaches had infested the place—even though he knew it was just his mind. And so they were, for three hours or so, until John finally regained anything close to what he considered a composure.
Which was when he asked the maid outside for more ice.
This was so he could pour himself another drink. After all, what the fuck else was he going to do?
What else at all? He’d asked himself over and over, and couldn’t come up with anything to appease that precious desire:
That one that silenced all else.
- A.E. Poe: self diagnoses his condition as “Mania a potu” e.g. Alcohol problems. (georgelippardsociety.org)
- Bourbon (recreatingpeter.wordpress.com)
- Suicide by Corkscrew (jdthechaff.wordpress.com)
- Hill, Blaine counties liable for $1.35M in inmate’s alcohol withdrawal death (billingsgazette.com)