Driving to work this morning, I passed a certain stretch of interstate and had a flashback to a darker time. I experience these flashbacks frequently. Sometimes it’s something I see, sometimes it’s something I smell or taste or hear. Certain triggers will force memories from darker days to well up vivid reminders of when my life was desperate and caving in. I’ve passed this particular exit a million times since getting sober, but for whatever reason today it struck a chord and sent me back.
I was late for work again but that was the least of my problems. I was just hoping to make it to work without vomiting in my car while keeping up with hectic morning traffic. I couldn’t stomach any breakfast that morning so there was no buffer between the leftover Jagermeister from the night before and my stomach.
Just don’t throw up. Almost there.
I’d made this drive to work hungover a million times. But I remember this hangover as especially debilitating. For the majority of my drinking career my hangovers were simply varying degrees of nausea and dizziness. But now they were progressing from what used to feel like mild sea-sickness to severe abdominal cramping where my stomach felt aflame. I worried these cramps might be a sign of something serious. Enough so, to even go see a doctor about them. But of course, in typical alcoholic fashion I lied about how much I was really drinking. So his diagnosis was useless.
To make matters worse as I took the exit I decided to light a cigarette. I always had an insatiable craving for two things the morning after a bender, cold beer and cigarettes. The problem is, even though lighting a cigarette while brutally hungover will give you a hell of a head rush, it also sends you plummeting into even worse nausea and dizziness after about the third drag.
I was now even more hammered. My eyes were glazed over. All I could smell or taste was ash and Jaegermeister. I could barely see out of my nickle slotted eyes. I was in no shape to go to work. Hell, I was in no shape to even be driving, and it was only 8:00am.
I wonder why more people don’t get DUIs in the morning? That’s when I drive drunk.
To be “safe” I would walk home from the bar at night only to drive to work four hours later. It made perfect sense to me.
I contemplated pulling over to throw up, but opted to try and tough it out.
Only a few miles to go.
As I turned down the off ramp in a brief glimpse of clarity, I knew I was screwed. I knew I was an alcoholic holding on to the last threads of functionality.
Maybe one day I’ll be able to stop.
When I see this exit now I am reminded it is a sign of my past. It’s a sign of the times when I was miserable, hopeless and lost. It was an exit to nowhere. I could have gotten off any time I wanted. But I chose not to.
Thankfully, God intervened with a detour to redirect me.
Today, this exit means something completely different. It’s an exit that directs me to my daughter after a long day at work. It’s an exit I take while enjoying the sun coming up with my morning coffee. I know now when I take this exit I am on the right path; A path towards joy, fulfillment and hope. This exit is no longer a sign pointing towards the abyss. This exit is a sign pointing towards the path God has mapped out for me; A road of recovery and healing that I now travel with my beautiful wife and daughter.