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Mom, if I start to die from withdrawal, please call 911

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mom of an alcoholic quoteI was shaking, nauseous, and so very sick. I felt dizzy, sweaty, and like my heart was going to explode. I was on my parents’ couch in my mother’s arms begging her to make sure I didn’t die – this was my first alcohol detox.

I had finally admitted in a drunken stupor a day earlier that I was a real alcoholic and that I needed help. My mother and brother then came to my filth ridden apartment two hours away to pick me up. I can still remember the look on her face. It was a disgusted, desperate, and concerned look. The kind of look I think only a mother can give. I had already started to shake, twitch, and vomit. I begged her, “Mom, please take me home. I’m scared.” Like any good mother she helped me out the door and drove me to my childhood home.

I had no idea at the time that an alcohol withdrawal could kill you, and neither did she. If I had known, I never would have endured the pain and suffering that I would go through over the next several weeks. It was a grueling and painful experience that I was sure would keep me sober for life.

Over the next few days I spent most of my time in the bathroom or on the couch. The couch was my safe place. Anytime I was ever sick or scared, I was on that couch with my pillows and a blanket. I somehow felt like this space would save me from the evils of the world. Maybe even save me from my alcoholism.

My mother was constantly at my side checking my breathing and making sure I was getting plenty of fluids. For days I kept praying, asking God to please not let me die. I kept repeating to my mother, “Mom, if I start to die or my heart stops, please call 911. I need you to check my pulse when I am sleeping. Please don’t let me die, mom. I’m scared.”

After a week, I started to think my drinking may have caused me some brain damage. My basic motor skills were not normal, I twitched randomly, I couldn’t remember things and my short-term memory was non-existent. I can recall a few scenes that will be with me forever.

Every time I went through a door, I would walk into it and then try to turn the knob. I couldn’t figure out why I wasn’t able to remember to open the door first before trying to walk through it. My mother would comfort me and told me not to think about it too much.

Another time, I stood in front of the fridge with a blank stare. My mother came up behind me asking me what I was doing and I looked at her confused, “I don’t know what I am doing here. I can’t remember why I opened the fridge.” She quietly looked at me and said, “Maybe you’re hungry, sweetie.” I thought for a moment and looked down away from her gaze. “Yeah, that’s it. I am hungry.”

The last scene that still sends a shiver down my spine was this: I was getting out of the shower and draped the towel around my body. My mother was standing in front of me (she wouldn’t leave my side during my entire withdrawal) and looked at me as I stood there once again confused. She asked me what was wrong and I broke down crying. “Mom, I think I forgot to wash my hair and body. I took a shower, but forgot to use the soap. Why would I do that? What’s wrong with me?” There was that look again – I could see the deep concern and fear she had, too. She held me and said it was going to be OK and not to worry, but I could tell this time she was just as scared as I was. It had been 2 weeks since my last drink. Was I ever going to fully recover?

I want to tell you that I stayed sober after this, but that is just not my story. I was 24 and once the fog lifted, the sickness went away, and I started to feel normal again, I relapsed. I would try for several years after this to either control my drinking or stay sober on my own, During this time I wasn’t really sure what alcoholism was and it became very apparent that I couldn’t fix this on my own. I finally reached another incredibly low bottom that would nearly kill me in 2009. I am happy to report that I haven’t had a drink since.

The brain and body are miraculous things – they can endure all sorts of pain and suffering. The brain can also forget said pain and suffering. Now that I have a few 24-hours under my belt in sobriety, I can clearly see how fear, knowledge, and self-will can’t keep me sober.  That is my experience. The great news is that I don’t have to desperately manage or control my desire to drink today – I am neutral to it all. I found a design of living that works for this alcoholic and has helped me not just stay sober, but be happy. My mom is doing well, too. I can’t take back the things that have happened, and I hate that she had to suffer those years along with me. I never meant to hurt my mom. I love her. I am grateful today that I can show her that, and as long as I stay sober, she’ll never have to hear, “Mom, if I start to die from withdrawal, please call 911,” again.

My heart goes out to all the moms and dads out there that are slowly watching their child struggle with addiction, but if I can tell you one sure thing, it’s this: Your child loves you. They don’t mean to treat you or themselves the way they do. You can support them into recovery without enabling. And if you can get them help from a professional, do it. If my mother and I knew about treatment for alcoholics, we may not have had to endure the years of pain and suffering that we did alone. I guess my experience may be of value after all. I went through it, so you don’t have to. That’s the beauty of recovery. We have the opportunity to show others that we can and do stay sober long-term. I have the opportunity to show you what real hope looks like.

Written By: Watershed Ashling

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