“He wants me to sign a contract promising I won’t kill myself.” I heard her catch her breath.
“What is he going to do if I don’t follow through with the contract?”
“Carly, how much are you using?”
“I don’t know.”
“Well, are you using a lot?”
“What’s a lot?”
“Are you using a lot? Like two times per week?”
I am not a liar. I am a truth-teller. I was not using a couple of times a week. I was using every single day. From morning until night. Therefore, I was not using “a lot,” which is a couple times per week. “Not a lot,” I said.
At the time, I believed I had answered her question honestly, but looking back, I was not capable of being honest. I wasn’t being honest with myself. I had to construct my own house of cards in order to be okay with all of my choices. I always had a justification in my mind, just in case someone asked.
She never hesitated; she never kept quiet with the sobriety talk. “What about trying to not use anything at all? Could you do that?”
I’d never tried to not use at all. Not since high school, and that sucked.
“I’m just worried that the using is making your moods worse. You know, making you more depressed.”
“Mom, I’m depressed because I’m not on the right medication. They can’t find the right medication.”
“But what if you just tried to see if it helps to be off everything else?”
I was sure her support group had told her there was nothing she could do for me, but she didn’t stop trying anyway. Instead, she sent me pamphlets and care packages and letters and called me and wrote to me and checked on me every single day. I would tell her how much I was struggling, and I would write plays in playwriting class about a young woman who couldn’t look in the mirror and was dying to get help but couldn’t take care of herself. I did not see the connection.
“Are you asking God for help?” My mom had taught me to talk to God when she first got sober. She taught me the Serenity Prayer and to ask God for help when I needed it. Before she got sober, we never talked about God in our house.
“I can’t hear God anymore. He can’t hear me.”
I began snorting Special K, which is also used as a horse tranquilizer. Theo and our theater friend christened me with my first K bump one evening at his apartment. I heard Radiohead screaming in the background, and the cinder block walls of his basement started coming closer. The two of them pushed me into his tiny shower stall, saying that’s what you’re supposed to do your first time on K. So I stood there, fully clothed, dripping wet, clueless as to how I got into the shower or where my hands came from.
On K, the dreamlike atmosphere inside my head accelerated. K removed the safety lever in my head and allowed every choice I made to be unfiltered—no more considerations of logic. I put every and any drug I got my hands on in my mouth. The world around me felt like a ride I couldn’t get off of. At night before I passed out, I would beg God to not let me wake up. And when I did, I felt betrayed.
Chapter 20: Restless, Irritable & Discontent
In the late fall of my sophomore year, my mom must have been tired enough of hearing me complain to offer me a challenge: “Can you go just three weeks without getting drunk or high?” Other than that pitifully short time in high school when I was dating the football player who didn’t like girls who drank, I had never tried to stop. “I don’t think you can,” she said. And that was it. I’d show her.
Within the first few days of stopping, I could no longer sleep. If I did nod off, I was tortured with constant graphic nightmares. During the days, it was as though my skin had been removed and someone had pushed me out into the sun. I wanted to physically harm people who pissed me off, which was everyone. But that was rarely an issue because no one wanted to be around me.
I clawed my way through those three weeks by staying mostly alone in my room, smoking, and watching TV. But I made it through three weeks with no drugs or alcohol, which convinced me that alcohol and drugs were not the problem. Because I felt so out of control without anything in my body, I knew there was something really wrong with my mental state.
I decided I just needed to find the right medication to make me feel normal. And that until I found the right medication and the right doctor, I should have a little drink or a little hit off that bowl to calm down. What I felt when I got high for the first time after those three awful weeks was what it feels like when you’re swimming at night and you have to get out of the pool to go to pee, and you’re wet and freezing, and then you run back to the pool and jump in and feel the warmth all around you. That was how it felt when I came back to what I loved. It felt like someone had turned up Led Zeppelin, and the sun was shining on my face, and my feet were on the dashboard, and everything was perfect. After that first night back, I said that there was no reason to ever stop using again. And off I went.
I’d been isolating, so I was cut off from the usual people I partied with. One night, I had a party at our apartment in an attempt to reconnect with the crowd. But during the party, something I took made me believe all the people were intruders trying to attack me, so I made everyone get out and locked the door. I curled up on the floor in the middle of the room, and trembled, and smoked. Someone banged on the door and shouted, “Carly! Let us in! Carly!”
I covered my ears and curled tighter. I couldn’t get comfortable. No matter how I moved, it was as if I was lying on nails. There was nowhere I could place myself where I could rest.
Copyright 2020 by Carly Israel, from the memoir SECONDS AND INCHES, to be published September 7, 2020 by Jaded Ibis Press, submitted with permission from Jaded Ibis Press. Available on Amazon and elsewhere.
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