It was an early night to bed on Tuesday, June 19, 2007. I had absolutely no more drinking to do and decided that the last day of this particular spring was a bitterly appropriate day to reach out again for sobriety. Ruminations of suicide the past few days signalled to me that it was nearly past time to get help.
Fortunately I had been down this road before, so I knew where to turn, but I had never been trying to also recover from as tragic a circumstance as the traumatic brain injury death of my brother Craig.
I was certain that I should have been the one to die, as if it was as simple as trading places. Such was my state of self-worth. I was sick of hearing anything – anything at all – about “God’s will” even if all that was meant was that, had he survived, Craig surely wouldn’t have had much of a life.
I was inconsolable, yet with a familiar reserve of just enough life energy not to give up.
I had survived HIV, even a serious AIDS-related illness, since at least 1989. Burying so many friends and acquaintances I had good reason to believe that I wouldn’t be far behind. Yet I took every possible medication, right from the start, and as the more promising combination therapies came along I responded well.
In 2003 I had been struck by a cab, fracturing a femur and a wrist, and been hospitalized for five weeks during what became known as Phase Two of SARS in Toronto.
Then I developed signs of Type-2 diabetes, quickly becoming insulin-dependent.
In 2005, though, I took a rail and bus tour of Canada’s Maritimes provinces. I count it among my trips of a life-time, completing my journey across Canada from the west coast to the east.
I had been clean and sober since 1998 but, in recent years, had not sought the support I needed to maintain my sobriety. I politely declined the offer of champagne as the Halifax-bound train departed Montréal. A couple of days later in Halifax, however, following up on a wish to tour the historic Alexander Keith’s brewery, I made a conscious decision to accept samples of various beers and ales being offered at a most enjoyable céilidh. I quickly became that single guy on the bus tour whose exploits provided morning entertainment for fellow travellers. I could see the progression within days and will never forget the story of how I got lost in Charlottetown. You know you’re loaded when…
2005 rolled into 2006. I carried my bottles in a gym bag, lest any of my former acquaintances see me.
When I received news of Craig’s fall on April 24, 2007 (his partner Claude’s birthday), I sobered myself up and left Toronto. The family was not going to see how I had fallen in my own way. After staying with my mother for a couple of weeks following Craig’s death, I changed my train ticket to First Class (free booze) and headed back for Toronto.
That was May 24, 2007 – the beginning of the end of a month of hell until June 19 (my last drink) and June 20 (my first day of sobriety).
The first years were in the shadow of grief and loss. Other than psychiatric help, which has shown good results, little else stands out for me aside from a lot of inner work. Things have improved, certainly, to the point where I am looking forward to whatever I can make of life, having said goodbye to the worst ideations of death.
I begin a new day, a new year, with hope and gratitude.