Drying Out by Kyle Thoutt

During the pandemic, when everything had shut down and the world seemed to be at a standstill, Steven decided to make one of the most important decisions in his life. It started out innocently enough during the weekends as a teenager; it’s hard to say when it really started to be a problem, maybe it had always been buried there below everything that made him the person he was, but this was going to be the end of him one way or another. Perhaps it was fitting he chose to attempt this monumental task while the world was in turmoil.

 

The sun blazed on his face as cars drove past the historic blue house he called home the past two years, passed out on the porch where he had decided to set up camp for the past week, opting to sleep on the damp moldy couch that had been there through the past year. It’s not like he didn’t have a bed or couldn’t go inside; it’s almost like he wanted to let the world see him slowly dissolve. He did the same thing throughout the house, sleeping in the living room, the backyard, even on the stairs. This day started like any other, liquor and cigarettes before he could even form a thought. He was supposed to go prepare pasta and cook at Santeramos’ today. He didn’t. Still drunk from the night before, he continued drinking the spearmint schnapps he had become so accustomed to as soon as he woke up. The air was heavy and moist still when he got the inevitable call from his boss asking where he was, with slurred speech he made up some lame excuse about being sick for the 100th time. He was let go that morning. The feeling of shame washed over him, and feeling disgusted with himself, he sobbed. He wanted to dive straight back into the bottle and forget his newly created problems. Maybe he was tired of living like that, maybe he was panicked about finding another job, or inevitably dying from his actions; maybe it was just pure willpower that led him to his decision. Regardless of what it was that morning, he finally admitted to having a problem and was reaching out of the dark abyss that he had surrounded himself with for help.

 

That first day was a lot of phone calls, while still drinking sparingly. He was able to talk to a therapist who helped him start the process. He should have gone to a detox center, but due to the shutdown, he was allowed to detox on his own. His therapist told him that if things got bad to go to the emergency room; she also told him not to stop drinking outright but to ease down his consumption. She was going to be calling every other day to check up on him. He was scared. As he was moving his things back inside to his room, he informed his roommates of his intentions. His relationship with roommates was tense at best — the damage had already been done. They knew his drinking was a problem when he was allowed to move in, but they didn’t understand the extent. His announcement was met with snide remarks and no encouragement, maybe they wanted him to stay in that pit with them. He had blacked out all his windows while he was drinking, so the room was dark and cold. Stumbling back down the steps, he made his last announcement he was locking himself in. He didn’t know what was in store for him these coming days. With a mix of fear and anxiety, he crawled in bed and slept, not passed out, but actually slept for the first time in a long time.

 

When he woke up that second day, groggy and shaky, he crawled to the bathroom to purge his stomach like so many mornings before. Gulping down water from the faucet until his stomach was about to burst just to move that water to the toilet seconds later. Content with an empty stomach while laying on cold bathroom tiles, freezing while sweating and shaking profusely, the world spinning as he crawled back to the black hole he called a room. In his room huddled in a pile of blankets, he clasped that bottle of spearmint schnapps, trying to quell his shakes and regretting his decisions. He lay in that room taking small sips of schnapps watching Disney movies he grew up with and Pokémon on repeat, anxiously awaiting the next call from his therapist. The call didn’t come that day. Again, for the second night in a row, he fell asleep, and as restless as it was, it was still asleep.

 

The third day is when things started to go downhill. The prior night’s restless sleep combined with terrifyingly vivid nightmares made for a depressing morning, again prompting him to reach for the bottle. At least this time not having to crawl to the restroom first. He sat in bed staring at the clear viscous liquid inside the bottle wondering how it got to this point. He wanted to just dump the bottle down the drain and be done with it but couldn’t out of fear. His therapist called that day to check on him. He told her how the prior nights had been and how he was currently doing. While he was speaking to her, he told her his plans to start taking hallucinogens to ease his withdrawal symptoms and help him to understand the things he needed to know on a spiritual level. She didn’t advocate for it, but she also didn’t dismiss it entirely. With a newfound sense of direction, he tried to be as productive as he could be that day. He took a heavy dose that night for the first time since he was a child–he felt like a child again full of wonder and hope. Asking himself what he should do, and why he feels bad that he had to ask for help. Maybe it was the choice of Disney and Pokémon on repeat in the background, but he felt a sense of renewal like the world was allowing him a second chance to grow again without the bias of the past. That day ended with him slightly buzzed, eyes the size of the moon and full of hope choosing to sleep yet again.

 

His fourth day was relatively uneventful, he did notice that as he was waking up, he was progressively getting shakier and shakier. So again, he grabbed the bottle and started to drink to stop the shaking as much as possible. It would be short-lived though. This was the last of his alcohol, and he wasn’t going to get more. So, when he stopped shaking, he finally noticed his stomach growling and the pains from hunger. He didn’t remember the last time he ate. Has it been a full week? Was he that far gone? He made soup, and even though his stomach was growling and twisting, he had no appetite whatsoever and was only able to force down a couple of spoonfuls before giving up on that endeavor. The hours passed while he sat thinking about the years of denial and opportunities given up in favor of the bottle. The random blackouts that followed turned red as a lobster that he would experience when he was drinking. The family who still held some hope he could change, and the friends that he constantly put in harm’s way. He wanted to drink more at that point but refused to. He crawled back into bed taking his heaviest blanket while his head began to pound and chills ran through his body. The shaking slowly returned. He closed his eyes as tight as possible trying to force sleep to come. It was short-lived though.

 

He woke up early in the morning that fifth day. The room was silent and pitch black. The occasional car buzzed by in the distance. There was no more spearmint schnapps to quell the shakes and withdrawal symptoms. Something didn’t feel right. Everything felt like it was vibrating. His head felt like it was exploding. He attempted to sit up so he could try to drink some water and struggled with that and even more so when he reached for the glass of water. Handing around the cup he attempted to lift it to his mouth. It was heavy, and he couldn’t move it without shaking uncontrollably; he had to use two hands, and still even then he was spilling. All he could focus on was the constant throbbing in his head. Still, under the heaviest blanket he had, he was freezing. His stomach, still empty except for the little bits of water and soup from the day prior, began churning. He couldn’t crawl to the bathroom because he was shaking so badly. He did manage to crawl over to the corner of his room, a blanket still draped around him to the trash can. Luckily, it had been empty due to him not staying in his room very often until this past week. It just didn’t stop. For the entire day, he sat in the dark, everything turned off filling that trash can. It was impossible how much was coming out because there hadn’t been that much going in. That night, it wasn’t really sleep, freezing under his blankets, sweating profusely, he tossed and turned through the night.

 

Waking up on day six, his room felt different. The sun fought to shine through the cracks in his blinds and under his door, but the room still felt dark and violent, like it was holding him captive promising safety and delivering none. His stomach was still churning and twisting, and his head felt like it had swollen to the size of a watermelon. His chills were the worst they had ever been. He felt like a house had been dropped on him, and he couldn’t move. Every time he moved, he was in pain, his bones felt brittle, and he felt suffocated. The day seemed to drag on, him trying his best to sleep to just get through the day. He thought it would be better in the morning; he just had to get through it. He wanted to die that day–he felt like he was dying that day. Maybe he was, but there wasn’t anything he could do about it. So shaky at this point he couldn’t even operate a mouse or pick up his cup of water. He had finally gotten to sleep when his housemates came back crashing around the house partying and tripping. Infuriated, tired, and amid intense withdrawals, he thundered out of his room to yell at them. The house was dark, the sounds of the ongoing party and the smell of pot clawing its way up the stairs to provoke him. He must have looked like a mad man as he crashed into the door frame grasping it to stand while ranting about having compassion for others in the house. It didn’t do much good though, since they were all on drugs, they just blew it off. Feeling defeated by their blank stares and incoherent responses, he retreated to his room to lay down. Thoroughly pissed about the situation, he slammed his door and resumed laying in his bed agonizing and trying to sip water as often as possible. That night he didn’t really sleep as much as it was losing consciousness for periods of time, or that’s what it had seemed like.

 

When he woke up on day seven, everything seemed to take a turn for the better, or better from the previous days. He was still shaky, his head still pounded, but his stomach wasn’t trying to escape the confines of his body any longer. For the first time in this entire endeavor, he was able to eat. Granted, it was a small amount of food, but it was something. His therapist called to check on him that day. He told her about the previous days and his plans to go to the hospital if it continued the seventh day. They were both glad that it hadn’t continued, but she was concerned about it and reminded him that that’s the reason they recommended him to go into a center to detox. At this point, the only reason he hadn’t gone into a center is because he didn’t want to leave his comfort zone and possessions to his housemates. From that point forward, he continued to overcome the withdrawal symptoms until they were just a thing of the past.

 

This is about the time he started to take hallucinogens in combination with therapy. He made a lot of major breakthroughs with that process. Continuing to take regular doses weekly, he did indeed grow, not becoming a different person entirely but allowing himself to forgive and love himself after so many years of self-harm. He felt like he could accomplish anything at this point like if he put his faith in the world, the world would provide what he needed because everything is supposed to be and happen for a reason. With his addiction being managed, he decided to start living life for himself again. He committed himself to get back into school and practicing art again. He started building and tinkering with electronics and models again. Most importantly though, he started to love and care for himself again, putting effort into everything he does. Even though many of the relationships damaged can never be truly repaired, he continues to work towards being able to help others in any way possible.