“My name is Lindsey Paris,” the woman on the phone said. “Paris, like the City of Love. I’m going to be your addiction counselor for the next six to twelve months.”
I stood in my kitchen as my wife and children scrambled to gather things and get out the door so we could drive to Florida to spend Christmas with my in-laws. It was Christmas Eve, and I was speaking openly for the first time about my addiction to alcohol. The day before, I’d spoken with two other counselors, and now Lindsey had called at 8:30 AM as we were trying to leave. I looked at my wife and mouthed the words, “addiction counselor.” She nodded and moved the kids out the back door, telling them that we had to hurry up if we were ever going to get to Grandma and Grandpa’s.
I’d been having surreal, out-of-body experiences over the last few months, and I had one again as I listened to Lindsey talk to me about treatment options and the two best places in town that could help me. “Make sure you understand their discharge and aftercare procedures,” Lindsey said.
“Could you repeat that, please?” I replied. Her words drifted to me through a fog. I’m an alcoholic, I kept telling myself. I’m an alcoholic and I’ve hurt many people. And I’m in this alone.
“Hello? Are you still there?”
“I’m here,” I said.
“I asked about your support system.”
I couldn’t help but laugh. I laughed yesterday when another counselor asked about my “support team.” I didn’t have one, and the notion of people coming around me to help me get through this was ludicrous. “Yeah, there’s no support team,” I said.
“Oh. Well, we need to remedy that.”
There’s a hell of lot we need to remedy, I thought. My wife came back in, frazzled, and the kids started arguing with each other as they’d been doing for the last few days. My sons are eight and three, and they’re not exactly bosom buddies. I looked at my wife and shrugged, and she shook her head.
“I need to get out the door,” I told Lindsey, and she said she understood. It was Christmas Eve, after all. “Go enjoy time with your family and be safe traveling. May I call you later today and check up on you?”
I told her to call me at three, and I clicked off my cell phone. The feeling of unreality clung to me as I gathered my bag, checked on our cats one last time, and walked out the door where my family was waiting in the car.
This is my story of my life as it stands right now. I’m a 41-year-old man in a troubled marriage. I’m an alcoholic who’s about to enter treatment.
It’s Christmas Eve, 2014. And I’m starting my life over.