What Is the Bottom of the Abyss?

For me, the bottom of the abyss, or rock bottom, looks like this: it looks like your friend watching with concern as you order bellini after bellini at brunch when you were still already drunk from the night before. It looks like throwing up on the table at the restaurant, not even able to make it to the bathroom, too drunk to even stand up. It looks like everything you threw up on the table is liquid because you can’t remember the last time you ate. It looks like your friend, realizing that this isn’t the normal reaction to a few bellinis and a hangover, calling an ambulance. It looks like getting wheeled out of the restaurant by paramedics and missing the next day at work because you landed yourself in the hospital with acute alcohol poisoning.

Looking back, it was utterly mortifying. Of course, at the time I didn’t care, because I was so out of it. I didn’t care when the paramedics used scissors to cut my clothes off and put on a hospital gown. I didn’t care when they stuck a needle in my arm to get some non-alcoholic fluids in my system. I didn’t care about anything other than getting home to the safety and comfort of my bottles.

Kate was an absolute star, and probably my closest friend to this day. She saw me at my very worst and took care of me. Lifting the veil on my problems actually deepened our relationship and drew us closer. I’m lucky; a lot of people when they see you in the throes of alcoholism retreat, often to protect themselves. I don’t blame them. But Kate took it upon herself to help me and forgave me everything, and for that, I am forever grateful.

Because she saw what a monster I’d become, she followed the ambulance to the hospital in her car (she hadn’t had nearly as much to drink as I’d had), and, though I don’t remember it, I must have asked her to take care of Princess, because she got my keys from my bag that the hospital had taken. She went to my apartment, where she saw the squalor.

At work, or in public, I was very neat and tidy. But at home, I was too busy drinking to keep up with mundane things like cleaning. A layer of grime and filth covered everything, dishes overloaded the sink, laundry was everywhere, and, worst of all, it became apparent that I hadn’t walked or fed Princess all weekend. And of course, the bottles were everywhere. I was not fit to own a pet or even a home. I couldn’t take care of myself or anyone or anything else. I needed help.

After taking care of Princess, Kate called my family, who lived a few states away, and told them what was going on. She called the school district and told them I was in the hospital and she wasn’t sure how long until I’d be able to work. Finally, she came back to the hospital to see me. I was sobering up, but having terrible withdrawals. Think of the worst hangover you’ve ever had, and multiply that by a thousand.

“I went to your apartment,” Kate said sternly. “Janie, you can’t live like this. It’s unacceptable, and I’m afraid you’re going to hurt yourself. I mean, you already have, look where you are!” Tears welled up in her eyes. “Janie, please. You have to get help.”

She was right.