I'm pretty sure I woke up. I'm alive writing this now, so, yeah, I woke up.
This time, though, it was different. Different from all the other retching, bloody, excruciating ascents into consciousness.
My head felt caved in. The bedroom kept flipping. I sat up slack-jawed and parched. My eyeballs darted involuntarily. My stomach lunged and vomit surged, but I choked it back. I wanted words to define my state. They came: brain damage. I reeled to the toilet and puked.
All right. I'm not going to bore you with a litany of close calls, of the numerous times I ended up in hospital swallowing charcoal, IVs digging into my veins, nurses warning me to get treatment.
I'm not going to mention my descent into full-blown addiction at the age of 13, my indiscriminate ingestion of any intoxicant I could get my hands on. Hey, I was partying. May I add "man"?
Bad behaviour is expected of writers and comedians and artists. We're different, man. Crazy like a fox, man.
"Hey, Bennett, you OK?"
"Last night. Remember?"
"There was a last night?"
"Clara's birthday party. You fell into the wading pool on her. Have you talked to Tim and Linda? I think you should."
I had drunk myself into oblivion and passed out at a two-year-old's birthday party. Why? Why not?
Fast forward three years, three years sober. Haven't touched a drop of booze. Alcohol - my jet fuel, my soda pop, my mother's milk. I haven't sucked at Molson's teat in three whole years. I'm weaned off the bottle. I'm an exploring toddler.
"Hey - look at the airplane!"
"Hey - look at the cars!"
"Hey - look at me go!"
Year one of sobriety. Be prepared to have your entire physical, emotional and mental life turned inside out. You are cut off. But. You're also cut loose.
I felt disoriented, like I hadn't felt since I was a teenager out of my mind trolling St. Catherine Street. 'Ash? 'Ash? Pas 'ash?
I slept for days straight. All the while, I held down some pretty high-profile gigs. One day I quietly slipped out of the office and headed down to St. Mike's Hospital because my heart was about to explode. Panic attacks will make you think you're dying.
Just lie in your bed and let the freight train run you over. Your extremities may go numb, but don't worry. They're still attached to your body. Take yourself for a walk. Remember to breathe.
Year two. The novelty of detoxifying wears off. Unadulterated reality greets you like a slap in the face every morning.
Wake up! Time to live your life! Life, that Grand Canyon of uncertainty. Your mind begins to expunge memories you'd rather not face. Your blood and body begin to level out. Blood.
My church tells me to drink the blood of my God. Damn, that blood tasted a lot like wine.
I wanted to get close to Jesus, so I drank lots of his blood. In vino veritas. Jesus never said to hog his blood, though. He didn't say, "Get shit-faced on my blood." I wrestled with the angels.
Year three. The emergence of sincerity. The rapture of raw experience and a deepening appreciation of nature. Nature doesn't lie.
For the first time in your life you feel comfortable your own skin. This is miraculous for those of us who have considered our body a prison. Christmas party season is actually fun .
A manic energy takes hold, and you become interested in other people and what they have to say. People compliment you on your clear complexion and ability to stand upright. You see outward instead of inward.
I'm embarking on year four. Have done things I never thought possible, like writing a novel instead of talking about writing a novel.
I constantly remind myself that none of this would have been possible if I were still drinking. Is life not fun any more? Is it boring? It's just getting started.
I get the odd comment like "I liked you more when you were drinking," to which I reply, "I liked you more when I was drinking, too." Feeling takes courage.