PEGGY IN THE VALLEY
Cover Image used under Creative Commons. Original image by Caroline can be found on Flickr at http://tinyurl.com/z3fj446
After only a day the body begins to go through withdrawals.
People don’t concern themselves with this problem. The ones who have never had to quit anything -- your average beer-every-once-in-a-while person or one-glass-of-wine-a-night character – these people are safe from experiencing the agony of a withdrawal. They will go through their lives with their only knowledge of withdrawal being gleaned from a TV show or movie.
Sometimes it doesn’t even take a full day.
The people who worry about withdrawal are the frequent users. The smokers, boozers and druggies. They have probably already experienced at least a period of withdrawal once in their life and they know exactly how bad it can get. It is, to use an understatement, not a pleasant experience. Sweating, headaches, shakes, hallucinations and more are unleashed upon the body all at once.
It will last until either: the substance fully leaves the body (or even then the user may still experience withdrawal symptoms for weeks after) or the substance is reintroduced to the body. Oft times the later occurs first.
This is the story of Peg. A young woman who went through her first set of withdrawals at the tender age of sixteen. She had been drinking and smoking meth for two years by that point. She was beat up. The drugs and booze had done a number to her body. Her weight, already light, dropped by a dozen pounds. Her hair fell out. Her skin crawled. Her eyes sunk into her skull.
Take a moment to understand -- the withdrawals were not self inflicted. The drug and alcohol use were self inflicted, but had she a choice in the matter she would have continued to drink and smoke. Her parents intervened and set her to a rehab up-state.
For a week Peg went through withdrawals. Shaking, sweating, screaming for the agony to stop. Begging for pain killers. Or a drink. Something to make it all go away. Something no one at the rehab facility would give her. She spent the next thirty days clean (it is difficult -- but it can be done -- to get booze or drugs into a rehab) going to NA and AA meetings twice a week each. Learning all the defense mechanisms she needed to make sure she didn’t take that drink or use that drug.
The essential problem with sending someone to rehab who doesn’t want to go is that they will find little to nothing in the way of solutions. Peg spent thirty days clean and sober, learning and going to meetings, but she didn’t want to learn, or do, any of it. Soon as she got out she was back to her old habits. She did try meetings for a few days, but the only ones she found were filled with old smelling guys who told her how important it was that she remain sober. At one AA meeting she talked about her drug use. An old man in the back of the room started screaming at her for “talking about drugs in a fucking AA meeting.” She left the meeting, halfway through, in tears.
The only lesson she learned from the whole experience was that she needed to hide her tracks better. That way, no one would be able to put her back into this situation ever again. She took that into account, when listening to people at meetings talk about where they hid all their booze and drugs. She took mental notes and started hiding her alcohol in laundry baskets, drugs in the ceiling tiles and both in the wall vents. Keeping her parents from noticing the physical signs of her using was a little more difficult.
After three months they sent her to rehab, again.
It was the same story as told before -- in and out in thirty days. The stint in rehab left no impact on her life. On day thirty she left feeling -- mentally at least -- exactly the same way as day one when she had entered. Physically, though, she felt great. And in celebration of the way she felt she decided to go out and celebrate. She took Tom with her.
Tom’s parents sent him to rehab as well. Neither one wanted to be there. The two became fast friends and then more than friends. By the time their last week rolled around they had found a place to fuck every night.
Peg was young, stupid and lucky she didn’t get pregnant. But at the time, none of this fazed her. Once she got out she was back at it, only this time she ran as far as she could. Ran with Tom who grabbed her hand and dragged her into southern California, where they both got fake Ids and jobs. Life was flying high and so was she.
The only time she experienced the agony of withdrawal was when they ran out of money and couldn’t afford to buy anything. It was a regular event, about once a month. For a few days she would sweat it out, call in sick to work and be miserable until the paychecks came in and she could get some meth from a guy at her job, or buy some booze from the liquor store down the street that didn’t look too close at her fake.
That is the way her life went, the two o them using and drinking as much as they could. Scrapping by to make just enough money to survive and stay high at the same time. Life was miserable for her, but if someone had told her that she would have completely disagreed. She was free, she was happy, and life was good · is what she would have told anyone trying to convince her otherwise.
It did not matter that she woke up everyday, barely remembering (if at all) the night before. That she would wake up with black eyes and bruises, inflicted in late night fights with Tom over God knows what. Did not matter that those around her could see her as she slowly died, and told her so. No, none of this mattered to Peg. Because Peg was in her addiction, and those in addiction do not know any better.
The third time Peg went through major withdrawals was upon getting picked up for a drunk and disorderly. She had been at a bar, and as things go, fought with Tom. She tried to swing at him and got them both thrown out of the place. On the sidewalk they continued to fight, until a patrol car pulled up and separated the two.
They were both brought to Detox, where Peg went through the usual aspects of withdrawals. This time though, the people looking after her saw what she was going through. They knew that no girl who casual drank would be vomiting, shaking and screaming from the pains of one night of drinking. No matter how intense it was. She was going through the symptom of someone being separated from a drug that they take everyday. And so they put her into a seventy-two hour hold, making sure that her system at least got cleaned up.
In the hold she once again confronted the same people from meetings that she had met before. They asked her if she had a problem, to which she replied no. They asked her again, and in a vain attempt to make them go away she said yes, that she did have a problem, and that they needed to leave her alone so she could deal with it. One of the women was nice, told her that they would always be there for her if she needed help, the other one rolled her eyes, saying that Peg was a lost cause and would die before she got any help.
Peg told both of the women to go to hell.
She was released from the hold, allowed to go back into the world. It was the same world. Nothing ever changed, as long as nothing changed. It seemed to her, though, that she had everything under control, and so why would anything ever need to change. Her life was perfect, and two stints in rehab plus the time in Detox plus the hold would never prove anything otherwise to her.
There was something of comfort in the life she lived. More than just the feeling that she got from the drugs and the booze, it was the comfort she got from the pattern of things. There is more to addiction, than just the addiction. It is a set of patterns. There is more to smoking that just smoking the cigarette, it is the process of pounding the pack, tearing off the plastic, taking out and lighting that first cigarette. It is all patterns that are built within the mind. For Peg, the patterns were with being with Tom, they were the process of getting her paycheck and going out to buy her favorite liquor. The process of addiction, in truth, does not start with the using or drinking or smoking, it starts with the pattern the addict builds around those acts.
It was something that Peg had learned in rehab. Something that she had paid very little attention to then, and did not even register on her radar now. Soon as she got out of the hold she went to the liquor store, bought her favorite liquor and met up with Tom.
He had Meth ready for her to smoke, and glasses ready for the drinks.
She looked at him and smiled. She was as far from withdrawal as possible, the pattern was there, everything was perfect. Perfection can only last for a matter of time, as long as what you believe to be perfect is not actually so. And in Peg’s case, nothing was as it seemed. She awoke the morning after with a hangover and a black eye. It had been another usual night, made all the more intense by her four days of forced abstinence.
She used hair of the dog to get her self up and ready to go. Made the drive into work and forced herself through the long eight hours. Every now and then she had to excuse herself to go through up in the bathroom. Everyone knew why she was going, but no one cared to ask. Very few people who know that someone has a problem are willing to confront them on it. It is a taboo subject, like sex and weight · things that most people agree only your significant other and your doctor should talk to you about.
And her life continued on. Through the good and the bad, and the very bad. Somehow she managed to keep her job and even get good raises. Maybe her boss felt bad for her, or maybe it was that she could hide how high or drunk she was, when she went into work that way.
Tom got fired from a few jobs, but he was always able to find new ones. And the two were able to stay stocked up on whatever they wanted, Peg no longer had to deal with the agony of withdrawals. She was in a state of perpetual inebriation, off set by the time that she slept and maybe the last few hours of her shifts at work. It wasn’t all that bad though, she had dealt with worse, and she was able to push her way through and into happy hour soon as work let up.
It was a happy hour that put her into her fourth stint with withdrawals. Not really the happy hour as much as driving home after getting eight drinks in. She wasn’t quite at the stage where one blacks out, but she was damn close. A cop pulled her over on a road somewhere unfamiliar. Later, once she looked at the ticket, she would learn that she was on the other side of town from where she lived. Where she was going and what she was doing, she had no idea. The cop pulled her over and checked her Id, the fake one she had had for a few years now. Things started to unravel quick.
She was given a DUI and a hefty punishment for carrying a false ID. The judge, once seeing her real background, told her she had two options, go to jail or go to rehab. She knew that rehab wasn’t so bad, so she took the easier path.
The first few days were exactly how she remembered, tremens, headaches, screams. But after a few days she started to feel better and things started to clear. Still though, there was not a thought in her mind that she may need to fix the way she was living.
This is not a redemptive tale.
Peg left the rehab. Her head full of thoughts of recovery and words like “Let go and let God” or “keep it simple”. None of these phased her. Soon as she was out she flew into Tom’s waiting arms. Into the patterns that had become her life, and straight back into her all consuming addictions.
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