In 2005, Mike Pond has it all: a thriving practice in the Okanagan, British Columbia¹s wine country, a million-dollar lakeside home, a beautiful wife and three handsome sons. But after two decades of helping others battle addictions Mike finds he cannot help himself. He is an alcoholic and he's out of control. Here is an excerpt from the book available now on Amazon.
I lie on this new couch of willingness as withdrawal pounces. It's the worst this time. I say that every time, but this time it really is. I wretch. My teeth chatter uncontrollably. It's impossible to get warm. The fear of another seizure grips me. The rain pounds on the porch plastic. I'm immobilized in pain for six days, punctuated by visits from the men as they pop out to smoke.
"You really fucked up, Mike," says Dangerous Doug as he sinks into an ancient chair on the porch and inhales deeply.
"Your head's got a contract out on your ass, Mike," Josh says again.
"Sobriety comes before everything, Mike." Guy stubs out his butt in the thick 1950s glass ashtray. "Turn your will and your life over to God," Monk nods.
"We've all done it, Mike." Tom "Guns" reminds me. "You're gonna be okay."
Eli calls me into his office. He stares straight ahead, avoiding eye contact. That means he's not angry. He smirks sanctimoniously.
"I told you you'd relapse, guy. You're an alcoholic. You're selfish and self-seeking. Have you surrendered yet, guy?" Eli taps his fingers on his desk. "If you don't, you'll die. Move in with Brad." Eli is right. I am selfish and self-seeking, and he could have turfed me. I suspect a decade of dealing with guys like me have worn off any softness Eli might have had.
Once again, I've made the cut. I've graduated from the couch of willingness.
Brad is a biker and a collector for unpaid drug debts. His weapon of choice is a metal baseball bat, very effective for smashing kneecaps and breaking forearms. He's within fingertip reach in the tiny room. I cannot sleep.
Not because Biker Brad snores. No, Brad's dead-sleep utterance is much more interesting than snoring. At the transition from inhale to exhale, when his inflated lungs shift to expel air, his voice box makes a sharp, loud ping, like a WWII German submarine sonar searching for depth charges in the still night of the deep, dark English Channel. My very own Das Boot.
Each ping echoes through the halls of the former old folks' home. It stops at random. Ah, there, it's stopped. But no, it starts again, and again I jerk alert. Night after night.
I want to kill Brad.
I want him to kill me.
I want to kill me.
I claw at the head of the stinky, stained mattress, hanging on to life and wishing for death.
The room is dark and claustrophobic. But not dark enough. My eyes refuse to stay closed. They burn and sting. My jaw aches continuously from anxious teeth-grinding. Normally, this far along in withdrawal, I'm through feeling hyper-anxious and hyper-vigilant. This time is different and frightening.
I cannot sleep. If I do, I'll suffocate.
The struggle for breath and the compulsion to scream rise in my throat. This mental war rages the entire first night and continues for fourteen successive nights. When I slip into blessed unconsciousness, utter panic takes over. I envision being in front of a firing squad, waiting for the order to fire. I jolt awake, bathed in sweat, fearfully scanning the room.
Sleep-deprivation psychosis slithers in, and I sink deeper into delusional paranoia. My raw, damaged brain jangles.
The guys in the house hate me.
They're laughing at me.
They want me to die.
They think I'm crazy.
Another Fresh Start client, Ted, suffers from drug-induced psychosis. He's here because the courts sent him to rehab as part of his sentence.
"You're an undercover cop, aren't you, Inspector Pond?" Ted corners me in the hall. "You're a narc and you're out to bust me."
We feed into each other's delusions. I believe Ted will kill me in my sleep.
But that's no problem. I don't sleep.
Am I an undercover cop?
Clinical Notes -- Mental Status Exam:
Patient is underweight and undernourished. Hair unkempt and unshaven. Healing wound on left side of face. Poor hygiene and halitosis. Walks with a shuffle with head down and avoids eye contact. Facial twitches. Picks at open sores on scalp. Chews on lower lip covered with herpes. Speech low and mumbled. Mood severely depressed. Fearful and very anxious. Tense and agitated. Poor sleep and appetite. Affect depressed. Auditory hallucinations. Obsessive content of thought. Suicidal ideation. Paranoid and persecutory delusions. Impulsive. Psychotic symptoms present. Disoriented to time. Poor memory and concentration. Insight and judgment impaired. Global Assessment of Functioning: 30/100 -- serious impairment. Requires medical and psychiatric care. Folie à Deux.
Folie à deux, or shared psychosis, is a psychiatric syndrome in which symptoms of a delusional belief are transmitted from one individual to another. Ted's delusions have become mine. In the middle of the night, I rummage around and search for my hidden badge and gun.
I pace the hallways, wring my hands, pick my scalp raw, chew my cold-sore-infested lip and mutter to someone or something not there. Head down, I avoid all contact. Random guttural groans escape me Tourette-like. From a clinical perspective, these utterances are supposed to diminish the anxiety. It doesn't work.
In a rare flash of insight, I know I'm not just having a bad withdrawal. The years of alcoholism have taken their toll. Abused for so long, my brain's neurotransmitters no longer know how to fire properly. I'm mentally ill, suffering from a mood disorder and probably psychosis. This is all too common among addicts. Sixty percent of those suffering from addictions also have a mental illness. Now I'm one of them.
Excerpted from The Couch of Willingness: An Alcoholic Therapist Battles the Bottle and a Broken Recovery System. Copyright (c) 2014 by Mike Pond, Maureen Palmer.
Excerpted with permission of the publisher Everywhere Now Press.