I Shattered Like Glass

Moving ever closer to the edge,
I try to peek; get a glimpse, you know;
I need to see how far it is
to the bottom; to calculate how far I’d fall
If I were to fall at all.

Just curious, that’s all, nothing more.
No harm in knowing the risk.
I’ve been living life close to the brink for decades,
Yet I’m still here. What harm will come if I were to
Continue rollicking near the edge?

“This time you’ll be dead if you fall,”
said a voice from behind.
“There will be no more chances this time.”
I didn’t believe it; I never heeded the many warnings
No matter from whom they came.

“I’m going to live forever,” I told the voice.
(But I was beginning to grasp the true price tag
constant reckless behavior brings);
What an insane and daring undertaking my life has been!
It’s as if I’ve been tempting Almighty God.

I started shaking my fist at the heavens. “Go on, then,
Take me if you’re going to, but be quick about it.”
(I don’t like pain.) It doesn’t matter what you do with me.”
I was done with this miserable little life of mine;
All aspiration was gone.

As I stood there, toes dangling over the edge,
A mighty wind began to push from behind,
urging, insisting, demanding, physically shoving me,
“Wait!” I insisted, but my feet slipped, and I fell.
I shattered like glass when I hit bottom.

©2016 Steven Barto

Blackouts, Repression and Euphoric Recall

A blackout can be defined as chemically induced amnesia. This is not the same thing as passing out (drinking to the point of loosing consciousness). Blackouts destroy the alcoholic’s ability to accurately remember what has happened during the effected drinking occasion.

During a blackout, an alcoholic may go on functioning as if he is aware of everything that’s going on. He thinks he will be able to remember what is happening. Actually, he remembers none of it ever again. These are real periods of amnesia. Blackouts, when they have become regular episodes in an alcoholic’s life, undeniably indicate that he has lost the ability to drink safely.

While blackouts are chemically induced periods of amnesia, equally troublesome are periods of forgetfulness caused by repression. Repression is psychologically induced. All people have this defense mechanism. It’s what, to some degree, keeps us sane. Normal and sane people exist and function because they do not have to relive tons of shameful or painful acts. A significant portion of such incidents are turned off or tuned out. Otherwise, the burden would be too great.

It is quite another matter, however, when shameful or painful acts are repeated again and again, growing worse with the passage of time, as often occurs with the alcoholic. When an alcoholic does remember, his past typically usually haunts him and causes tremendous depression. What he cannot recall keeps him deluded about his drinking problem.

It is obvious how disrupting and damaging blackouts and repression can be. They progressively cut the alcoholic off from the reality of his behavior. However, there is a third condition that distorts the alcoholic’s memory. It is euphoric recall. This is the greatest factor contributing to self-delusion.

Euphoric recall allows the alcoholic to remember his drinking episodes euphorically or happily with gross distortion. He believes he can remember everything in vivid detail, and that all is well. Of course, this will only serve to bury his antisocial or disruptive behavior. Perception is distorted. There is no ability to see and appreciate reality. No recognition or acceptance that he is in a downward spiral.

The alcoholic has two factors progressively working together to draw him out of touch with reality: his defense mechanisms and his distortion of memory. Either of these alone will seriously impair judgment. The time inevitably comes when it’s plain that the alcoholic cannot see that he is sick.

People who are chemically dependent on alcohol chase rainbows of euphoria, seemingly unaware of the rising costs to self and to others. He is eternally hopeful that the next time will be different. In the end, all resources are spent, such as health, finances, relationships, employment and self-worth. This is what is commonly referred to as hitting bottom. Unfortunately, the alcoholic will not reach out for help until there is absolutely nowhere else to go but down.