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Dry January

Excerpt from a memoir that would lead to jails, institutions, and death.

By Susan Eileen Published 2 years ago Updated 2 years ago 13 min read
Dry January
Photo by YesMore Content on Unsplash

Summer of 2021

Beware the Ides of March

As I approached my classroom, I saw the assistant principal waiting outside my room. I had no idea about the events that were about to unfold. In fact, everything happened so fast, that it is a little more than a fuzzy memory, and I was in a mixed manic state – memories tend to be hazy during mania.

At this time, I was working as an 8th grade science teacher outside of Cleveland, Ohio. My employment began in 1998. It was now 2012, and I was no longer enjoying my job. The alcohol and benzo therapy I’m sure didn’t help. The school year of 2011-2012 was particularly difficult. I was separated from my husband at the time. I was not handling life as a single parent well. I had only one child left at home and she was being very difficult to live with and she was very angry all the time about my active addiction, I presume, but she was also a teenager.

Compounding the problem were two things: the invention of smart phone and social media, and the honors program, - which, ironically, I helped to develop. When the honors program was created, it was truly for students who most likely would go on to have a scientific career. By this point in time, the number of students in the honors program was preposterous. The principal, caving in to parent pressure, let pretty much everyone applying into the program; this dumbed down the program and nobody capable of earning an A was left for the regular science classes. This made the class for the average students unbearable. As only low achievers were left for the regular classes, behavior problems were a thing. Truth be told, classroom management was never my strong suit – I excelled in Instructional Design. I do better with ideas over execution.

As I mentioned, I was in a mixed manic state. I didn’t realize it at the time. I was either sleeping too much or not at all. My alcohol therapy had turned to alcoholism which I was still in denial about – well, maybe that’s not true, I knew I was an alcoholic but I didn’t want to quit. I wanted to be a functional alcoholic – one that drank every day, but was still kicking ass and taking names. I didn’t know that was not possible for me yet. I was very angry, irrational and impulsive during this time. I HATED my students. They were either disrespectful snobs, suffering from learned helplessness, or were so apathetic toward learning that it made the situation untenable. I was acting inappropriately – saying things to the students that should not have been said. For instance, I had this one student who could not go ten minutes without insulting another student. He called a boy a ginger; as this student was Latino I asked him how he wouldn feel if somebody called him a border jumper. That would be a comment that I would truly regret. The students didn't like me much either.

The assistant principal escorted me to the office. I was presented with a letter that another teacher had written about my behavior. The border jumper comment was included in the letter as well as other accusation that demonstrated conduct unbecoming the profession. The school nurse wrote a letter saying that when I went to her for a band aid I reeked of alcohol. I was accused of drinking on the job, which was untrue, but most of the accusations were untrue or embellished. I was told that the Board was moving to have me suspended without pay. I was in a Union so I got I contacted by the Union for assistance. But, before I knew it, the suspension without pay had now turned to a motion for termination. I was making 85,000 a year and had just reconciled with my husband just a week prior. The union told me to stay calm and keep showing up to work. That did not happened. In fact, it turned out that was my last day as a public school teacher. It was March 15th.

I got home and I did not remain calm. I started taking my anxiety pills to calm down – it wasn’t working. I kept waiting for them to work but I couldn’t calm down. So I took another pill, and another pill, I started downing pills like jujubes. I even added alcohol to the mix – that didn’t help either. Next thing I knew, it was morning and that is when the shitshow began. It turns out I had taken enough pills that I had overdosed, I couldn’t stand up when my husband came to wake me the next day. As a matter of fact, when I tried to stand I fell into a closet. My husband took me to the ER.

My husband took me to the ER and then left me there. They thought I was trying to kill myself so they were working on finding a bed for me at the psych ward. I was pissed beyond belief that he left me there. I ripped the IV and all the other stuff out of my arms causing me to squirt blood everywhere. I ran out of the ER and started running down the main road chasing after him in my hospital gown. Obviously, I could not keep up with a Monte Carlo. Before I knew it, I was surrounded by cops who escorted me back to the ER. I was placed on a 72 hour hold. This was my second trip to the psych ward and it would not be my last.

As I was being wheeled into the psych ward, I heard a voice yell, “Look guys, it’s my cousin, Susie.” I was horrified. My cousin was in the psych ward. She has had a much harder time with her bi-polarity than I had. I thought to myself, “Shit, I’m never getting out of here now!”. When I asked her why she was there, she said she had been hanging out in the “Mexican part of Akron,” whatever that means. Alcoholism and mental illnesses are family disorders, but more on that later.

I wouldn’t accept that I was an alcoholic until six years later. On May 5th, 2018, I realized something needed to change. That did not end up being my sobriety date, but a seed was still planted, so that.

I had reflected on the six to ten years of my life….

I woke up and realized I couldn't wait to drink. It was seven in the morning! How long was it before I could drink? Would I be passed out by the time Larry got home, at five? Would I get anything done before I started drinking? It hit me that I could solve all these problems by just choosing not to drink anymore. All I had to do was to call my friend who had thirty years sober and not drink - just for today. I had also realized that I had a job - a pizza delivery job - that started in the afternoon. I was struggling to stay sober until I started at four or five. I had gone from having a teaching job, with a Master's Degree, with an honors program so good that others came to see it, to a pizza delivery job because of alcohol. As a consequence of my drinking habit I lost two teaching jobs, a husband and a house. I was now barely employable as a pizza delivery driver, at a pizza place that did no background checks - I was working with felons and people with DUI's. I am dating a guy that has brothers that are bank robbers… I dated a felony dognapper - who now works at Antonio's. The crowd of people I hung around had changed, dramatically.

I perpetually missed work and book group because of my addiction. Sunday days off were a shitshow because of addiction. I missed family events, I embarrassed myself and others, my husband, my kids. I was very selfish in trying to get rid of my pain in an unhealthy way.

Dinners were missed - I totally stopped cleaning - COMPLETELY. My appearance was disgusting. More than one person said, it looked like I was having a stroke from the drooping mouth. I was overweight. I no longer put on make-up or curled my hair. I stopped cooking completely. All of my passions were gone. I barely read books, I wasn't scrapbooking anymore, I could barely make "appointments" to drink with friends, because I was already drunk. I had surrounded myself with people that were barely functional like myself. All of my friends were alcoholics. I barely stayed up past 8 o'clock and sometimes didn't make it until seven. Sleep was my coping mechanism and the easiest way to get to sleep was to use.

At one point, I owned three properties, but I was locked out of one, couldn't afford another, and got so drunk, I slept in the back of my car on cold nights - at least I didn't get a DUI, but I was cold and embarrassed. Sometimes I had my ex-husband uber me back to my car because I had abandoned it the night before. I tried controlling my drinking, I wanted to be a functional alcoholic, but I was too far gone. I've had three rock bottoms so far. I lost my job at Brecksville, I lost my marriage and home, and my retirement account disappeared.

At one point, my days were taken up with finding pills. I scared my kids with the pills - that one night on Soma – I was told that it sounded like I stopped breathing while I slept. Duane even filmed it one time after I had stolen a morphine pill from my mother.

My car was disgusting. I could scarcely afford anything because of the daily six packs and nights out at the bar. I didn't go places that didn't serve alcohol. None at all. Fairs without booze were off the table. Going to a pool where you couldn't drink – nope, not happening. I missed seeing my stepson's condo because of alcohol. My car was a mess and I was in debt relief program because of drinking during a manic episode. I separated myself from others that didn't drink.

I did end up losing my job at Brecksville-Broadview Heights Middle School – again, a job making $85,000 a year. During this time I put beer in my coffee cups while I was driving children around. It lead to a blow out with a friend. My husband at the time was concerned about my drinking. I told him it wasn't a problem, but still I drank. I lost time due to hangovers. I got totally drunk at a fiftieth birthday party making a fool of myself.

I went into detox and a halfway house and sobered up for five weeks. When I relapsed I told myself I would only drink on weekends, but I drank every day. It got to the point where I didn't have coffee in the morning, I had beer. I went into Glenbeigh for a month, stayed sober for two and a half months, but relapsed because I couldn't sleep or so I told myself. I didn’t realize that I was entering a manic episode, the manic episode would escalate out con of control and I would end up probated with a Guardian ad litem assigned to me.

I drank until I couldn't drive and would spend the night in my car.. I decided I didn't want to live this way anymore, in May 2018, and went into the rooms. I was on a pink cloud. I stayed sober for about a month and half, but relapsed when I got the bill for my divorce which was almost $50,000. I went in and out of sobriety for a few months after that until I gave up on AA, in the fall of 2018.

I drank even though I didn't like the places I was going or the people I was hanging out with. The bars were depressing and I knew there was a better life out there. One with hobbies like reading, sewing, scrapbooking, vacations that I could remember, time with my children, but still I drank. It would give me anxiety to get a buzz, I knew I should be in AA. I woke up with the shakes, had stomach problems, lost friends, lost my husband.

I got sentenced to court ordered sobriety, and I really thought it would keep me sober. I lasted sixteen days before I drank the first time. I would stay sober a few days, I would drink a few days, but I was on total alcohol free sentence, but still I drank. I would use flushing kits but they just came up diluted and even though it weighed on my nerves, still I drank. I got probation violation over the summer where I was sentenced to community service, and I started to get serious about not drinking, but I would drink every two weeks or so. I was threatened with jail time, but still I drank. I earned an ankle bracelet, and I have not drank. I am afraid of when the ankle bracelet comes off I may drink.

My last drunk was miserable. I didn't like the feeling at all and I ended up getting an anxiety attack. I had to take medication and I wasn't sure I would wake up in the morning. So I'm not drinking now. I realized that I was powerless over alcohol and life is unmanageable. My spare room looked like a closet. I was only not homeless because I inherited a house. My finances were manageable because I was getting alimony.

In 2019, I had almost two and half months sober and had been experiencing terrible panic attacks. I'm supposed to take Seroquel during the day. I don't remember much about the day because I had just wanted to fall asleep because I so tired. I took more than the prescribed medication. I took my daily Seroquel and it usually puts me to sleep. This day it didn't, so I took more. Then I heard from a bar friend and during casual conversation he mentioned Laura was selling Xanax. I did feel a little loopy but drank some coffee hoping the effects of the meds would wear off. I met Laura at Giant Eagle to buy the Xanax. I had never bought anything of the street before so I wasn't watching for cops but they were watching Laura and me. I got pulled over and got a DUI and possession and was scared shitless. When they counted the pills, they were trying to determine if it was a felony. This scared me straight, - the possibility of getting a felony. I was scared straight.

I really upset my daughters who came to pick me up from the police station. With these two charges I think it will severely limit my ability to get a job in my field. No one really cares about my current telecommunications charge, but the possession charge is like a nail in the coffin. I had never been arrested before. It scared the shit out of me. And the real kicker is that my doctor called in a script two days later. So, due to my lack of patience, I caught a very serious case. But truthfully the way I have lived my life these past ten years, this same situation could've happened dozens of times.

I was uncomfortable being sober but afraid I was going to be tested that instead of drinking I took a month's worth of Seroquel in a day. I blacked out and was smoking. I almost burned the house down.

I joined a book group in 1999 and it was a lovely group of people. About ten years later when my drinking became a problem my attendance was sketchy and finally it got to the point that I would be drunk by the time the book group started, so I just didn't go. I remember a boss of mine in the 1990's giving me the advice of being careful of who you make your alliances with. Had I aligned myself with the book group instead of the Northfield bar flies, maybe things would've turned out differently. In the ending stage of my drinking, the obsession would start before my eyes opened. Talk about a living hell!


About the Creator

Susan Eileen

I am an aspiring writer currently writing a book on the Sober Revolution we are in the midst of, a book about essays that will change the way you think, and a novel about a serial killer. I am also working on a book of poetry.

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