Living in This New Reality

I’ve called 911 exactly four times in my life. The first was when I was eighteen and driving home from a late college class. I passed an accident that had just happened, literally minutes before. People had been flung from their cars and were laying on the pavement. Other vehicles had stopped and blocked the road so the injured didn’t get run over by the traffic. The 911 dispatch officer assured me that medics were already on the way. I wasn’t the first to call.

The second time was also at night. Things were getting serious with the man I had been dating and he wanted me to meet his parents. This entailed a 10 hour drive deep into the heart of middle America. An hour out, he passed a small pickup truck. The driver took it personally. He chased us for miles, attempting to rear end us and push us off the road. Mobile phone coverage back then wasn’t what it is today and at that point in the drive neither of us could get a signal. When the emergency call finally went through I passed the phone to him and listened as he described our pursuer and detailed our location. In minutes blue lights flashed on the horizon and the pickup truck braked and u-turned.

The third time was just over a year ago when I witnessed an act of deliberate road rage. A large pickup truck must have thought the minivan driver in front of him was driving too slow. He whipped around her, almost taking out the back corner panel of an adjacent SUV in the process, pulled in front of the van and then slammed on his brakes. There was no time for her to stop and the nose of her van met the tail of his truck with a sickening crunch of metal and squeal of tires. Like the first time, I wasn’t the first person to call and report the incident.

This last time (and hopefully it will be the last) I was not driving or in a car. I was in my house. With someone I thought was one way, but come to find out, is another… at least when alcohol is involved. What I did was naive. I see that now. It has taken me some time to get my head around what happened and to decide how much I should write about it. So I will tell you what I feel I can.

I know this man through work. He’s someone I would have readily called a friend, but looking back now I see he was really just an acquaintance I had with whom I had frequent interaction. There hasn’t been any romantic chemistry between us. Ever. Last week was a difficult one for him. A series of events led to him having to reschedule a project he was contracted on and when he called to explain the reason for the delay I found out about his woes. In listening, what seemed an easy fix was for him to get a good night’s rest free from worry. Nathan was staying me, so with the awkwardness of being alone in my home with him removed, I offered up my spare bedroom. He accepted the offer.

I texted him my address, but to keep him from getting lost, I met him about halfway and he asked if he could just ride with me. That seemed odd, but he appeared to be a little unsteady on his feet, which he blamed on a sedative. I told him riding with me would be just fine. In the car he began to talk. A lot. More than I’ve ever heard him talk. About personal things. I didn’t listen to warning bells ringing in my head. Instead, I just thought… wow, that must have been some sedative he took.

At my house he met Nathan and then I showed him to the guest room. He looked around the homey space and teared up. Then he crossed the room and threw his arms around me.

“Thank you so much,” he whispered in my ear.

A shiver ran down my spine before I could step away from his embrace.

Shortly thereafter, with me thinking my feel-good project of helping another was going as planned, Nathan and I went to bed. But I was restless during the night. I kept thinking I was hearing things, but then would convince myself I was being silly, and would doze off again. But the loud crash of pictures and sculpture falling off a shelf that startled Nathan and I awake in the early morning hours was not my imagination.

“What was that?” Nathan asked.

“I think it was my houseguest,” I said.

“What the hell?”

“We better get dressed.”

What waited for us was not a pretty sight. The man was stumbling, trying to make sense of the crash, of the broken fragments on the ground. He reeked of alcohol. Nathan stepped in.

“What’s going on man?” he asked.

“I dunno,” came the slurred response.

Nathan pointed to the open door of my liquor cabinet, “Been busy?”

“Yeah… I found your booze.”

“How long have you been drinking?” Nathan calmly asked.

“Mmmm,” the man’s eyes dilated as he tried to process an answer to the question, “Seven days.”

“Let’s go outside and get some fresh air,” I suggested. But my brain was shouting: Seven days?!!! Who drinks for seven days!??!!!! How is that possible!??? WHAT DID YOU BRING HOME?!!!!

Then the man lunged at me, and, even still, I tell myself it was for another hug. But Nathan stepped between us, catching him by the shoulders, turning him around and steering him towards my back patio. In moments he was passed out on my chaise lounge.

Back inside Nathan and I looked at each other solemnly.

“He’s an alcoholic,” Nathan said quietly.

“Yes,” I agreed, “I’m not sure what to do about him. Maybe I can find a place to take him?”

Nathan nodded and I pulled out my phone, doing a quick search for rehab facilities in the area. I called the first one on the list and explained the situation. The woman I spoke with, while very nice, couldn’t do a thing to help me until insurance companies opened… in two hours.

“What do I between now and then?” I asked, my voice starting to shake.

“Don’t let him go through withdrawals in your house. He could have a seizure and die.”

“Oh… good to know. Thank you.”

I hung up feeling even worse about the situation.

About that time, the man came to and stumbled back in the house. Over the next hour he became more and more combative. He said things. Troubling, threatening things. Things I will not write. And then he would switch and say “thank you” over and over and over. I felt trapped. I had nowhere I could take him. And even if I could, I didn’t want to be in an enclosed space with him to get there.

Repeatedly he attempted to get close to me and again and again Nathan calmly blocked his path. But the man’s frustration was rising. He flung a fist at my wall. And then another.

“No,” Nathan said, pulling him away and pushing him to his knees, “You aren’t going to wreck her house.”

Once down the man didn’t get up. Instead, he began to writhe on the floor like a child throwing a tantrum. At this point I was truly scared.

“I’m calling 911,” I said.

I did. They came. And none too quickly. The man’s mouth had begun to bleed minutes before the police and medics were in my driveway. It took six men to remove him from my house and as I watched them pull away, with the man I had attempted to help held with restraints in the back of the ambulance, I felt nothing but relief. And fear. My reality had been shaken. And that terrified me. I’m still afraid. I’ve been blind for many years to the dangers that lurk beneath the surface. Like a child, covering my eyes with the thought that, if I can’t see it, it can’t see me. But that is my reality no longer.

The man called me from the hospital to ask what had happened. He didn’t remember. And I can understand why. He had downed a full bottle of tequila and half a fifth of vodka in a period of six hours. When he passed the phone to the nurse she told me he was still going through withdrawals and that had he not received medical help, he would have died.

He’s been in a recovery hospital for people with substance abuse problems since then, but is expected to be released today.

 

39 thoughts on “Living in This New Reality

  1. You were good to try and help a friend, and I believe as a rule we should help friends and strangers. However in the future, listen to those little alarms. They often aren’t wrong. I’m glad you are okay!

  2. Oh Marian! I’m so glad you are okay and that Nathan was with you. What you did was wonderful and kind and human. I’m so sorry that your generosity was taken advantage of by someone who could not take care of themselves. I know it’s hard to see silver linings especially while in the thick of it, but had you not invited him to stay at your place the outcome may have been much worse for him. The fact that you and Nathan were able to get him some help, may have saved his life. Just sorry it had to shake you up so much. Truly an unfortunate encounter.

    xo

  3. Good thing Nathan was there to help and witness. I’ve put myself in some pretty dangerous situations with drunk or drugged men, and its extremely scary!!

  4. You went into this with the best if intentions to help someone. I’ve found over the years that when those little warning bells go off it is best to listen. You are a caring person for wanting to help someone. Gladly Nathan was there to have your back. I hope this does not cause you to lose that special part of you that reaches out to people.

    • That part of me that reaches out is just that… part of me. I can’t change that or cut it out. And wouldn’t want to even if I could. But I can reach out without going quite so far. I can help without putting myself in harms way. I just need to get my footing and figure out how to do that. I loved your poem today… It warmed me. :) Lots.

      • I’m glad to hear that is an intristic part of you, to many would wall that off and close themselves in. It may take some searching but a middle ground can be found. I’m glad you liked my poem, we all need some warming from time to time.

  5. Don’t ignore the fact that you did try to help. I know this seems like a disaster (I’ve had similar situations), but it shouldn’t stop you from reaching out again. I hope you’re doing okay now.

    • That’s good advice my friend. I’m going to work very hard on taking it. :) I am okay… a little jumpy, (a flapping American flag close to the street almost made me scream on my walk tonight) but okay.

  6. Glad that things didn’t get any worse. So hard to have a caring heart without the ability to see the future. I’m glad Nathan was there and hope you don’t lose that giving spirit. Always glad to see you writing again.

    • Hi there, author the first blog I followed… ever. :) We’ve been down many a journey, huh? Nathan was my hero, my protector. I’m looking at him a little differently after this… which might have me writing even more.

      • Humbled to know I was your first… :) I haven’t written much lately, but I’ve always appreciated finding you and your words and for the comments you have shared.

  7. I am glad that you are safe now, though it may take some time for you to feel *safe.* I am also glad Nathan was with you. Hugs and kisses, darling. If you need anything, give a shout.

    xoxo

    • Thank you Fatal. Being a part of this community is so amazing. Even though we’ve never “met” I know I could shoot you an email if I was in trouble and you’d do what you could. Great big hugs.

  8. “Oh fuck” I hope you say something to HR if this guy works with you…maybe. Maybe it’s not a good idea. You need a paper trail. I hate to sound like an alarmist but he knows where you live. Maybe not since he was drunk but he can probably get the info from medical reports from the ambulance for which he has a right to his own medical records I believe. Alarm and weapons babe, use logic to be safe. Chances are, he’s far gone to do anything but you don’t know yet. xo, J

    • He has my address in his phone. I have to work up the courage to ask him to delete it. I’ve made people aware who need to be. So… I’m being cautious. I’m not really a weapons sort. But I do have an alarm. And I’ll start setting it.

      • He sounds harmful to his self more than anyone else and it sounds like his reason for drinking for a week wasn’t related to you at all. With physical strength being on a man’s side, I think of staying safe in that context but he wasn’t after you in the first place. He could get upset about being put in a facility but it sounds like he has bigger problems to deal with. A scare like that is a jolt to the nervous system for sure. I hope you’re feeling better and better xo, J

  9. I agree it is a good thing you had Nathan there with you. Alcohol is funny stuff, it can completely change a person in my experience. One of the main reasons I don’t touch the stuff.
    Take care. Glad to hear from you again.

  10. I’m glad you’re ok. Even if it turned out the way it did, you still helped him, and it turns out, in the way he needed. He is now in a place that can really help him because of you. In any case, i really like nathan now! (sorry, i know that was a serious post but i cant help giggling :) )

  11. ((((HUGS)))) I’m glad you’re okay. I’m glad Nathan was with you. I’m even glad he got a bit of help. But, as you already know, listen to those warning bells. ((((HUGS))))

    • I’m so glad he was with me too… and so you don’t think I’m a nut… I wouldn’t have opened my home had he not been there. I’m listening now. Listening good. :) Hugs back sweet one.

  12. Here you are trying to do good for someone and it bites to in the ass. Thank God for Nathan being there. THANK GOD nothing physically happened to either one of you. Does your work know about the situation?

  13. Thank you for sharing this experience even though it was traumatic for you. I think it good that others hear it, but more importantly, not just assume that similar things wouldn’t happen to them. It is easy to forget your safety when you give yourself to others through action or things like money, shelter, food etc. I am in no way saying that we shouldn’t reach out to people – take a chance, this is what makes us human… but we should be ready to recover our losses should we fail or have our attempts to be a champion met with adversity. Both you and Nathan were admirable in the events leading up to and during this event. Proud of you both. xo

  14. How frightening. Not good that all this happened. But -if it wasn’t for you trying to help him out to begin with – who knows what’s could have happened. At least now he is getting the help that he needs (hopefully). And – thank goodness you & Nathan are ok too.

  15. I’ve been away but now that I am back I just want to send virtual hugs and to say I am glad that you are safe and that Nathan was there to help. I don’t want to imagine what could have happened if he wasn’t there. :(
    I don’t know how much you know about alcoholics or alcoholism but I do hope he gets help and if not… Keep your eyes open, heal from this event by taking as much time as you need, but most of all I hope in the long run you don’t stop from being the caring, helpful, beautiful person that you are.

    xoox

  16. You tried to do a kind thing, I am so sorry it backfired in such a frightening way. Let me say first, it is unlikely he will attempt any sort of ‘retribution’, I don’t believe you have to be afraid of him. You should still ask him to delete your personal information, but not out of fear.

    Thankfully Nathan was there.

  17. I just started to read your blog and started from the last post, moving backwards.
    Well, I’ll have to stop soon, real life getting in the way (how dare it?!), but when I started to read this post, my first reaction was “No wonder she was stuck as to what to write and was asking for help choosing”. This was obviously a very disturbing experience, and you will need time to heal from it.
    As everyone else was saying, I hope you are soon able to process that event and move beyond the fear. Addiction to any substance can be scary and bring out a side to people that we didn’t know existed. I don’t know you much yet, but I’m sending you calming hugs.
    And to change your mind a bit, let me tell you about my first and last time calling the equivalent of 911. It was a hot summer day, I was maybe 13 years old, living on the third floor of a 3 story building, above my dad’s offices and a bank. The door to our apartment was of the sort that self-locking sort, so you always needed a key to get in. This was of course way before cell phones. My Mom had gone for the week, my dad for the day, my younger brother went out to the park to play with his friends, it was just me in there. I decided to bake a cake, put it in the oven and opened the kitchen window to let some of the heat from the oven out.
    That’s when a neighbour I didn’t know called to say they had found a cat in their backyard, maybe it was our lost cat? So I don’t think twice and run down the stairs, slamming the door behind, rushing to see if maybe it was indeed our cat. It wasn’t. But as I made my way back home, I realised in my haste that I’d forgotten to take the key! No way to get in. There are more story lines to be added, but let’s just say that I eventually called 911 because smoke from the baking cake started to come out the window and people were starting to look up distraught. Eventually, someone brought the keys to my dad’s offices, which I used to get back in. 5 minutes later, I hear the fire truck arrive, big ladder and all… Let’s just say I felt very self-conscious having to explain how I made it in and why I’d called them in the first place!
    Needless to say, the cake was inedible and was thrown away. And I’m still hearing from this experience, relatives making fun of me for always having the most unlikely stories to relate :-)
    XO

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