Sickness, Withdrawals & Revelations
| A days-long drinking binge with my narcissist fiance ended in deathly illness, withdrawals and revelations. | June 5th-25th, 2016 |
Tina and I had been on a several-day drinking binge in our love bubble at the Buffalo Hotel and I had just discovered my new superpower. I didn’t get hangovers anymore. We’d been down to Jay’s Down and Under, the most divey of all the dive bars I’ve ever seen and wandered around town on nice days, but mostly, we were holed up by ourselves in the penthouse. We were drunk and fucking and talking and laughing for days and It was glorious, until the sickness struck.
Tina fell ill first and within a day or two, I felt like I was at death’s door, myself. For the first couple days, I was Tina’s diligent nurse. But then the nursing role flipped and flopped between us as the mystery ailment grabbed hold of me, too. Somehow, it worked out that our energies ebbed and flowed in a way that when one of us was at a low, the other was rallying for just long enough to take care of things for us. That’s how it was at first, anyhow. After a while, Tina began to overtly resent doing anything to care for me.
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I’ve never been as sick in my life. It was nearly a three-week ordeal and on more than one night, I privately considered my odds of survival less than 50%.
It ended up being the most consecutive days we’d spent together to that point. I commented to Tina that I wished the circumstances were better, but I was glad to have her with me.
Maura stayed away from the mystery illness, opting to shelter at Scott’s while Tina and I convalesced in the apartment. After the first week of illness, not only was there no sign of recovery, but our condition worsened and within a span of nine days, between the two of us, we’d visited the emergency room 5 times.
Doctors were unable to provide a specific diagnosis. They said we had a viral infection with a likely secondary bacterial infection at once. Tina was in agony from pressure in her ears and I was choking on my own uvula, which had swollen enough to interfere with my breathing and was making me gag and vomit.
The vomiting was probably the worst symptom. For each of us, it was incessant. Nothing would stay down. The bile we were spitting out was a bright green and after days of it, our throats were raw from all the acid.
That led to an end to the drinking binge. If the slightest amount of alcohol touched my throat, I would immediately retch without any delay. Tina was similarly afflicted, but not to the same extreme. She was smoking a lot of weed, though.
My first day trying to cope with the illness sober, Tina tried to encourage me to leave, but I still didn’t feel in any shape to make the drive home. I could barely walk. I was vomiting hourly or more. She said she was afraid that we were never going to recover, because we might just be passing the same germs back and forth.
I told her I was very confident that immunology didn’t work that way and she eventually came around and accepted that I was going to be stuck there for a while longer, but I had a strong impression that, despite the illness, she had something she wanted to do without me around.
Later that day, I was looking out the window and observed a big, black pickup truck out in the parking lot. I could hear it’s engine revving loudly, as if to get someone’s attention. A while later, the black pickup was joined by a black limousine that parked along side. I observed people moving back and forth between the vehicles, a couple guys from the limo climbed into the pickup, then three people from the pickup got into the limo. They were parked out there, moving back and forth, occasionally revving the pickup’s engine for a good half-hour or so.
I mentioned this odd parking lot behavior to Tina, but she just shrugged and showed no interest in looking out for herself. Years later, though, she brought it up out of the blue. She said she’d cracked the code on the strange behavior out in the Buffalo Hotel’s back lot and it had been meth dealers meeting with clients. She said she’d seen it many times while she lived there. I thought it was strange that she revisited that oddity so long after the fact. It was one of those moments that felt like Tina was revising history, but besides the odd way she brought such an obscure memory up out of the blue, I had no reason to question her.
The black vehicles eventually departed and the illness ravaged on.
The next afternoon, while I was languishing on the futon, I heard a piano playing in the distance. It seemed to be coming through the window from somewhere across the parking lot behind the building. There were some businesses back there, but I couldn’t find a logical source for it. It seemed like someone was practicing, because I’d hear the same parts of old traditional songs like She’ll be Coming ‘Round the Mountain repeated. Tina complimented my hearing when I mentioned it, because she heard no piano.
Later that day, I heard Irene’s voice coming from next door or down the hall. It sounded like she was talking about me and I worried that the Buffalo Hotel management had taken offense to the number of consecutive days I’d spent there. I was expecting her to come to the door and give us a hard time. I arranged all the pill bottles we’d acquired from the hospital on the counter to be visible from the doorway, in case she did and Tina called her mom to ask her to let management know I still hadn’t “moved in,” but was too ill to make my way home.
Of the five trips we’d taken to the Emergency room, I’d driven for four of them and it was challenging. On the fifth, while I was choking on my own uvula, Tina refused to drive me. After a lot of desperate pleading, she did eventually get Linda, the downstairs neighbor who slept on cedar chips instead of a bed to drive us. It was a challenge, even to walk. I was dizzy, weak and disoriented.
Ultimately, management didn’t come around to make a big fuss and I’ve since concluded that neither Irene’s overheard conversation about me nor the repetitive piano music actually existed.
That night, lying beside slumbering Tina on the futon-turned-sickbed, I heard something I could not explain at all. It was the Hines and Berglund morning show from the top-40 radio station, WLOL.
“Get me up, (in the morning), W-L-O-L,” the jingle went. John Hines played the fool to Bob Berglund’s straight man. They played Madonna’s “Material Girl.”
Knowing that 99-and-a-half FM WLOL, with their silly morning disc jockeys had gone off the air over twenty years prior, I was mightily vexed. It was not a memory. It was not imagination. The sound had a source. It came from a specific direction. It seemed to emanate from the kitchen window, where the air conditioner was humming away.
I drifted off to sleep for a while as I was trying to solve the mystery of what I was hearing. I don’t think I slept long before I awoke in a panic. I was sweating profusely, but freezing cold. There was a tremor in my legs and a flutter in my chest. It felt like there was pressure on my stomach, too, but nothing touched it but the weight of my T-Shirt.
I felt nauseous and waves of tingles like mild electric shocks flowed up and down my arms. My hair was wet. My breathing felt strained. I wondered if I was having a heart attack or if my fever had reached a dangerous new high – or both. Something was definitely very wrong. Everything was wrong. I’d been more miserably sick than ever up until that point and somehow, it just got exponentially worse. I very seriously believed death was likely near and, with Tina slumbering next to me, I began to pray.
I prayed for forgiveness, mostly. For my sins and my mistakes and regrets. I wanted my conscious clean to meet death. I wanted to leave all of that behind in this mortal world.
I didn’t really expect an answer, but instead of dying, I received a visit.
I sensed a presence other than my sleeping fiance in the dark apartment. Whispering voices from no source I could see began speaking to me. They sounded female. There were at least three of them and they wanted me to leave. Immediately.
From the windows facing the parking lot, I could hear a crowd urging me to heed what the voices inside the apartment were telling me. They erupted in encouraging songs that varied in volume and sometimes became distant and indistinct.
I had the impression that these were agents of God. Angels, perhaps, but they had a dangerous and threatening edge to them.
“We aren’t what you think,” one of the voices told me.
What I was experiencing was no dream and it wasn’t imagination. I was fully awake and there was a spacial source for the voices, in the room. Just as the chorus of encouraging songs came distinctly from the windows.
At one point, I took a call from some otherworldly source on my cell phone. The man’s voice was distant and fading, but he told me to “put down the cup,” which I took to mean booze in general and “go home to your true family.”
I objected that I was in no condition to drive. I was experiencing dizziness and I was unsteady on my feet. I was still dreadfully ill and I felt I was still affected by alcohol, but I didn’t understand exactly how. I didn’t have a clear sense of how long ago my last drink had been.
“You must have faith,” the man told me. I had the impression that he was driving as he spoke to me. I could hear wind, like he had the top down in a convertible but it was no ordinary cell phone he was calling from. It was something unearthly. He changed tacks.
“I’m going to be at the Buffalo hospital in the morning,” he said. “I could pick you up from there and take you back with me.” I understood that my body wouldn’t be going on that trip, wherever he was going to be taking me. The hospital was my place of death.
Like the other voices, the one on the other end of the call washed in and out like waves lapping the shore. I found that I had to hold the phone tightly to one ear while covering the other, or the voice disappeared.
“Think about it, but you don’t have much time. Call me back if you’re ready to get picked up.” He gave me a six-digit number. I was scrambling to find a pen in the kitchen. Then, in red ink, I scrawled the numbers hastily on a magnetic notepad on the side of the fridge. It was challenging, holding the phone, blocking my other ear with my shoulder while I wrote.
He gave me another number to call if I had questions. That one only had five digits. I wrote them down and the apparent would-be soul collector ended the call, saying, “Good luck and be smart.”
After thinking a while, I dialed the five-digit number. I was pretty surprised to be connected to an automated recording. Phones, cars and voicemail systems weren’t how I expected the mechanisms of the spirit world to work.
The recording provided a menu of 4-digit extensions, with letters corresponding to the numbers. “Dial TIME, 8463 for more time,” was one of the options. Another was apparently a connection to the voicemail box of God, himself. “2636 or AMEN.” There were several others and while I was frantically scrawling numbers on the notepad, an operator came on the line.
A woman’s voice addressed me as Daniel and told me I was fortunate because my name meant I’d already been “on the books,” and that I was doubly blessed. “I like you, Daniel,” she said with a southern drawl. I couldn’t see her, of course, but I had a sense from her voice that she was black. “I’m going to tell you, there’s going to be a judgement, but you’ve already been judged, in a way. Ooh. You have a very dirty mind.”
I had the idea that she was either probing my memories or, perhaps pulling up records of my life experiences on a computer screen. Either seemed equally plausible at that point.
“That’s OK, sweetie,” she went on. “What matters now is you gotta put down that cup. Do you still want to live, Daniel? Because there are still people outside who can take you now if you want to go with them, but they’re leaving, soon. I’m going to let you go, now. back to the menu, but I’ll be keeping an eye on you, Daniel.”
I was disconnected and the recording resumed listing off alpha-numeric extensions I could dial. I didn’t recognize the screen on my phone. It was like a different operating system had taken over. I tapped 8463 and instantly, a far-away, yet powerful voice said, “Time,” and I felt it. Just like that, I’d been given more time! I didn’t know how much, precisely, but I felt it was more substantial than a few days or weeks. Years, maybe.
That seemed like a good ending to my midnight odyssey. I put the phone down, and made my way back to the futon. Several cajoling voices again attempted to persuade me to leave Tina, but after a while, I dismissed all of that and slipped under a blanket to cuddle my love. I was willing to defy God to stay with her.
Once defied, the voices inside the apartment were no longer friendly. I felt one of the females hovering above me menacingly. There was pressure on my chest. The others inside the apartment began to chant, “you’re going to break your neck,” in a singsong, teasing sort of way that stretched ‘neck’ into two syllables. I could hear them plotting my death from across the apartment.
“Why don’t we just harvest him the old fashioned way,” one suggested murderously.
They made another attempt to lure me up and out of the apartment, promising to reveal themselves to me if I’d follow their voices.
Curiosity got the better of me. I agreed and got back up but the voices I was following out into the hall were disappointed that I took Tina’s keys with me so I could let myself back into the building. The chorus from the parking lot groaned their collective dismay that I wasn’t charging headlong into the destiny they desired for me. I preserved the option to turn back.
I stepped out into the dimly lit hall and the voices urged me to come closer as they moved away and toward the stairs. “All will be revealed, just come a little closer,” one said. When I reached the landing, I could hear a different voice. A human voice. One that I knew. It was Jim, the building manager conversing with someone I perceived to be a younger person. “I’m not saying it’s all because of the booze, but I know I wouldn’t have ended up this crippled up if I’d stopped drinking when I was younger,” he was saying. He went on about a number of dire health problems he suffered now for youthful indiscretions.
I got the idea that I’d been led to that point to hear Jim’s testimony. I listened to the conversation for a while, until Jim and his companion parted ways, presumably back to their own apartments or sleeping rooms.
The otherworldly voices continued and I followed them down the stairs, but I kept a firm grip on the rail and moved slowly down each step, one at a time, cognizant that these beings had threatened a broken neck. I wasn’t completely steady on my feet, either.
Once outside in the still night air, I followed whispers that became less and less distinct. I was having a harder time pinpointing their direction. I crossed the deserted Central Avenue and the whispers seemed to get louder, but I couldn’t clearly make out what they were saying. It sometimes seemed like another language. As I followed, I noticed I was nearing a dark and foreboding looking cellar stair. The sort one could fall into and break one’s neck. I backed away.
I was somewhat spooked and the voices had failed to reveal their visages. As completely vivid as the surreal experience had been, I wasn’t entirely convinced it was genuine and I grew tired of chasing after phantoms. They seemed to be losing interest in me and fading, anyway. I went back inside. Once more, I returned to the futon, and somewhat defiantly, snuggled close to Tina. I wouldn’t leave her.
I did start giving consideration to cutting back on my alcohol consumption, but I didn’t realize how important that was. I had never experienced alcohol withdrawals before, nor did I yet realize that was the cause of the incredibly realistic audio hallucinations.
Sometime later, I realized that the sounds I was hearing came from such discernible directions, because my brain was reinterpreting and modulating the frequencies of real sounds into music and voices. The inconsistent hum of the refrigerator and air conditioner compressors coming on and off, Tina’s noisy oscillating fan grinding away, turning back and forth. Those were the sources.
Despite the later realization that I may have been experiencing dangerous hallucinations from alcohol withdrawals (alcoholic hallucinosis) and fever, I was profoundly affected. I still consider it a metaphysical event.
Maybe God’s servants were using my near-death state to get a message through or maybe I was merely accessing a suppressed part of my subconscious that had been trying to warn me off all along. As weird as the whole experience was, what it boiled down to was simple advice: “Quit drinking and get away from Tina (or you’ll die).”
Whenever it was that consciousness returned to me the next day, there were some milder lingering auditory hallucinations, but only when I went into the bathroom, with the jet engine exhaust fan running.
The withdrawal symptoms abated after a couple days and and the hallucinations went with them, but the illness persisted.
In all, Tina and I were ill for over three weeks. It was by a mile, the longest I’d ever been sick, but eventually, our immune systems prevailed. We could eat without vomiting and our strength returned. we recovered well enough for normal activity just in time for the 4th of July and we had plans to go up to the lake for the occasion.
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