(Not the band!)
By Charlie G
Middle of the night and the munchies hit.
No, not from a relapse,
Just a – ‘I want to eat something’, feeling.
So I shuffle into the kitchen and squint as the
refrigerator beams a spotlight right at me.
Why does the light inside a fridge seem to glow at 100W after midnight?
As I'm looking for the ham and mayo, I move the milk aside.
A Snickers with almonds shines with a glow of its own!
I grab it, shuffle to the couch, turn on the TV and slowly peel the paper off of it.
This was a sweet surprise and I was going to enjoy it!
I’m flipping through 350 channels of info-mmercials as I slowly bring the candy bar towards my mouth,
The Heinz ketchup’s theme song, ‘Anticipation’ playing through my head.
First bite meets resistance; it is very cold.
I twist it, slowly tearing off a carmely piece,
As I chew it, its hardness softens into a sweet, crunchy treat. Then,
A real crunch.
'Damn almonds,' I think to myself.
But as I'm chewing, I keep biting this incredibly hard almond. Finally I give up and spit it into my hand.
It didn't look like an almond…
I looked closer, then jumped up and ran to the mirror in the bathroom.
Half of a front tooth was gone!!!
I couldn’t believe it.
I go and tell my girlfriend,
Looking for sympathy.
Not much sympathy there.
The next morning, after an uncomfortable night,
I go looking for a dentist.
That should tell you something;
It’s been a little bit more than ‘quite a while’ since I’ve been to a dentist.
I don’t have a dentist; I think mine retired in ’97.
And then? What I remember?
There’s a dentist office in the local K mart!
So I go there to check it out.
It’s located all the way in the back, and as I walked down an endless aisle,
A speaker comes on in my head with a squawky voice announcing,
“Attention Kmart shoppers! We are having a blue light special in the dental area! Aisle 5!
A blue light special on broken teeth in aisle 5. And thank you for shopping at K mart!”
I get there and it isn’t bad!
A large office, glassed off from the rest of the store.
I give them my name, show them my snaggle tooth,
And am immediately told it will be $85 for an X-ray.
“I don’t need an X-ray, I know what’s wrong. Take another look – I broke my tooth!”
$85 for an X-ray or the dentist can’t see you.
I paid. It was hurting.
I’m taken down a hallway that is really a circle.
The interior of the circle is made up of cubicles, with a chair, a patient and a gowned, masked dentist leaning over their open mouth;
Holding some instrument from the Inquisition.
‘I’m in Dante’s inferno, making my way down the rings.’
I’m thinking as I follow the nurse/tech.
We get to an empty cubicle/chair and I sit.
Dr. P. comes in with the X ray the tech took.
He’s shaking his head and making a little tsk, tsk, tsk under his breath.
“Been awhile since you’ve seen a dentist, Mr. G. ?”
“Please, call me Charlie.” I tell him,
I want to be on this guy’s good side!
Turns out I had at least 6 cavities, and the tooth,
Or half tooth, in question needed a root canal.
“THAT’S why it snapped!” My dentist triumphantly proclaims.
So I get the root canal, plus fixing the broken tooth to get it ready for a crown,
Including him cutting the gum behind the tooth to do I don’t know what.
After, the dentist wants to take the mold for the crown,
But I don’t.
I am so sore.
My mouth, jaw & teeth are throbbing.
I’ve been there over 2 ½ hours and I am done.
As I am making the appointment for the mold,
My dentist asks me if I want something for the pain.
I am in pain,
But I am afraid.
Pain killers were my drug of choice.
Chased with a six pack.
I spoke with a friend & he told me we didn’t have to be martyrs.
If I needed them, take them.
But as prescribed.
So I told the dentist to just give me six.
As I was filling the prescription, I had the weirdest feelings.
A part of me was whispering ‘Yes!’
Another part was asking me if I really needed them.
When I got them from the pharmacist I took one,
And headed to my car.
I called the detox center I’d gone through 6 times in 8 years,
And then ended up working at in recovery.
I spoke with one of the owners and asked if the nurse’s station could keep them,
Until I needed them.
She said that she thought that was a good idea.
When I reached my car,
I had a flat tire.
But enough that it had a roll on the bottom,
Like a stomach after liposuction.
I took it to the gas station and filled it,
Then bought a can of Fix-a-flat.
Just in case.
As I was opening the door to get into my car and go to my detox center,
My car keys fall out of my hand.
And the case holding a picture of my daughter on them pops open,
And the glass that protects it goes flying.
I pick up the key chain and the glass cover, then get in my car.
I start the car and as I get ready to back out, I notice the Air Bag light hasn’t turned off.
I took the pills to the detox center and gave them to the nurse on duty.
I went to work and in the course of the day,
Yelled at my secretary for something minor,
And she called me an asshole and quit.
I decided to call it a day and went to the detox center to get a pill for the night.
At home, sitting on the couch, I wonder about taking the pain pill, something inside of me tells me not to.
But I am in pain, so I ignore that inner voice and take the pill.
“I need to sleep, let this day be over.” I think to myself.
But first, a quick snack!
I look in the fridge, but everything looks crunchy – I need soft food.
In the cupboard – Oatmeal cookies. With cream filling!
I grab a couple and the jug of milk (I know: ‘Use a glass!)
I sit down, open a cookie (they’re Lil Debbie – individually wrapped), take a bite, take some milk,
And start chewing the mess together.
For about 5 seconds.
A…chew that stops on what feels like a pebble;
But I know instantly what it is.
I spit out my temporary cap.
I CAN’T BELIEVE THIS!
But I can.
I KNOW what’s happening.
I KNOW God’s giving me shots,
But these God shots are not a gift,
But a swat on the ass.
I KNOW this, and still..
In the morning I look at myself in the mirror and smile,
A jack-o-lantern in need of a tan,
And convince myself that it is all a coincidence.
I am only taking them as prescribed.
I am in pain.
I need them.
My girlfriend and I go to the detox center and I take one for the day.
Back at the dentist, I get the temporary cap cemented back in,
And the mold made for the permanent crown.
They press the mold hard.
And hold it for a few minutes.
I told you my teeth are not in the best shape – it aches again.
I’m suppose to go to Key West to meet Jim Warren, the Grammy award winning artist,
Who has done JOURNEY’s covers since the 2nd issue,
For photos and lunch.
Still kidding myself that I was in control,
I left Kmart with my girlfriend, heading back to the detox center;
Planning to take one pain pill with us;
It is 4 hours each way on a normal day, and this is Fantasy Week-end;
35,000 drunk, partying people on a little island with one traffic lane leading in,
And one leading out.
A 12 hour trip – at least.
We get to the car,
And the tire is flat.
“Honey?” She asks, “Don’t you think these are a little too much to be coincidences?”
“No!” I tell her, “It’s just – One of those days –“
How easy we fall back into our addictive thinking.
I was not taking more than I should;
Though I felt that I shouldn’t take any-
I was justifying everything that was happening as a coincidence,
Instead of ‘Intuitively knowing how to handle a situation’
I knew intuitively that God was swatting me on the ass; warning me,
Yet I could not stop to myself from justifying that it wasn’t Him.
Just a coincidence.
“Well, I think I’ll wait at home until you get back and we are ready to leave.”
“You go get it yourself. I don’t want to be there when God really gives you a shot!”
She has been with me when I’ve gotten some God shots –
She was with me when the ‘Having lunch with God’ story I wrote about, happened.
So I dropped her off at home, went and picked up one more pill,
Explaining to the nurses why before they would give it to me.
“See?” I said to myself as I was leaving, “Nurses at a detox center understand. I’m not doing anything wrong.”
I get to my car, and stop.
I have a flat tire.
The same one.
“It must have had a slow leak.” I actually tell myself as I get the Fix-a-flat out of the back seat.
Flat fixed by the Fix-a-flat,
I go home and get Lynda.
As we start our journey to Margaritaville, we stop at a 7-11 to get supplies;
Bawls energy drinks for me,
Java Monsters for Lynda.
At the counter, bananas; 49 cents each.
We get two, pay, and are on our way, except,
We drink our drinks, talking about if we should do this, as we head towards I-95.
After a cigarette and the first can of Bawls, I ask Lynda for a banana;
Peeling it as I drive through the rain.
“I really love bananas.” I tell my girlfriend, as I take a bite.
And hit a pebble.
“You have got to be kidding me!” I yell, as I spit out the temporary cap.
“That’s it!” Lynda yells right back at me, “I am not going with you if you take that pill with us!”
“Will you give me a break?” I sigh, as I look for my phone. “Let’s call the dentist and see if he can cement it back right now.”
I can’t find my phone.
Lynda calls my number on her phone as I turn the radio down.
“It’s ringing.” She says.
But it’s not ringing in the car.
“I must have left it on the counter at 7-11 while I was paying!” I cried.
This is a Blackberry that costs $500.
I got it for $150 when I switched to T-mobile.
ALL my phone numbers were on that phone.
Anyone with it had access to my e-mails.
And though I had insurance, there was a $110 deductible.
I made a u-turn and sped back to the 7-11,
Praying to God out loud; “I get it. I get it!”
“I will take ibuprofen from now on. I Promise!”
Lynda, trying not to laugh, is calling my number again, but it is going to voicemail immediately.
“Someone’s turned it off. They’re probably trying to save the battery because they don’t have a Blackberry charger.” She says sweetly.
I glare at her.
When I get to the store, I run in and pleading with the clerk, ask: “I left my phone here, didn’t I?”
“Right here,” He says as he reaches under the counter for it, “I had to turn it off, it was ringing too much.”
I didn’t ask him why he didn’t just answer it. I gave him $20, told him lunch was on me, and left.
Never went to Key West, and never took anymore pain pills.
The ibuprofenn worked.
Now, the next day, I wonder what would have happened if I had made it to Margaritaville?
With tens of thousands of people drinking & partying, having lunch with a Grammy winning artist whose work I love, and a pain pill in my system;
Would my ego, disease and self-denial have told me a drink at Fantasy Fest was OK?
I don’t know.
I do know that with 2 years clean and sober on May 17th,
I thought I had this.
I was wrong.
I have this,
Just for today.
Thank you God.
I hear you.
God swatted my ass; like a mother getting her son's attention.
But, just in case?
SPANK MY ASS next time,
Don't just swat it.