Chapter 1: Rock Bottom

Chapter 1: Rock Bottom

A Chapter by Philip Muls
"

Down And Out

"

I am Dr. Christine Lavorter, Head of Psychiatry at the Sankt-Alexius Hospital on the banks of Lake Geneva, Switzerland. We treat patients here with severe addiction and impulse control issues. Under my guidance, our facility and staff have gained a reputation for saving so-called hopeless cases from life-long institutionalization.


I know all this sounds very cold and clinical. 


In reality, we deal with people and I consider myself an expert when it comes to helping my patients get to a better place, by treating them on the level of mind and body but also on their deeper self, their essential life force, also called, soul or spirit.


From my office, overlooking the shores of the crescent-shaped Lac Léman, with its vista of exquisitely arranged vineyards, I wrote this book based on the recovery therapy conducted with my patient Peter Baer, whom I consider to be an extraordinary man.


When Peter first contacted me, he had just completed his fourth attempt to deal with his severe alcohol addiction. He had gone, yet again, through extreme withdrawal in rehab and - to the outside world - seemed to have come out a sober man at the other end of twelve long weeks. 


Yet, he was exceedingly doubtful about his ability to stay sober and ever leading a normal life without drinking. But he would, in his own words, rather die trying than going back to hell.


This book is about what happened next. 


It is fair to say that Peter was a man on a mission and his demons got unleashed during therapy before he could finally let them go. 


Recovery for him was like navigating a minefield of existential fears and old beliefs, each of which could explode and shatter his susceptible sense of self.


I took it upon myself to take note of his difficult journey. May this exceptional story of personal transformation be an inspiration to anyone out there, battling his or her own demons.


Peter agreed to co-write this book with me to give it a unique doctor-patient perspective. His contribution consists of a number of stories I encouraged him to write during his business trips in Asia. These travel vignettes in themselves are quite remarkable as the reader might soon discover. You could say, in a sense, that writing them showed Peter a path back home.


I have been trained to take an objective, dispassionate view of the disease of addiction. This sometimes makes me seem detached and unemotional in my responses, while, as you will see, Peter is great at expressing his very personal sense of his condition and is not afraid to show his despair, at times. But he also shows great courage to turn his misery into insights which can greatly benefit the reader.  


Our conflicting styles might give the reader the impression that I do not care. But make no mistake, this case has moved me to my core. 


Together with Peter, I discovered that melancholy has its very own beauty and is not a disorder that needs to be cured. To live a good life is not to be immune to sadness.


I first met Peter in the summer of 2013. He introduced himself to be a forty-seven-year-old business executive who was traveling the world extensively as the director of a global software company. His travels took him from Beijing to Moscow and from Bangalore to Singapore. A rainmaker for his company, the incessant wheeling and dealing across the globe was clearly taking its toll on the man.


Peter's wife, Helen, runs her own consulting business and also travels a great deal. Together they have two grown-up children, a son Wolf and a daughter Winter. The Baer's live in a lovely mansion right here on the shores of Lake Geneva. 


Both Peter and Helen are accomplished professionals, yet they were unable to prevent the family unit from running completely off track. It is safe to say that Peter’s addiction to alcohol was a key driver for their difficulties, but definitely not the only source of trouble.


A seasoned corporate warrior, Peter came across as sophisticated and worldly-wise, and yet unable to cope without alcohol. Fully identified with his mind, Peter was at the extreme end of the spectrum of true thinkers, people who are unaware they even exist beyond their thoughts and who are out of touch with their emotions. And in that very rational way of his, he was very conscious of the problematic function that alcohol played in his life which is to let him escape from his mind.


To illustrate that his preoccupation with endless thinking was not something recent, Peter brought to our very first session a picture of himself as a twenty-two-year-old, sitting on a marine dock watching a stunning sunset on the coast of Amalfi, Italy. I must admit that I had never before seen a young face so troubled by thought in such a wonderful setting, where, of course, you would expect the exact opposite.


The glorious light of dusk in Amalfi made for an amazing picture and yet the viewer is drawn to the distraught expression on the boyish face, which can only be read as a mix of despair and hope.


Peter brought the photo because to him it captures his whole life in a single image. With a look of nostalgia on his face, he told me it had been taken on the legendary summer break he took in the Mediterranean together with three girls and one other boy, straight out of college. Five young people, hungry for life, roaming through wondrous Italy.


Yet there he was, sitting in isolated rumination, regretting things from the past and worrying about things to come. At that young age, right after graduation, the world was open to him, yet he felt ambiguity about the sense of life and he considered his sharp mind to be a curse and a blessing at the same time. A mind that in the years to come, would go and create its own interpretation of the world, when reality turned out to be just too real to cope with.


Early on, Peter realized that the key to his recovery was to find a natural way without alcohol to take a step back from his own psyche. He came to see that problems of the mind cannot be solved on the level of the mind. He felt he needed to go deeper, below his scattering thoughts and emotions.


When he first spoke to me on the phone, he explained that he had been released from detox only two days earlier and was certain he would relapse in the next hours if not helped. He sounded anxious and sincere and because I had a cancellation in my schedule, I proposed to see him that same evening.


He entered my office at 7 pm sharp and right from the start, he struck me as a man in pain. He looked young for his age with kind blue eyes but his facial expression was tense and his voice was slightly trembling as if he had been bottling up his emotions to the point of eruption.


It was beyond doubt that he needed immediate support in order to stay sober over the next hours and days. I went ahead and asked him to recall his darkest hour, a recent moment of deep suffering that ultimately made him decide to stop drinking and go into rehab of his own volition. In my experience, a vivid reliving of the deep and utter despair that hitting rock bottom brings about can provide a strong defense against imminent relapse.


I asked him to tell me about his recent nadir event in the present tense as if he was right there, back in the moment. The aim being to replay the tape and make him re-experience the horror with the same emotional intensity and hence also find back his resolve.


Peter’s face visibly turned ashen as he worked at making his rock bottom moment resurface. As I would find out later, he was an excellent pupil when it came to taking instructions and doing exactly what was expected of him. No doubt this was also the reason for his professional success. His sharp intellect could rapidly find its way to any objective, like a guided missile.


He started talking in a husky voice while looking straight at me: “It is 3 am on a Wednesday night, now twelve weeks ago. I wake up in a cold sweat, trembling violently from severe withdrawal. My heart is beating in my throat and I feel nauseous and dizzy. My bed linens are soaked with sweat. It’s been only five hours since my last drink but my body has woken me up from a booze-induced sleep because it needs alcohol and it needs it now.”


I was somewhat taken aback by this forceful start. When I found my bearings, I said: “Peter, you've got the right tone, try to face the horror of the moment and describe it to me, however painful.”


He duly complied: “I am scared shitless because it is clear I’ve lost all control. The addiction has taken full possession of me. It seems I’ve crossed an invisible line and alcohol is the new boss. I have been spiraling down for a while now, like a helicopter with a broken tail fin caught in a lethal spin. And it seems that tonight, it has come to a point where forces of nature will dictate what will happen next. I feel I have zero options.”


“You accurately describe the overwhelming feeling of powerlessness that comes with the addictive state, Peter. What else is going on in your mind?”


“Apart from the terrible craving for booze, there is also the fear to suffer a seizure if I do not get alcohol in me fast. This has happened before and it is not something I want to see repeated. My will power seems to be unplugged from its source, my body and mind are conspiring against all better judgment.”


“Losing control like that can be extremely scary. What happens next?”


Peter: “I struggle to sit up straight in bed, in the spare bedroom up in the attic of our house. I feel utterly alone. By then, I’ve been sleeping alone for more than a year because my wife Helen shut me out of the master bedroom after many reproachful discussions about my drinking. She has lost all respect for me after my recent lapses, and so have I. A familiar black desperation washes over me.”


I could picture him up there, all alone in that dark attic room under the roof, craving for a drink. I really felt for him but it was my job, however, not to become emotionally involved. I encouraged him to continue: “What did you do then, Peter?”


“Well, Doc, they say stopping is simple, just do not bring a drink up to your mouth. If only that was an option."


He waited for a minute and said: "So I am sitting there, thinking I do not want to go downstairs to the kitchen, yet I am certain I will. It is 3 am for god’s sake, only an insane person would drink now. But my body screams for alcohol, just to make it through the night. The cold shivers, the trembling, the chest pains, nausea. All of that will go away immediately with the next intake of booze. Of that I am sure.”


I tried to offer some sympathy: “I understand it was anything but simple, Peter. If it would have been, we would not be sitting here now. So did you do it? Did you go down to the kitchen to get that drink?”


“I remember putting my bare feet down on the hardwood floor. I try to stand up but feel very shaky. I shuffle around in the dark until I find the light switch. I curse myself for being weak and I even say out loud: This might be your last chance, do not go down, sweat it out."


He was shaking his head while he continued: "Yet my body responds by calling out for alcohol vehemently and the familiar voice in my head says: I am a victim and this is a disease. I cannot handle this on my own, the delirium and tremors will kill me. Just get that drink, just the one, to make it to the morning.”


I want to ease his mind: “All of these considerations are rational, Peter, despite the state you were in. This tells me you did not act on impulse. You really felt there was nothing else you could do. So you went ahead to get that drink?”


I could tell from Peter’s expression that the worst was still to come. He said: “Yes, I navigate the stairs all the way down, putting both feet on each staircase, as an old man would." 


"When I am finally down in the kitchen, I do not switch on the light. I open the fridge and in its divine light, I see the half empty bottle of white wine I knew would be there. The bottle sparkles like a sliver of heaven in my hell. I make a last futile attempt to resist, forcing myself to think the wine is poison. The voice in my head takes the cue and says: Yes, but it is your poison, your lifeline.”


“Heaven and hell, those perfectly capture the duality of drinking, Peter. Please continue.”


“Well, Doc, I can’t be bothered to locate a glass. I just raise the bottle to my lips and drink. The cold liquid eases down my throat and fills my stomach. It creates a burning sensation that radiates throughout my body. A wonderful feeling of deep relief rushes to my head and takes away all the pain. I get tears in my eyes from joy and self-hate, in equal measures. Deep emotions roll in like a tsunami that hits the shores of my sanity."


"Emotions like guilt, Peter?"


"While drinking, I know this is but a short truce. The more alcohol I take in now, the more brutal the withdrawal effects will be later on. There is no doubt in my mind that I will pay for this in hard cash. A feeling of complete aloneness and mortal dread overtakes me.  Deep down I know that I am committing murder.”


“Peter, I must admit, I get shivers all over when I hear you tell your story. My hair stands out on my arms. I can only imagine how powerless you must have felt that night, alone in your kitchen, realizing you’re caught in a lethal loop."


I let this sink in and say: "You sound very authentic which tells me you have come a long way in understanding the disease that is alcoholism. You are certainly not in denial.”


“But why is it, Peter, that you needed to see me urgently today? You told me you made it through rehab once again, is that not a solid basis to abstain? Surely you do not want to go back to the horror of what you just told me?”


“Doc, I had myself committed four times in the last two years and in the first three rounds, each time I relapsed on the very first day out. This time around, I am out two days and I find myself in hell."


"Describe what hell means to you, Peter."


"Well, the bottle is so close, I can touch it, I can feel it on my lips. I keep thinking Why would, this time, be different. In the final analysis, I will drink again. The reality is that I still feel like a dry drunk, with my sobriety balancing on character effort only. White knuckle stuff, you know, as opposed to a bottom-up recovery. At this very minute doc, I have to tell you, I feel my inner resources depleting fast, I am afraid I will cave soon. I might go for a drink once I leave your office. Honest to god.”


“I believe you underestimate the power in yourself to stay clean, Peter. You clearly have the will to recover. You will not drink today. You will not drink tomorrow. Think about your rock bottom moment when you need to. That will stop you from actually reaching for the bottle."


He looked like a lost puppy. I said: "I will see you in two days’ time. Trust yourself, you are stronger than you think.”


I felt I needed to send him off with a challenge: “There are no guarantees but I feel confident that together we can instill a lasting sobriety, that you can own fully. It is clear we need to dig deeper, give you a reason to want to live a sober and authentic life and enjoy it even. But this type of personal transformation can be a long journey. Are you up for it?”


He took up the glove: "Doc, I see this as my last chance. Deep down I know that if I touch alcohol again, even one small sip, that will be it. All my resolve will be gone, forever. No way back. So yes, I am up for it. But still, I fear that I will relapse before I see you again. I have a bad track record, I lack the backbone to see it through.“


With a faint smile he said: “Clearly, you have more faith in me than I do.”


“Peter, I need you to trust me in this. You will not drink. I will see you the day after next and you will tell me here in this office how you did it. This is your turnaround point, you get to decide to live.”


When Peter left my office that day, I felt a heavy responsibility descend upon me. I believed him when he said it was his last chance. I was convinced that the tough love I had given today was the only cure. The decision to stop drinking needed to come from him and from him alone. No point in having him recommitted into rehab for yet another flying trapeze act with a safety net. It was now or never for Peter. I was very much aware I just took away his net.



© 2017 Philip Muls


Author's Note

Philip Muls
Version 4 has been uploaded.

My Review

Would you like to review this Chapter?
Login | Register




Featured Review

Philip,
You know you have my interest. I recovered through A.A. But the recovery of the mind and spirit still takes a similar journey.
Your writing on this subject is professional and spot on. I am very impressed with the content of this chapter. It is very realistic, the dialogue between Peter and the doctor explains what the patient is facing and how the doctor plans to respond to Peter's disease. You do this without bogging down the reader in high end medical terms.
Your explanation of the family situation creates a needed background that this is not only Peters problem.
I encourage you to continue this story. Your writing skills are very mature and can handle a complex story as this. Looking forward to reading more.
Richie b.

Posted 4 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.




Reviews

Philip,
You know you have my interest. I recovered through A.A. But the recovery of the mind and spirit still takes a similar journey.
Your writing on this subject is professional and spot on. I am very impressed with the content of this chapter. It is very realistic, the dialogue between Peter and the doctor explains what the patient is facing and how the doctor plans to respond to Peter's disease. You do this without bogging down the reader in high end medical terms.
Your explanation of the family situation creates a needed background that this is not only Peters problem.
I encourage you to continue this story. Your writing skills are very mature and can handle a complex story as this. Looking forward to reading more.
Richie b.

Posted 4 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

I'm not sure what sort of book it would be. Addiction is a lonely process, as Peter inferred when his wife shut him out. I suppose if you went right back in time with Peter, post alcohol, the trigger that kicked it off.
Ultra bright people can't relax, they go up, they go down. In between this you'll find substance control.
So i suppose it's what sort of angle you proceed with. In a way it could be limitless.

Posted 4 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

It caught my interest, first because I grew up with alcoholic parents, but your writing kept me here. I will be checking to see if you continue this non fictional accounting of a man's road to sobriety. Good luck with this!

Posted 4 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Philip Muls

4 Years Ago

Thank you Barbara. I have just uploaded Chapter 2. I would be very interested in what you think.
I would indeed read it as a book Philip...you always draw me right in and with the most tangible topics one could read...situations that one can relate to and resonate with...truth is life is hard and sometimes harsh truths will be and need to be shown and dealt...I always enjoy your writing :)

Posted 4 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Philip Muls

4 Years Ago

Thank you Poppy Ruth. I have just uploaded Chapter 2. I would be very interested in what you think.
A powerful tale written. My father and two of my brothers drank themselves to death. I did like the direct tone of the story.
"May this exceptional tale of personal transformation be an inspiration to anyone out there battling his or her own demons."
Alcohol is a deadly demon. it will steal your soul and your life. Thank you my friend for sharing the excellent story. I believe a worthwhile read.
Coyote




Posted 4 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

I like the concept of dual writers, ones that may be seen as polar opposites. As for the writing, I think it is filled with unnecessary details. There is a rule in writing about 'show, don't tell.' which is seemingly missing. You effort has not gone unnoticed, however, you needn't answer all the questions that may arise in the reader's head, such as 'why is his face twisted in anguish? Because he was clearly unhappy.' the 'twist face' itself speaks of his unhappiness. (just an example). It really didn't catch my interest but yes I would definitely want to read the concept you have come up with, I hope you will edit it further. :)

Posted 4 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

I'm not sure if I am completely snagged by this opening. I feel the client is much more authentic than the doctor, or at least the client lures me in & makes me curious to go onward in finding out more about this situation. The doctor feels too buttoned-up & seemingly too quickly puts his client's feelings into a predictable solution bucket, just when the story starts to get compelling & dramatic & authentic, becuz of the "rock bottom" confession from the client. Just when the passions are opened up, the doctor seems to want to close them off & inflict self-discipline. I agree that this client needs tough love to get thru this moment, but a little realistic compassion first would make it more authentic maybe.

Posted 4 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Philip Muls

4 Years Ago

Dear Barleygirl, I updated Chapter 1 and I have just uploaded Chapter 2. I would be very interested .. read more
barleygirl

4 Years Ago

I read the preceding chapter first & then I read this one . . . now I'm wondering if the preceding c.. read more
Philip Muls

4 Years Ago

Thank you!
Quite an enjoyable read. I wanted more definitely! The only thing I could pick up on is, when using dialogue there was no explanation about their facial expressions or body language. It is nice to know how the character is feeling, it just didn't give me that vibe. Overall i'm gonna say, I will read more should the opportunity arise.

Posted 4 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Philip Muls

4 Years Ago

Dear Cheeb, I have just uploaded Chapter 2. I would be very interested in what you think.
It sure does trigger interest! The conflict on it's own draws us in and now I'm wonder what happened. Did he beat the demons or did they over take him? Always impressive! :)

Posted 4 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Philip Muls

4 Years Ago

Dear Andronicus, I have just uploaded Chapter 2. I would be very interested in what you think.
I enjoy fantsay and very authentic writing, this was well put together, the characters have souls and speak with the reader as if I am there, I relate with the struggling character and the need for him to overcome#this was a nice read, I loved, extend it and see how far you can take it

Posted 4 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Philip Muls

4 Years Ago

Hi, I have just uploaded Chapter 2. I would be very interested in what you think.
Doux Polverenere

4 Years Ago

Okay I will checkout over the weeknd I have tests this week

First Page first
Previous Page prev
1
Request Read Request
Add to Library My Library
Subscribe Subscribe

Advertise Here
Want to advertise here? Get started for as little as $5

Stats

1504 Views
25 Reviews
Rating
Shelved in 2 Libraries
Added on September 13, 2016
Last Updated on April 3, 2017
Tags: zero options, alone, despair, bottle, rumination, relapse, rehab


Author

Philip Muls
Philip Muls

Grimbergen, Belgium



About
Living in Europe, but travelling frequently in US and Asia. I love to combine what I experience during travel with observations and thoughts about the human condition. more..

Writing

Related Writing

People who liked this story also liked..