The Bubble


The Bubble.

I don’t often think of it, but now and then it comes to mind.  It came up yesterday, as I was responding to one of Belle’s posts in her boombastic blog (I have been known to comment now and then on other blogs).

The Bubble.

If there was one thing, and one thing alone, that would make me think twice about picking up again, it would be the Bubble.  Now, like most good alcoholics worth their salt, I didn’t “scare straight”.  They used to have those shows where they paraded troubled teens through scary prisons, where the inmates looked like Mr. T, roared like Hulk Hogan and were built like the Rock (and that was just the women).  They gave the kids a quick look at what prison life was like, and perhaps frighten them into getting their act together.  That kind of thing didn’t work for me and my alcoholism. I would be drinking while I watched Intervention or looked online at all the horrific things alcohol did to the body – gory pictures and all.

Still drank.

I drank after every and all painful and unsettling landmarks in my life – getting arrested, losing my family, hospital visits, job problems, making and breaking promises to loved ones, health issues…bottom after bottom after bottom.  I still needed more pain.  Anyone in their right mind would have stopped so much sooner.  But it was clear I was not in my right mind. I hadn’t been so in a very long time.  So when I had my last drunk – a pathetic, lonely, sad, unremarkable drunk – I finally agreed to go to detox.  I couldn’t do it any more.

rookfloroshell1 (1)

I was brought to the hospital and handed over to a nurse for my intake.  They examined my belongings with an eye that Hercules Poirot would have been envious of, and filled out reams of paperwork.  I had everything taken away, except for my pj’s and slippers.  And off I went to a room with ten beds, a washroom and a small table filled with paltry carb and sugar-laden snacks.  And that was it.  What made the room remarkable was the huge glass wall that separated us sickos from the fastidious and silent medical marshals who watched our every move, who monitored our actions and reactions and doled out the meds on schedule.

The Bubble, they called this room.

This is how I spent the first 24 hours in the Bubble:

8 hours – tried to sleep.  Sweat.  Tossed and turned.  Watched with envy as some of the other men seemingly slept forever.

3 hours – watched in horrific awe the blue worms on the walls (hallucination #1).  Tried to listen to the hockey game I thought I was hearing (hallucination #2). Tried to sleep.  Sweat.  Tossed and turned.

6 hours – read an entire novel from beginning to end.

0.5 hours – tried to push a tuna sandwich and water into me.  Failed.  Took unknown meds by grumpy intern.

2 hours – tried to sleep.  Sweat.  Tossed and turned. Watched men come and go at all times of the day and night.  Tried to counted how man heartbeats I had per minute – lost count at 500,000.

4.5 hours – sat up and gazed at the ceiling.  Talked myself out of several withdrawal induced panic attacks.  Stared at the people staring at me.  Stared into my own soul and found something wanting, found an empty shell where a human used to reside.  Tried to eat chips.

Oh man, is he ever screwed!
After the blue worms, go with the screaming skulls on fire for two hours, then switch to  clowns…everyone’s afraid of clowns.

I didn’t sleep for four days straight. You see, alcohol changes the chemistry of the brain.  We slow things down up there when we drink, and it’s like a spring that’s been compressed harder and harder and harder.  And when we abruptly stop drinking, it’s like we let the spring recoil and boing! boing! boing! we release excitatory neurotransmitters, and we get all those lovely symptoms of withdrawal, or in my case, the DT’s.  Insomnia is one such symptom, as well as shaking, restlessness, excitement, fear, etc.  And those wonderful hallucinations, of course.

In those four days, I finished three novels, ate two sandwiches, and craved sleep like a man in the desert craved water.  I went to the washroom to hide when the guy across from me would masturbate loudly.  All I wanted was to be like the addicts in the corner bunks, who slept 26-28 hours straight.  I was jealous of the addicts in detox.  Insane.  I tried several times to leave the isolation and get into “general population”.  I begged, I whined, I would get angry.  Nothing worked.  They would ask me to extend my arms out, and when my hands would continue to violently shake, they gave me a pill and said they would check in later.

alcohol kills

Did I mention I prayed the whole time, shaky hands and all?  I alternated between praying to die and praying that this was just a nightmare that I would wake up from.  The pain – physical, mental, emotional, spiritual – was unbearable.  I didn’t know how to be.  I didn’t know who I was, where I was, what time it was and what day it was.  I was truly lost.  My compass, like my soul and heart, was broken.  I could feel every molecule in me squeezed out, tensed up, bleeding out…broken.  I invited death, and yet fought to move away from it at all costs.

I knew that this was the last stop on the train of my alcoholism.  I had gone through withdrawals before, I had gone through the cycles of guilt, shame and remorse and I had experienced lots of emotional pain before.  But this was different.  It was the first time I could feel myself cry out for more than just a handout, a temporary fix, a shot in the arm to just get moving on.  It was the first time I felt true desperation.  It was the first time ever in my life that I felt utterly and completely hopeless.

It was in the Bubble that I conceded to my innermost self that I was done with alcohol for good and for all.


Sorry little dudes...we're not going to be playmates anymore.
Sorry little dudes…we’re not going to be playmates anymore.

The great thing about being in the Bubble, and wanting to die, and watching the minutes unfold like hours, and going through such despair is that I had finally turned some Cosmic Corner in my life.  It was the last domino to fall.  It was the landing when the net had been torn away first.  It was plugging the last piece of the jigsaw puzzle together and finally seeing the entire picture.  And in that darkness, I was able to see a tiny pinpoint of hope and light. I had no choice in the matter.  It was look towards that hope or die an alcoholic death.  I felt the Creator near me for the first time ever, and I didn’t know it at the time, but I knew I needed not be tethered to self-will any more.  Something better had been planned for me.

The ironic thing about the Bubble is that while I was physically trapped and peered at by others, by the end I felt freer than I ever felt before. It was though the Creator was watching over me, from within and without.  I honestly feel that healing started there.  I felt a sense that even though my conditions were dire and I had a lot of work to do on the outside, my inner life was going to have a volcanic like shift and that I was now being guided.

The Bubble may be a place I never want to physically be in ever again, but what I got from it was more than I ever bargained for.  And for that, the Bubble will always be a part of me.  Except this time, I am on the outside, peering in..through the lens of love and compassion and knowing that I have been kept around for a reason.

Every alcoholic I meet and help in any way is my reason.


I am free of the Bubble.


26 Comments Add yours

  1. Amy says:

    Oh, my, heart.

    I am so glad you got the heck up on out of that life.

    I am so proud of you, that you fought to be the man you are today.

    I am so grateful for you, for your words and your faith in me, and in yourself.

    Being sober rocks. 🙂

    1. Thanks Amy. One day I will tell more of the story, or the whole thing. It’s actually not that exciting, but I just know that getting out of that life, as you mentioned, was life saving. I don’t know how guys do this several times over. Once was enough for me. Thank God.

      Thanks for the kind words too – thank YOU for your words and faith in me and yourself as well. It’s a groovy thing we all have here.


  2. ditto amy. every word. ditto ditto. holy cow.

    1. Hey Belle – thanks for stopping by…means a lot to me! Funny thing is that my story pales in comparison to many of the people I know, but the thing is that it’s not about the circumstances, how bad things get, etc. but how drinking made us feel in the end. I wish I could have seen the light sooner, but it wasn’t meant to be.

      good thing is that we’re all here now 🙂


  3. Namaste my friend 🙂

  4. Wow, that was a moving description of what the first few days can be like, as always I am in awe of your ability to communicate! This is why my subconscious puts your first on my People I Will Disappoint List if I were ever to relapse!

    1. Ha ha…don’t put me on that list!! But that’s ok…I’ll take the gig if you need me to. Let’s not talk about relapse…let’s live in the solution. 🙂

      Yes, the first few days are always nasty – never heard of anyone coast through them without some sort of wounds. But we get through it, don’t we?

      Glad you’re here!

  5. Oh Paul! If we were playing the one-up-manship game you would win. The only bits that I lucked out of were the hallucinations and the hospitalization, I probably should have been hospitalized but I wasn’t that smart. I may have had auditory hallucinations because I remember some pretty profound conversations with God.
    You managed to read? All I could do was stare at the same page for hours, reading and re-reading. The sleepless terror-filled, sweaty, prayerful, pleading nights. I wasn’t in a Bubble but I would retreat into my own Bubble, my husband could see me leaving and would beg for me not to go, not to leave him again, but I couldn’t not go.

    Let’s link pinkies right now and swear never to let each other go back there.

    1. I hope the post didn’t come across as one-up-manship thing! I guess I wanted to let people (especially newcomers) that things like detox and treatment and our bottoms are real, heavy things. We don’t often hear those stories, but sometimes they show us where we have come and how others have gone through worse and made it.

      I had nights like you described too – where I couldn’t get past that first page, my mind racing, my heart trying to get out of my ribcage, etc. Horrible.


      Thanks for the wicked comments.


      1. Kary May says:

        I didn’t mean it that way at all, I just meant to say that I very rarely run across others in the blogosphere that let themselves fall as far as I did, most of them got stronger and smarter way before they started suffering from the physical dependence that I did. I’m sorry, it came across that way.

        I think that sometimes some readers can’t relate fully to my blog, they find it hard to believe that someone would let the foolishness and scariness continue that long, I think, also, that my over-the-top, but sincere, gratefulness and enthusiasm for the new life I have is something else someone, that didn’t go as far down the rabbit hole as I did, can’t fully relate to.

        You, my friend, get it, because you’ve been down the rabbit hole with me.

        1. Oh hey, Kary May – didn’t mean to make it sound like I was offended or anything like that! Not at all, my friend. You are absolutely right about being down the rabbit hole. There is certainly a scale that we are all on and in different spots on. Doesn’t make us any less or any more an alcoholic. We just are. Folks like us just didn’t learn our lesson for a very long time 😉

          One thing I have noticed is that those who have really gotten near the bottom of that scale are the ones with the most notable changes. Many of the people I know would be unrecognisable if I were to have met them way back when. For me, I wouldn’t say that I am dramatically different, but I am certainly changed. And it’s more of an inside job.

          Thanks for the follow up…and the great comments, as usual.


  6. sherryd32148 says:

    What a powerful, raw and honest post. And yet what a beautiful expression of what it’s like to come through the darkness, for the last time, and finally let the light in.

    My spirit honors your spirit my friend..namaste.


    1. Hi Sherry – thank you so much for your lovely comments. yes, the light is in…and I never want to plunge into the darkness ever again. And I wish that for you and others here as well.
      Namaste 🙂


  7. runningonsober says:

    Your time in the bubble read scarier than any Stephen King novel, Paul. Almost like a scary science experiment, being observed through the bubble glass / microscope.

    I’m grateful to have gotten off the elevator when I did; no doubt I was headed in the same direction.

    1. Oh dear…I have heard much worse…sadly. My experience is acutally quite tame when compared to some of the jaw dropping tales I have heard. I recall hearing the story of woman at a meeting- she was well dressed, seemed quite together – and by the end of her story, I couldn’t understand how she was there in front of me – she should have been *dead* five times over. The most horrific stories I have heard have been from women. There seems to be many more dimensions going on other than just the booze. Nonetheless, you’re right – glad to have gotten off the elevator when I did…when we all did. I can’t imagine how people go to detox and treatment over and over again…it was enough for me.

      Glad you’re here 🙂


  8. Sober Life says:

    Wow. And then wow again. So beautifully written, Paul. I could feel the pain and then the change and freedom, probably because I felt it too back when. It amazes me how I thought that not drinking would restrict my life and instead it gave me the freedom I have never imagined! Thank you so much for your story, once again, so very honest and open. What an amazing journey you have had, you’re a true inspiration!

    1. Thank you for the kind words, sober life…means a lot to me. You are right about the not drinking actually opening our lives open…we were so closed off before. We isolate, we try and get away from ourselves and everyone else…it’s repressive. Thank God we aren’t in that place anymore.


  9. Gosh this was a chilling read Paul – sounds like a living nightmare. So, so glad you’re not in that place any more.

    1. Hey SJ – it wasn’t fun, but it wasn’t meant to be – that is how alcoholism beat me into a state of reasonableness. I am glad I am one of the lucky ones who could come out of it on the other side…and I love seeing all of us get healthier every day. It’s a miracle, in my books! Thanks for the comments – appreciated 🙂


  10. Lisa Neumann says:

    Beautiful. Got me thinking about ‘Freedom’ what is it? what lengths I will go to have it? good stuff my friend

    1. Thanks Lisa. Freedom indeed…how truly free do we want to be? I sometimes have to ask myself that, especially when I am balking at certain things.


  11. Al K Hall says:

    Powerful writing, man. i feel for you and consider myself lucky my physical withdrawal was less intense than this!

    When i read the title and tried to guess what the post was going to be about, i assumed it was, like me, that you drank to be in a bubble! Alcohol was like a shield for me, a place i hid inside of, another skin i could put on to distance myself from the world…like a bubble. In fact, i’m not sure our bubbles are so different…certainly neither is a place i ever want to be again.

    1. You know Al, it could have certainly been very well that I wrote about that bubble you speak of. I too felt that distance, that space between, that gulf between me and my fellow man. We do isolate just beautifully, don’t we? Dangerously too…even in sobriety. Something I have to watch for too.

      Thanks for the kind words – glad you’re here.


  12. What a gruelling experience – I can’t imagine how you hung in there thru that. Something of a miracle you came out the other end. I’m counting my blessings that my experience has been far gentler.

  13. My two days in detox was the most wonderful time of my life! A time I never, ever, ever want to experience again, but I always think back fondly on that time because it was there that I learned that all wasn’t lost. I truly laughed for the first time in months, I was able to connect to people in as bad or worse shape than I was and found that even strangers cared for me, so I wasn’t alone. I walked in like a zombie and came out walking on air, with a real plan for long term recovery.

    I laughed when you mentioned being envious of the sleeping drug addicts. I went through intake to be detoxed from heroin at the same time this older gentleman was coming through to be detoxed from alcohol. We sat side by side at the desk to complete our intake forms: me, a soulless skeleton covered in track marks and bruises; he, an unshaven mess shaking so bad from withdrawal that he couldn’t keep hold of his pen. He and I looked over at each other with the same expression which said, “At least I’m not THAT bad!”

    (I should note that heroin detox takes more than 2 days, but I had already done most of it on my own and only sought professional help when I became overwhelmingly suicidal. I definitely wouldn’t recommend detoxing without professional help for anyone.)

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