The Delirium Tremens
- feeling good, he thought to himself. he was standing by the window looking out on the street with a cup of coffee in his hands. it was 5 pm on January 15, 2007. he had had his last beer at exactly 5 am that morning. no withdrawal symptoms. that's good, he thought to himself again. in fact, he had just walked 45 minutes to the nearest blockbuster and back. now he was ready to watch the two movies he had gotten prior to watching the oscars that night.
he had just gotten off a major binge of alcohol. his wife (he was newly married) was on the east coast for the semester on an internship and he was starting his second semester of law school. he had all the freedom in the world to get fucked up and made liberal usage of it. skipping classes on Thursday and Friday to get absolutely loaded. the apartment looked like a bomb full of alcohol debris, cans and bottles, had somehow exploded. he had tried, at first, to diligently put the aluminium cans into one of the cardboard boxes standing around but that diligence had stopped by the end of Friday. it was now Sunday and he had decided that he couldn't put off another day of law school, so had decided to stop drinking and recover on Sunday.
not only had he binged quite heavily, but ever since his wife had left he had been drinking quite heavily every night. so heavily that the bus rides to school in the mornings were tantamount to the greatest torture beset by depressing hangovers.
by 7 pm he was starting to feel weird. his gut was starting to knot itself into a tight ball and he had begun sweating. by 9 pm he was feeling alternating chills and as if he were burning up. focusing on the movies or the oscars started to seem out of the question. he resolved to just go to bed and sleep it all off. at that point he lost track of time. at some point, it was dark out, he woke up to find himself curled in a fetal position at the end of the bed. the covers barely covering his body which was now shaking violently, drenched in sweat.
he got up which was a major mistake. immediately it felt like the world was swimming away from him. everything seemed to have slowed down. it was as if his mind couldn't keep up with reality. not only that, but he suddenly felt a violent lurch in his guts. he ran to the bathroom just in time to empty the vomit that came streaming out of his mouth into the porcelain bowl. what seemed like an eternity of violent retching forced him onto the cool tile floor of the bathroom. too exhausted to move. after some more retching he finally managed to make his way to the couch.
he turned on the tv just in time to catch the end of the oscars. yet he wasn't really watching it. he had this strange feeling like he was outside of himself. the shaking kept getting worse and worse and horrible, anxiety-riddled thoughts permeated his mind. he hugged himself tight, sitting there drenched in his own sweat, in just his underwear, rocking back and forth trying to make it go away. he slowly crawled back into bed hoping that the sweet respite of sleep would come and absolve him of all of this horror.
he drifted off into an illusory sleep only to be wrenched awake by the horrible urge of diarrhoea. only this time everything had changed. as he woke up, now with fresh sweat bathing the already caked on sweat that had dried during the night he saw a terrible sight. the floor was littered with ants. but not just normal ants. ants the size of gerbils. was he dreaming? was this a hallucination? he kicked his way to the head of the bed panicking. am I awake? the sudden stab of pain in his abdomen followed by the insurmountable urge let him know very clearly that he was awake. the ants seemed to be fading in and out of his vision. like a tv image that slowly dissipates into static due to a faulty antennae.
he had no desire to step out of his bed and onto the ant infested floor but at this point he really didn't have an option. he closed his eyes, jumped out of bed, and scurried back to the bathroom. he swore he could hear the crushing of the ants under his feet but he refused to open his eyes. he sat there on the porcelain throne emptying his bowels with his eyes tightly shut. he didn't dare open them. his head was spinning, his limbs seemed completely detached from his body with a tingling sensation vibrating through them. he felt as if he had no control whatsoever over his automotive functions. worse yet, his body was shaking so violently that he couldn't sit still.
he flushed the toilet without opening his eyes, took a deep breath, got up and went to the door of the bathroom. he opened up one eye slowly to peek out. the ants were gone. he shuffled to the couch again and turned on the tv. distraction, anything. he sat there on the couch, shaking violently and trying his best to regulate his heart rate and breathing. his anxiety made it hard to breath. he felt like he was going to die. he had never shook so violently before. it was the most unpleasant physical sensation he had ever experienced. his completely worn down body could not stop its frame from vibrating to and fro. he sat there rocking back and forth trying to focus on the late night Oscar synopsis when he felt some presence to his left.
don't turn around a voice in his head told him. whatever you do, don't turn to the left. he could hear breathing. not his own, but someone or somethings. don't turn to the left he thought again. the sweat was now streaming down his body. don't turn to the le- and he turned.
and there was his grandmother. her face an inch from his face smiling maniacally at him. her normally kept red hair sticking out like an obscene clown's hair. her grin far too big for her normal face. he stared in horror then instantly turn back to the tv. the presence did not budge. he could swear he felt breath on his shoulder.
get up. slowly. go to bed. but there was a terror in him. a terror that immobilised him. at this point he had lost all contact with reality. his head was slamming with a feverish intensity and he could not. stop. shaking. he felt his sweat stained forehead to confirm the raging fever lying underneath the skin. that's when the sickness arrived. losing all sense of terror or other feeling he bolted back to the bathroom. he had no idea how much of the night he spent lying on that cool tile floor, but eventually he had taken himself back to bed. he curled up under the sheets, terrified to give any agency to the outside world, terrified of what awaited him if he dared peek out from underneath the sheets. he feel back into that illusory sleep.
at some point, he didn't know exactly when, he felt the warm rays of sunlight on his sheets. his heart was beating out of his chest. he carefully peeled back the sheets and peeked out into the world. no grandmother or ants. just a hazy perception of reality. he slowly and laboriously pulled himself onto his two feet. he felt like every bit of energy had been sapped out of his body. reality felt like unreality. he showered and drank as much water as he could to ward off the splitting headache and nauseating fever he felt.
during the day he would experience massive bouts of agonising anxiety, to the point where he was paralysed from all movement. he didn't go to class that day, nor the next. he sat at home trying to nurse his depleted body back to a semblance of normality. the bouts of anxiety lasted for four days. then he started to recover. he stayed sober for 4 years after that. only years later did he find out how close to death he had come (most alcoholics die of the delirium tremens through seizure).