June 1st 2006

copyright© don oddy

~ the red room ~

Today, this morning just two years ago, I was in the red room, it was about 5-00 am, I had little sleep during the night. I felt like death and looked awful I recall now, the mirror was unforgiving, lack of sleep, eyes deeply shrunk and dark rings. Skin was dry and red, death would have been preferable. The gnawing feelings inside were persistent for a fix, a need and most definitely a want to get oblivion, no answer to the pain unrelenting inside me. I was sober.

The day before, I had been given advice to seek help from anyone who would listen, I had been to hospital for the last time I thought. I had walked in as an emergency, traumatised by the previous week and heavy drinking which had followed thirteen weeks and one day in a rehab, dry and definitely raging from mistreatment and abuse. I had phoned a friend, a psychiatrist, Desmond, he had been as much use as he could and would not see me, he just said do what you know works. And I knew going to AA worked. But I was still raging and confused.

I was in a pub near the hospital, beleaguered and dreadful feelings overwhelmed me, nowhere to go and nothing at all to live for. When I walked into emergency, and asked for help from psychiatry they were quiet and looked very warily at me.

Someone came to see me, I spent hours explaining in a confused state what had happened and why I ended up where I was, I was happy for them to lock me up if necessary, I was at the end of the road. He listened and said to me towards the end of three hours, it seemed, that I was mad with rage and not mad at all. Relief overwhelmed me. And he said for me to wait.

When he came back he urged me to go to my Town Hall and go to the homeless unit and speak to whoever it was. I did, it had been a long day, and I felt nothing would be as bad as this day again. I was kept there till gone seven in the evening and then sent to Kings Cross to stay in that red room.

The Cartwright hotel, kings Cross. I could smell its unsavoury past as I walked in, still sobering up from the last few days, I had been given a room for the night in this hell hole. The man on reception did not speak English he gestured to read a form and sign, I was given a key, and found the red room. Red walls, red bedspread on a thin bed, red carpet, red washbasin in the corner and red curtains so thin I could through to the dark outside. And I could not sit still, I went out and found an off licence, bought a bottle of Smirnoff red and went back to drink. Sitting there I had a first slug and felt it warm going down.

As I sat with next to nothing with me, in this red room, I thought this is the end of the road. Everything red, and gone to hell, for surely this was it. It smelt of urine that room and the halls and the hotel was busy with urine, drink, drugs and women plying a trade. It was hell. It must have been around ten in the evening, I looked at the bottle and thought to myself, I can drink this, I can die from this and they will find me here, and take away what’s left and I’ll be gone for good.

And I thought some more, it just would take one more to make this nightmare come true, one more drink and any power to change was gone, for I had nothing left by now, no resource to change one thing in my life. And then I simply poured the near full bottle of vodka down the sink. I drank water.

Fits and starts during the night as the smell and odour of years, the noise from rooms of madness around me, the dross of living hard times. And the horrid taste in my mouth which yearned for drink, I ached for it.

The red room as harsh as life offered, it was no place to rest. Not as harsh as can be, enough for me to know, it was the end of my road for drink. Even as the gnawing ache made me want, I was determined it was not going to end here. If I could turn up sober this day two years ago, I might get a chance, one last fitful chance to get a life back. My last chance saloon, the Cartwright Hotel Kings Cross.

Those early hours of the morning went by as slow as time will go, with every loss over the years in my mind and nothing to look forward to, not even the day to come. I was done for, literally and completely. No fight to fight and nothing left of wilful me, and sober one last time.

Two years ago this morning. My last chance taken, and not one drink since that evening before, in the red room. Two years today. That was as rock bottom as it got that year, after so many rock bottoms, I have no idea how many preceded, the previous ten years a nightmare to that place and time, loss after loss, and then some. Nothing absolutely nothing left.

I went back to the Town Hall, was moved to another “hotel“, close to where I am now. Two years later and some moves on, I am still sober. And from nothing has come something as my diaries offer over these two years.

A sentimental journey into madness, insanity, for I was most obviously psychotic at that time. And looking back I see my pathology, my incidents and accidents along the way. Hapless and hopeless, driven to more madness as time had its way and eventually booze did the rest in more recent years.

As these two years have gone by, it is without doubt the fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous which kept me sober. AA, the last resort for those driven to drink and utter madness. AA, so simple and so easy in the process of living, if we can ever get a grip on living again. AA, so easy to confuse as a Saviour, saves no one unless they are willing. All I needed was a desire to stop drinking, I had enough to join AA, and that was a start.

From a red room of no hope, with nothing left, I have come back from the brink of self destruction to face life.

From the red room of no hope with AA to help me, I have faced many demons of my living. For in sobriety we face it all, illness as well as recovery. I may be recovering my sanity, and in the process be able to deal with my various afflictions. Recovery enables choice, and choice to get on with living with what else ails us in this precarious journey of life.

Now two years on, I am glad that choice was made, and my diaries reflect part of my journey, not all for all was too much to write down.

The red room, the end of madness, and the insanity of drinking to cover my maladies. My maladies now manageable a day at a time, forever just one day. That red room, not an epiphany, not even that one moment of clarity for me, just showing my ending to be. Two years on a day at a time…

Copyright © Don Oddy