Rock Bottom, Part One

What a strange trip the last 17 days has been. Driving to work on September 11, I realized I didn’t have my cell phone. I should have turned around and retrieved it (after all, don’t we all feel handicapped without our phones?) but knowing I was headed to work where I’d have a phone & computer, I figured I could get by without it for one day. Maybe it’d even be good for me and my efforts to become more mindful, not obsessively checking for texts, reading Facebook and engaging in other distractions.

Why didn’t you just turn around? my coworker asked that afternoon in the office. I was running late, I told him. Your boss isn’t even here this week, what’s the big deal? When leaving for the day later on, I made a crack that I would be fine so long as I didn’t get a flat tire on my way home. I haven’t a clue how to change a tire.

Little did I know at the time, that one little decision, combined with a huge unfortunate mistake would turn my whole life upside down.

After work, I headed to the bowling alley bar, as I do every Thursday for the majority of the year. Sat in my same seat at the bar, waiting for the rest of my team, while nursing the first of my double bubble vodka tonics. The second, I would drink during my first two games. I’ve got it down to a science now. In my younger years, I drank with reckless abandon and put myself (and potential others) in dangerous situations. Wisconsin culture is one of heavy drinking. In fact, my home state is the only state in the U.S. that a first Operating While Intoxicated (OWI) offense is merely a traffic forfeiture and is only listed as a crime if a child younger than 16 (or an unborn child) is in the vehicle. Wisconsin was one of the last states to lower the Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) limit to .08 percent. Although I’m ashamed to admit I’d driven impaired more times than I can count in the past, I put all that foolish nonsense behind me and drink more responsibly today.

A creature of habit, I placed my food order for the crispy chicken wrap with inferno sauce to enjoy while we bowled. Upon learning that the alley raised the prices and now all wraps come with fries for an additional charge, I said no way and opted for a pretzel and cheese instead. Dumb choice #2 in case you’re keeping track.

As we headed into our third game of the evening, the new cocktail server handed me a drink (my third and final, per my routine) that looked a bit off. I tasted it and it was certainly NOT my usual and after a little bickering, he left the bad drink with me and went to pour me a new one. The new one was correct, so I drank it as our team bowled to victory. For the first time in five years of bowling, we have a full, winning team vs the motley crew of no-shows and empty roster spots. The team headed into the bar for a celebratory nightcap (Happy Hour goes for an hour after bowling wraps up). This time, instead of heading home as I normally do, I decided to take the crappy, excessively strong mistake drink into the bar and join the team. Dumb decision #3.

The next thing I know, I am in my car, all eight airbags deployed and safety lights flashing. Paramedics loaded me into an ambulance despite my protests and took me to the ER. I have little memory of the next hour or so, aside from a police officer asking me to submit to a blood test. He asked me if I’d like to call someone to pick me up, but alas, I had no phone. Overly reliant on my cell phone, the only numbers I knew by memory were my ex-boyfriend’s, my abusive mother’s (1500 miles away) and my girlfriend’s who was on European holiday at the time with her husband. I remember being cuffed and placed in the back of a squad car, needing to pee like crazy, and vomiting in the intake cell at the jail.

At 5 a.m., a sack lunch was dropped into my cell. I buzzed the desk to ask if I could go home. I was told I needed to “sober up” and was ordered to go back to sleep. I tossed and turned for a few hours on the plastic pad, incredibly anxious about whether I would be able to contact work by 8:30. I was then informed that I was on a 12 hour hold, and I hadn’t been booked until 1 a.m. Around 7, I buzzed again, asking to make a phone call. I decided that calling my ex and having him help me out would be better than being a no show to work. I didn’t know anybody’s number at work and even if I did, I wasn’t sure I would want them to accept a collect call from a Brown County Inmate. It would be best to call in sick from my cell phone, once I made it home.

My ex didn’t answer. Or if he did, he refused the charges. I don’t know, you don’t get to hear the other end of the phone call. With no other options, I had to wait until I was able to blow a BAC lower than .05. I was released at 11:30 a.m.

They gave me my belongings in a plastic bag and sent me on my way, telling me I could make a free phone call from the lobby. To my dismay, my wallet was not in the bag. (“If you came here with it, it’s in the bag.”) I had no money, no credit card and no ride, and the cab company I called refused to accept a check or to bill me. I knew the jail was located downtown, as I had volunteered as an advocate for the Sexual Assault Center for years and as a result I am intimately familiar with the local justice system. I’d walk to the nearest coffee shop and figure out my next move.

Except, when I walked outside and saw the expansive wooded area across the parking lot and the address on the side of the building (Curry Lane?) it dawned on me that I had NO IDEA where I was. I panicked. I frantically ran around trying to get my bearings when an inmate doing yardwork called out to me. He provided me with a bus pass and directions to the bus stop. I nearly cried at his generosity. “OWI?” he asked. “Yes” I told him, completely humiliated. “Shake it off” he said. “You’ll be fine.”

To Be Continued

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