Totaled Teeth

There are moments in life that stick in the mind for a variety of reasons, perhaps to serve us in the future to prevent making certain choices due to a bad experience.  Often these things come up when sitting with friends and sharing stories, animated voices and gesturing hands assisting in recreating scenes while laughter fills the room.  Being someone who has listen to more tales than I ever thought I would, it seems strange that I have my own assortment of experiences which may not have been pleasant at the time they occurred.  The fact that I have conquered so many obstacles and found strength in myself instead of relying on others is something I am quite proud of, though I am reminded that I also had amazing people who helped me when I was in need.

Four years [and three days] ago I came to terms with the fact that I had a problem with alcohol, which was something I had access to and consumed at a young age.  It was a social crutch to drown out anxiety that often led to making a fool of myself, getting sick, hangovers and making empty promises to have more control.  Aware that there were relatives who also had issues with alcohol abuse, I joked that drinking was in my genes yet mostly did it at home or a local club.  When I was hanging out with Jon, there was not as much pressure to do what everyone else was doing, and he preferred whiskey or moonshine, both of which I accepted when I wanted to.  The point is that for several years I consumed alcohol for a number of reasons; sometimes I got sick and others I had the time of my life.

Moving to Philadelphia in 2006, I was relieved to be on my own yet hit with that realization in a way which was not expected.  Having limited funds, I decided that snacks and packs of beer were a good way to unwind after long days of fighting through traffic to seek out jobs or go to interviews.  Then came the stress of moving after finally feeling as though I had just settled in, followed by that evening with Jon where we parted ways with me knowing he was madly in love with me but had to deal with his own issues before he could seriously pursue a relationship.  During his absence I had a a really traumatic experience that was treated with drinking, room mates that enjoyed and encouraged partying, and generally had a hard time dealing with overwhelming depression.  One night I had a bad time with a bottle of vodka which brought me to realize I had to face reality instead of hiding in an alcohol induced stupor.  That was the plan anyway and it went alright for a couple of weeks until I get the news that Jon was dead.

While it could be easy for me to use that as a scapegoat for any of the substances that were consumed while I grieved, that does not mean I openly talk about it because I recognize that it was addictive behavior.  Over the next few years I continued to drink on a frequent basis but did not have many incidents of being sick and figured that I found the right level of moderation.  After ending a relationship that should have never been, I moved into a house with a friend and wanted to straighten things out so I could support myself.  Eventually I started dating said friend and drinking became a regular activity, though I tried to regulate my intake and often watched the person I loved become highly intoxicated, which did not always go well.  The point is that alcohol was a presence it seemed difficult to ignore, but I still felt as though I was using it and other substances to escape from things I did not want to deal with.

On August 20, 2008, I had been watching the news and they declared the day was ranked among the Top Ten Most Beautiful Days of the Century, which compelled me to get dressed up with the purpose of wandering the city to enjoy just being outside.  It was also to avoid being around people who were going to be drinking a bottle of whiskey, which I was currently avoiding since there had been night where I had too much and got really sick.  Conditions were perfect: blue sky, no humidity, low temperature and a gentle breeze.  A friend of mine was working at a bar on South Street and invited me to come have a drink on her.  The walk from my house was awesome – people populated every sidewalk table outside restaurants.  As soon as I get to the bar my friend gives me a margarita, we talk for a while and make fun of Kinky Quizzo.

Noted here that I saw someone I recognized but decided against engaging in conversation for personal reasons.  At that point a bunch of people who work at one of the local tattoo shops come in, I was in the middle of my second drink and then they are telling me I have to do shots with them.  Since I did not want to mix liquors, I decide that tequila is an acceptable shot despite having never really drank it much before.  Everyone is chatting, laughing, drinking and having a great time.  Three shots and three margaritas later I am really enjoying myself but also ready to go, so I get up from the bar and head into the bathroom.  One of the tattoo artists offers to call me a cab when I return, which was unexpected but appreciated.  In the cab I am completely lucid and recall most of the ride, though do not remember getting out.  Then I am in my house, climb up the stairs and pass out.

Wake up from a bizarre dream I was in the middle of having and then fumble my way to the bathroom.  Something compels me to look in the mirror, and that was when I realized my teeth were broken.  After a moment of being sick in the toilet, I notice my left knee is slightly scraped.  Went back to the mirror to survey the dental damage – there is a corner of the right central incisor missing, the bottom of the left central and lateral incisors is completely gone, nerves aware of being exposed.  There is a tiny bit of blood on my upper lip and a bruise on my cheek under my left eye.  Then I see that my lip ring is gone, and I figured that I fell somewhere, causing the captive ring to hit my teeth.  There is a bead shape chip in one tooth to support the theory, but I am not concerned with how it happened because I was in so much pain.

My friend stopped by later that day with my phone because it had accidentally been left at the bar, and said the people who bought me shots apologized for getting me so drunk.  She mentions checking on me and said I seemed okay, though I was not sure if she had seen me fall.  Having to explain the whole thing to my father was quite awkward because he could not understand what happened and I had a piece of my memory missing. The fact remained that my teeth were broken and I could barely eat, so I made an appointment with a local dentist and began the process of getting them repaired.  Over the next few weeks, I had a root canal, my teeth ground down, temporary teeth that made me feel really self conscious and finally three crowns replaced the damaged ones.  It was quite expensive since I had no insurance and I went through a tremendous amount of pain.

The photo above was taken a few days after the first part of the root canal, because I felt that I needed to be able to smile and laugh about the situation to prevent myself from getting caught up in depression.  Along with the details I have shared, it serves as a reminder of how a situation can get out of hand, even wen one does not have such an intention.  Though I became aware of how dangerous alcohol could be, I continued to drink but imposed restrictions to prevent any further incidents.  Obviously it has been a long struggle, though I can say that I no longer have a desire to consume alcohol.  Hanging out at clubs or bars was never really my thing, and when I am at home I can have one or two drinks and be satisfied.  Do I consider myself recovered?  In a sense yes, because I do not depend on booze to have a good time and generally find those who drink in excess to be highly entertaining.  That is not a role I want to fill, and while I will likely never be completely sober, at least I have control over my intake of substances but do not allow them to rule me.


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