The night before my father would beg me to kill him, I sat alone in a hotel room across the street from his hospital, rereading old newspaper articles about my mother’s suicide. I had six months clean for the second time in my life. The first time stuck for six years. But that seemed impossible to do again. My skin itched and my body crackled and I had no idea how I’d get through the next five minutes, let alone the night, or the rest of my fucking life without being loaded. I was freezing and the room wasn’t cold. I went into the bathroom and turned on the heat lamp, which came on with a fan, and I paced for a minute. I sat on the toilet, fully clothed with the seat down and counted the square-inch white tiles on the floor while breathing deeply. I listened closely to the fan’s small jetlike idle to block any thoughts that might come. I tried counting the tiles on the walls but couldn’t concentrate. I looked back down at the floor. I let my sight blur, and the moldy grout started to form a pattern that looked like floating chicken wire.
I needed sleep. Without it, I was apt to fly into a manic episode my brain stabilizers and antidepressants and sleeping pills could never reach. I was allowed to travel with a few benzos, which frightened me, but I needed them for anxiety attacks. They couldn’t really tame a manic swing, anyway. If I was lucky enough to skip a psychotic episode, there would still be the inevitable depressive suicidal down–and I’d fought through enough of those over the years to be exhausted at the thought.