One Week on the Streets

A journal of sobriety and homelessness. Photographs by the author.

I’m now in Asheville, North Carolina.

It’s a beautiful city nestled in the southern Appalachian Mountains. I’ve been here since November. I was here for a while the year before last but headed south to Sarasota when it started getting real cold. Spent about nine months in Sarasota. 

Back now in “Beer City.” There are more breweries here per capita than in any other city in the US. I’m sober now and have been for 86 days. 

I’ve been to a lot of different cities, but Asheville is the only one I’d like to someday settle in. If I ever settle anywhere. 

I only have two people that I can say are true friends in Asheville. They listen to understand, not only to reply. I basically have no one to confide in. That’s when journaling morphs into therapy. 

Make a gratitude list when you’re feeling sad or depressed. Your whole outlook on life will improve. Don’t take my word for it; try it just once, and you’ll see for yourself. 

Before you read about a week of my life, I need to preface it by telling you about the day I decided to quit drinking.

As I said, today marks 86 days sober. I’ve had absolutely no urges or cravings to drink. I’ve even gone to three bars while hanging out with friends. I did so because one of my friends said they thought they may have a drinking problem and said they wanted to talk to me about how I quit. The thought to drink never enters my mind.  The thought of alcohol itself enters my mind on occasion.  Alcohol is not the same substance I once considered it to be. It used to numb me to the world. I used it for escape and to anesthetize life. I thought of it as my best friend. It was always there to pick me up and take me away--only to slam me down later.

That’s where I was 87 days ago, slammed down harder than I’d ever been. I was walking around town about 5am on a cold, rainy, and dreary Sunday morning. I was jonesing for nicotine and walking the sidewalks to try and find a cigarette. I was starting to go through alcohol withdrawals, and I expected them to get much worse. While I was walking around starting to shake, chilling, sweating, nauseated, with a headache, and those damn racing thoughts, I notice a little black object sticking out from the bottom of a raised lamppost. I reached down and picked it up. It was a nice lock-blade knife. I was close to the courthouse, so there’s a 100 percent chance that someone going to court stashed it there so it wouldn’t be confiscated at the courthouse metal detector. They forgot to get it when the got out of court or maybe went directly to jail.

I picked it up and just stared at it. Stared at it way too long. When my eyes did leave the knife they shifted to my left wrist. My eyes then went from my wrist, to the knife, to my wrist to the knife… I realized I was going to have to make a decision. I had to decide to live or die. I couldn’t decide. I was in that much mental pain. The racing thoughts were just too much. I walked around for about an hour focusing on the pros and cons of life and death.  Someone once said that suicide is not a choice, that it happens when the pain becomes greater than the resources to deal with it. I believe it wholeheartedly.

I eventually decided to reach out and get help.  I’m so grateful now that I did. I went to the hospital and told them exactly what I was going through. They sent me to a detox/crisis center. I was there for a week. I was able to get an injection of Vivitrol before I was discharged. It’s an opioid blocker that has the side effects of stopping any elation (buzz) I would get by drinking and also decreases the craving for alcohol. So I had somewhat of a parachute when I left there. Each Vivitrol shot lasts 28 days. I thought that I should be able to build up a better support network in that time because I couldn’t keep getting the shot. Didn’t want to. That one shot was over $1,300. It was covered under some type of grant, so I wasn’t obligated for the cost.

I didn’t really expand my support network, I just strengthened the one I had. Something else I did was that I came to see alcohol in a whole new light. When that knife was in my hand, I wasn’t seeing the knife. I was looking Death in the eye. The full impact of alcohol usage had hit me head on.

One Week On the Streets: Read the Entire Series

Intro: One Week

Day 1: Movement

Day 2: Anxiety

Day 3: Recovery Steps

The remaining installments are for paid subscribers only.

Day 4: Mindfulness 🔒

Day 5: Conversation 🔒

Day 6: Cold 🔒

Day 7: Tomorrow 🔒