(Chapter 1)

Where did I Go Wrong?

August 08, 2011 8:00 AM

Phoenix, Arizona

I’m waiting for my car service to come pick me up at my friend’s apartment, where I’ve been staying for just a couple of months. But, even during those months, I have really only “been there” a few days – physically and coherently. I travel so much…I’m in a different city across the U.S. nearly every day. I’m really just using her apartment as a place to keep my last few belongings. I am so happy to have signed a new lease this past weekend to get my own apartment, I think to myself. It’s hard to believe it has been over five years, since I had a place to call my own. I have been extremely irresponsible over that time period and I am to blame; however, some of my friends and family have enabled me along the way. You see, five years ago, I went broke. With no money, big debt, no apartment or car, I’d been “couch surfing” across the country until recently. Although different friends and family members were able to open their homes to me for most of that time, the fact was…I had been and still am “homeless”, I think to myself. Now, with a successful career again, there has not really been a “need” to get my own place again.

My own apartment again…wow, I think…but for now, I need to get back to the airport. (It seems as if I’m in airports all the time. Actually, I’m in them several times a week.) My driver should be here in just a few minutes. It doesn’t leave me too much time to suck down a couple of 50mL bottles of bourbon – you know the ones…the little bottles they serve on the airplanes. I have already got two down without my friend even knowing. She knows I drink, heck, everyone knows I drink – few know just how much though. I feel as if me drinking to excess is expected, at this point. I don’t necessarily want her to know I will have had four of these bottles before 8:30am; especially considering I didn’t go to bed until 1am, due to trying to finish off the 1.75L bottle I opened yesterday (for those of us who did not grow up using the metric system – that is a half gallon of booze in one day)!!! Since my “nap”, I’ve already consumed four “little” drinks and it is not even 8:30am! (That’s more than social drinkers would have in one night.) I hear the horn honk of the Town Car downstairs and I have got to go!!

As I am sitting in the back seat of the Town Car, I feel great the truth is, I’m a little buzzed already, Or is it still, I wonder to myself.  After all, it’s only 8am.  I’m on my way to the airport, because I am finally back working full-time and looking forward to another successful week at work.  Work has been very profitable as of late.  I am a seminar leader; teaching business concepts to doctor’s and their staff.  Business has been good.  I am in a different city every day.  I’m making enough money that I have hired an assistant to travel with me.  He’s actually on the way to the airport in his home city of Los Angeles at the same time I’m on my way to Phoenix International.  This is my third attempt in the last year or so with a travelling assistant.  It’s a grueling schedule leading seminars everyday across the country and not everyone can keep up with the demands of the road.  This current assistant has been great, so far.  One of the biggest advantages for me is no longer having to drive – at all.  Nowadays, I pretty much take taxis and car services everywhere, and now even for work.  Life is good…finally!  It’s been a crazy struggle with tons of self-imposed setbacks over the last six years.  But now, as I ride to the airport in style with the insane and disgusting events of this last weekend now behind me; knowing I’ll soon be getting my own apartment after more than five years of being homeless…I rest a little easy in the back seat.

As I drink bourbon on the rocks from a disposable coffee cup in the back of the Town Car at 8:15 am, I am thankful and grateful I no longer have to drive. Not driving allows me to do what’s become increasingly more and more important to me over the years and that is consume copious amounts of bourbon. I drink…a lot. Driving for me has become cumbersome. Cumbersome? No, downright scary. As a matter of fact, I am afraid of a lot of different things. I am afraid of bridges, sudden sounds, my thoughts…everything. I’m so afraid I actually shake at almost all times. People can see it. Some have asked about it and want to know if I have a medical condition, but the truth is…I am afraid. I didn’t use to be this way, so having drivers and an assistant helps have a few less things to worry about. Worry…that is a better word. I worry about everything.

I make a quick call to my assistant, already boarding his flight at LAX en route to San Francisco. He’ll arrive before me, but shouldn’t have to wait too long. As we compare itineraries, it appears he’ll arrive just about an hour before me. This will be his first trip with me to the bay area. I let him that we stand to make a lot of money this week, which we both really need. The excitement is building for both of us. Had you asked either of us what could be the worst possible outcome of this day…neither could have come up with what awaited – one of us being stranded hundreds of miles from home and the other fighting for his.

8:30 AM

I have arrived at the airport and am making my way through security. As I put my shoes, belt, laptop, etc. in all the proper bins, I get to my one quart bag. It has been months since I felt the nervous twinge; thinking someone might pull me aside and have me explain myself. No one has, because technically, I am not breaking the “three-one-one rule”. You know the rule. It’s the one that allows you to take all of your favorite liquids with you from city to city as you make your way through the airports. Up to three ounces of your shampoo, conditioner, and God-knows-what-else you might want to bring in one quart bag per each person. I’m astonished that just a few ounces of shampoo is so critical to people. Don’t they know their loved ones that they are going to visit, or the hotel they are registered at, will gladly supply them with some? Why not be practical, like me? My one quart bag holds nine 50mL bottles of bourbon. Why spend $7-12/drink @ the airport for a drink, when one can slip into the bathroom and chug one down on the cheap? Right?!?!? Has everyone lost their minds?, I wonder.

After a quick stop in the bathroom to pour 2 mini-bottles into the cup of ice I just waited 10 minutes in line for at the coffee stand, I make my way to the Mexican restaurant/Bar for a quick bite before my flight. The burrito I have ordered is probably the worst thing I have tasted in a long time. I remember thinking, “I’m not sure what is in this thing, but how they get away with calling them eggs, I’ll never know”. At least the whiskey I ordered is tolerable. I have ordered a double on the rocks and yes, my “coffee” cup is also there for me to sip on. I have sent the burrito back and decided against breakfast; however, the server insists on bringing me another. Meanwhile, a very attractive woman has made her way close to me and we start some small talk. Mutual travelers can usually find something in common to chat about for a couple of minutes, but this woman really speaks my language. It turns out she is looking forward to a pre-flight cocktail and is looking for something a little exotic. I just happen to have an app on my phone for such an occasion. After having the bartender follow the recipe we have agreed upon from my phone app, my mutual traveler and I are chatting like old friends.

The waitress has brought me another burrito and I decide to try again. One bite in, I am still not impressed with my breakfast. I ask that it be removed. Halfway through this fantastically yummy, blue rum concoction the bartender has created, my new friend, who is overtly flirting with me, begins to speak in a language that is completely incomprehensible. I have no idea what she is saying. My body became instantly drenched with sweat, as if someone has dumped a bucket of water on me. My internal voice (you know the one) is screaming at me, “What is going on? What is she saying?” I am now acutely aware I am in pain. My midsection is on fire and great pressure is settling in. The sudden onset and the intensity of pain I am currently experiencing is almost incomprehensible. I wonder if I’ve been shot and just not heard the gunfire, but I’m in an airport, so that couldn’t be the case…could it?

As I scramble internally to understand what she is talking about, I notice the look of complete concern on her face. She has motioned to the bartender, who is also displaying concern as he looks at me. I think I make sense as I excuse myself. I need to get to my gate, so I can board this flight to San Francisco. With a quick stop in the restroom, I look at my reflection in the mirror and it’s not good. My coloring doesn’t look good, I’m a sweaty mess, and my face is twisted from wincing at the pain radiating from my midsection. I feel compelled to get out of the airport and on to the plane. The “show” must go on, I tell myself. You see, there are only five of us seminar leaders, who work for the company based in San Diego. It’s not like just anyone could fill in or the 50+ people scheduled to be at the presentation tomorrow could just be left hanging. I HAD to get there. So, barely able to stand or walk, I make it to the gate, to find I will be delayed for three hours due to a mechanical situation with the plane. What to do? I know I cannot leave my assistant sitting at the airport in San Francisco. I have to get there not just for him, but for my job. I have presentations in 4 cities this week. I’m finally making money and have a plan for the future. I cannot lose this income now. I am hoping this feeling will pass, but it is becoming rapidly apparent, I need medical attention.

9:45 AM

Hunched over in a horrifically uncomfortable plastic chair at the gate, where my plane will be leaving, a feeling is coming over me I have not felt in fifteen years. (More on that in a moment.) The heat I felt from my midsection has dispersed and I am hot all over. The real concern at this point is the growing pain in my upper abdominal area. With every breath, the pain is intensifying and I really don’t know how much more of this I can take. In addition to the pain, there is that odd feeling nagging me I just mentioned I hadn’t felt in over a decade– I am going to be sick. I get up and walk to the rest room, located two gates down. It is a painful walk, but I am excited; thinking if I get sick and get rid of that breakfast burrito that was obviously no good, I will begin to feel much better. I make it to a stall and vomit. I have not done that in years. Purging the burrito, I believe I am on the road to recover.

Walking back to my gate, I stop to purchase a sports drink. Everyone knows electrolytes and fluids after a long night/day of drinking will cure anything. Right? I make it back to my plastic chair at the gate and I settle in for what should be a tolerable wait for my delayed flight. I become acutely aware that some of the other travelers can actually see the scythe in the hand of Death, as he hovers next to me. I envision Death from an episode of Family Guy, better yet, maybe he is attractive like Brad Pitt’s character in Meet Joe Black – either way, I began to really believe I was dying. I had been battling negative and even suicidal thoughts over the last few years, but this was different. I can’t really explain it other than there was an acceptance somewhere in my mind that I really was dying. What made me so sure the people at the airport knew I was in trouble was the fact that a random stranger, an elderly woman, approached me, extended her hand toward me and asked me to take the pills in her hand. Looking in her hand, I did not have the choice of a red or blue pill as in “The Matrix” or “Alice in Wonderland”, but now I was sure I had slipped into the rabbit hole and climbing my way out at this point was not an option.

At this point, you need to realize what I already knew. Getting a person, especially one you do not know to cross a room for you is not the easiest thing to do. I know, because I have only been compelled to do it a couple of times in my life. So, here I am, a nice woman extending two pills to me and asking as kind as can be, if I will take them. I let her know I don’t take pills. You should know, because I am a heavy drinker, I won’t take pills. I am concerned about the harm they may due to my liver…you know, the one I batter daily with huge amounts of alcohol. Heaven forbid I damage my liver or kidneys by taking a couple of pills. She says to me, she would feel a lot better, if I would take them. I look around (for the hidden camera) and notice many of the people sitting near me want me to take the pills. She says they are for pain. God knows I am in pain, so I swallow them down with a big chug from my electrolyte sports drink.

11:00 AM

Over an hour and a half has passed and the pain in my midsection is nearly intolerable. I know I am in trouble and in need of medical attention. I also know the show must go on. I must make this flight. I believe I have to have an “industrial-sized” case of food poisoning. Damn burrito! , I think to myself. I shift my weight in my chair every 20-30 seconds, looking for relief. It does not come. I like to believe I have a high tolerance for pain, but this has gotten ridiculous. I know not to ask the gate agent where I am sitting for help, as this, will ensure I will not make the flight. I gather myself and ask the person next to me to keep an eye on my bags. Breaking airport protocol, I leave my belongings with a stranger and walk three gates down.

Just standing up and making my way to the agent proves to be difficult and almost more than I could bare. As I think about how to phrase my question for the agent so she won’t be obligated to call for medical help right then and there, I ask her what the process might be if someone thought they needed immediate medical attention. She let me know that paramedics would be called to check a person out. If this “hypothetical person” I was asking about was truly in dire straits, they would be carted off for a more intensive examination. I would surely miss my flight. I would be taken to a local hospital. I just knew it. I couldn’t do that to myself, my assistant, the company I worked for, or the attendees that were scheduled to be at my meeting the next day.

A little disappointed but definitely not surprised, I thanked her and let her know I would keep it under advisement. I turn and make my way back to my things. As I tried to settle back into the plastic seat, the constant shifting and growing pain continues. I call my assistant to let him know about the delay and to map out a route to the closest Emergency Department to the hotel convention center we will be staying at. Not to worry him too much, I let him know about the horrible burrito that is causing me such problems.

I call my office and speak to the coordinator… to inform her I am not feeling well. I will make it to my destination, but if I am not feeling better, I am not sure how I will be able to conduct a seminar. This is strange for me to even think (let alone say) I may not be able to perform. In the more than a seven years I had conducted these seminars in the past and now still relatively “new” as this is my second stint with this company, had only ever missed one other meeting. I missed that class due to an unintentional grounding of a plane I was on, preventing me from making it to my destination. I am truly in uncharted waters here. After that phone call, I phoned another seminar leader, who lives in the San Francisco area. She was coming to watch me to pick up a few pointers. I informed her to be ready, as I am not feeling well and not sure if I can do it. This would be a huge financial opportunity for her, while at the same time, costing me a lot of money. (Oh…the “unintentional grounding”, that was MY DOING. I had a plane land in Albuquerque, New Mexico…I never told anyone until now…it was a panic attack and I had to get off of that plane. That’s a story for another day.)

12:15 PM

It’s now been nearly three hours…

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