Way Out, Part 2

by Maura O’Shea

Part 1 is here.

When Emma relapses, she does it with a guy she met in rehab. She was in outpatient, where she was no longer staying in the detox rehab center over night, like the first few weeks. She only went during the day, stayed all day, everyday, except Sundays, and spent the evenings at my Mom’s. You’re not supposed to get romantically involved your first year in recovery, and she knows this. But I meet this dude, Alan, and she’s right, I can see it. He is kind of amazing; also he’s an addict. Part of what makes him so great is the same shit that makes him a sort of out-of-control, asshole, piece of shit. He is funny and charming. He’s tall and wears converse, and has a great, infectious smile.

During one of the meetings, when I go to when I visit Emma, he makes a jokey metaphor about all of them all being little fledglings that are getting pushed out of the nest, and how they’re going to have to learn how to fly sooner or later. He has three kids.

At the end of AA or NA meetings, they always say the serenity prayer, which I say as well, as we all hold hands in a circle. I know the prayer well, having spent many of my younger years, with my older sister, on the floors of church buildings in which meetings are often held playing with those little many-colored coins that are rewarded for specific periods of time spent sober. It talks about accepting the things I cannot change. At the very end, everyone still holding hands, they do a sort of chant that goes, “Keep coming back, it works if you work it, so work it, you’re worth it.” Alan has made up a funny little alternative that says something to the effect of, “work it girl, you’re worth it,” to the same beat and intonation, and sort of does a little sway dance. It’s pretty funny.

There are lots of other sayings and slogans I hear around the rehab center, that I haven’t heard in many years, and which remind me of being a child and hearing them: “We’re only as sick as our secrets” or “Drink ‘til you’re convinced” or “If you don’t want to slip stay away from slippery places.”

When Emma and Alan slip, they drink at his house, a fifth of Jameson, and then go to the bar and drink more whiskey. Then they go back to his place, and do blow all night, have sex all night. She is sore, and can hardly walk the next day. She says it was worth it.     


I wake up early often because I can’t sleep. Not that I am not exhausted. But the insomnia experts suggest that if you can’t sleep it is better to get up out of bed and do something than lie there and ponder, eating your own head. So I get up at four this particular morning. The day after Emma’s 26th birthday. Emma is in bed next to me wheezing, and she keeps waking me up with her coughing. First she got kicked out of her rehab for relapsing with Alan, and then, more recently, kicked out of her SLE for smoking heroin.  

First she calls and tells me she got kicked out because she knew about one of her housemates using, and if you know someone is using and don’t tell the house manager, you are implicated. As soon as I go and pick her up from my mother’s she gets in the car and starts crying and tells me the truth. Maybe she thought I wouldn’t come get her unless she lied.

Then I smell the stale, acrid, unmistakable booze. “Have you been drinking?” I ask.  She says, “Yes, have you?” I don’t know if she means like, right now, while I am driving her, or just in general, but either way, I answer no. She says she stole a bottle of wine from the fridge in mom’s trailer out in back and went to drink it in the cemetery while she waited for me to come and get her. I am so distracted, we get lost trying to get back on the freeway, and I have to pee so bad I pull over in the parking lot of some church and just pee there, because I have already tried two gas stations.   In both, the restrooms are “out of order,” and I realize I am sort of losing it a little when, as I walk into the second gas station and see the sign, I throw my hands up in the air and look at the poor older man behind the counter and say, a bit too loudly, “Really?!” He sort of shrugs.  

Emma’s passed out in the passenger’s seat with her mouth a little open, her breath nasal, catching on her saliva, and she keeps coughing. It sounds like she is choking.  She drifts in and out. When she comes to, she mumbles something like, “Sucks to love someone more than they love you.”  Says she was going to see him, but he got back with his ex, and now she has nothing—no apartment, no job, no boyfriend. Nowhere to go. She drifts back asleep.  

When we get to my place, she gets straight into bed. Doesn’t change her pants or brush her teeth. Doesn’t even wake up as I blow-dry my hair. Her breathing is heavy and quick and shallow and loud.

She gets up at three in the morning and wakes me up, and I can’t go back to sleep.  She is rummaging around, says she’s looking for her phone. I am afraid, afraid enough to wake up fully. I think she’s looking for a bottle she’s stowed in her purse most likely. As she goes outside, she throws an empty bottle of Vitaminwater in the recycling. When I smell it, I can’t tell if it smells like there was alcohol in it. Emma comes back in from smoking. She says she’s going to lie back down.

I had been having a dream about being right off the coast of a continent. About being on a ship, land just in sight; I’ve been dreaming of this often. I left my computer charger in LA, and my computer now informs me that I am running on reserve battery.

Part 3 is here.

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