I met a colleague at the The Safari Room a few weeks ago around 5:30 p.m. for a dirty martini. Within 10 minutes of sipping and chatting, the room began to zoom in and out and I became more deliberate in finding my words. My colleague asked if I was okay—I said yes, of course—but soon could not deny something was wrong. I excused myself to use the restroom, and swiftly locked the stall door upon entering and sat down on the closed toilet seat hoping to gather myself. “I need help,” I texted a group of my closest girlfriends. “I’m struggling at the Safari Room.” The first message back said, “I wish I was struggling at the Safari Room about now.” The tone turned serious and they asked if I needed a ride, as my colleague came in to check on me.
She helped me out of the restroom, through the establishment, out onto the streets of Spokane, and into her car. Magically, I held back throwing up during the 15 minute ride to my house, promising along the way I wouldn’t muck up her car if I couldn’t hold it in. Everything jittered back and forth in front of my eyes, no matter how much I focused on blinking away the confusion.
It wasn’t even 6:30 p.m. when her car pulled into my driveway. I said I would be okay, and rushed inside. My little dogs were excited to see me, and I knew they needed to be let outside after a full day inside. I trailed them to the back porch, and quickly lay down. The cool boards refreshed my feverish cheek, but the world began to spin, and my stomach spun even faster. My body had grown heavy and I struggled to stand when I couldn’t hold in the sickness any longer.
I was sick for hours and hours; violently vomiting, time after time after time in between moments of unconsciousness. My head pounded so hard I knew I was going to have a stroke or an aneurysm. My phone was nearby, on top of the computer bag I had dropped as I entered the bathroom, but it was impossible to focus on, to know where to reach. My fingertips eventually made contact, pulling it closer, but the light from the screen burned my eyes, my head pounding harder. I worked to push through the pain—in between vomiting—to call for help, to tell my group text girlfriends I actually wasn’t okay at all, I was scared, I didn’t think I would make it through the night, I didn’t want my kids to lose their mom or my precious grand baby to lose her glamma. One large, warm tear slid down my cheek—just one—but I couldn’t cry in spite of the terror of facing the end of my life—and I couldn’t operate my phone to text or call for help.
I was finally able to crawl to my room and into bed around 1 a.m. It was a restless, painful night until the sun began to shine through my window and I was able to stand up and walk around. Aside from feeling rung out—and a little emotional—I felt okay: I was beyond grateful for the assault to be over, and to be alive.
In all of my experiences with alcohol, I’ve never gone through anything like that. Since sharing this with a few close friends, stories have come out from multiple people about really bad “reactions” such as mine right here in Spokane. The scenario reminds me of the stories coming out of Mexico where travelers are fine one moment—sipping on drinks and having fun—and then become incapacitated and wake up in an odd location, totally confused—some sexually assaulted, some physically hurt, some never to wake up again.
When I posted this story to Facebook shortly after it occurred, there were more than 350 comments on the thread and more than 25 private messages sharing similar experiences. A few at the Safari Room, yes, and others from around the community.
My friends and I have come up with a code word to let each other know when something is serious. Because I wasn’t able to convey my thoughts in those moments and I had never been in that kind of position before, they had no idea how precarious the situation had become. They knew I had made it home, and assumed I was fast asleep shortly afterward. Two of my closest friends shared they had felt the urge to come check on me after their texts were left unanswered, but they second guessed themselves and stayed home.
As a double assault, I found my car window bashed in by a rock when I went to fetch it from my downtown parking lot the next morning. It was a bang-up weekend that reminded me life isn’t always birdsong and rainbows—the darkness can reach us all—and we need to stay aware of our surroundings, be vigilant in our self-care … and we need to stick together, watch out for one another, and continue working to make our region a safe place for all.
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