I Survived Alcoholism (Then Sobriety) As a Disabled Person

Will My Insurance Pay for Rehab?

Sponsored Legal Stuff - This is an advertisement for Service Industries, Inc., part of a network of commonly owned substance abuse treatment service providers. Responding to this ad will connect you to one of Service Industries, Inc.’s representatives to discuss your insurance benefits and options for obtaining treatment at one of its affiliated facilities only. Service Industries, Inc. Service Industries, Inc. is unable to discuss the insurance benefits or options that may be available at any unaffiliated treatment center or business. If this advertisement appears on the same web page as a review of any particular treatment center or business, the contact information (including phone number) for that particular treatment center or business may be found at the bottom of the review.

I Survived Alcoholism (Then Sobriety) As a Disabled Person

By Aleks Kang 05/24/16

I used to stay away from drugs because my father was an alcoholic. After I lost my leg in a motorcycle accident in Los Angeles, I got hooked.

Image: 
I Survived Alcoholism (Then Sobriety) As a Disabled Person
via author

Pain meds were my gateway drug. After I lost my leg in a motorcycle accident in Los Angeles, I got hooked. Before that, I stayed away from drugs and alcohol because my father is an alcoholic. I couldn’t see the point of abstaining now that they’d cut my leg off. Three months in the hospital, no skin below the knee, and my whole body smelling of blood. If anyone deserved all the pain meds available, it was me.

Once I got sober, I discovered that the disability that had actually kept me separate from the world was my alcoholism.

It was the perfect time to become an addict. I was young, lonely, and looking to fill the void where my leg used to be. I found it in drugs and alcohol. If I took enough or drank enough, I’d forget about my disability, and everything else for that matter. 

By the time I moved to San Francisco a few years later, my addiction had found its home, bone-deep inside me. I eventually quit taking pain meds but kept drinking, and within a handful of years, I would become a full-blown alcoholic. 

As my drinking escalated, I became morbidly depressed. I didn’t take care of my stump. I wanted to pretend it wasn’t missing by neglecting it and burying it with booze. I barely bathed. I didn’t keep my prosthetic liner clean. I developed staph infections—one so bad that the hospital admitted me overnight, and attached me to an antibiotic IV drip. 

I didn't care much for my non-missing leg either. Hopping drunk to the bathroom one night, I broke my one good foot. For an able-bodied person, that means crutches, but being an amputee, I was wheelchair-bound for 6 weeks. I thought being on disability would be a good time, but I couldn’t get booze for myself and became an angry lout when I’d run out. I was completely dependent on my then girlfriend to go to the liquor store for wine. Oftentimes she’d refuse when she realized how much I needed to drink. I was in hell. 

As soon as the cast came off and I could walk, I traded in the two-bottles-of-wine a night to a fifth of vodka and traded in my girlfriend for a new one. The next two years with this new woman was like looking in a mirror. Since she was as alcoholic as I was, we reflected back to each other all the broken pieces. 

When she broke up with me, she did so by text. That night, I did so many shots of tequila, my neighborhood bar cut me off after only an hour, but all I had to do was walk down the street to find another bar with more shots. I vaguely remember finding a smoke-filled one a block away. Next thing I remember is being on the sidewalk unable to stand up. I couldn’t figure out why I couldn’t stand until someone yelled, “Your leg is in the street, man!” Wasted, I looked onto busy South Van Ness Avenue, and there was my fake leg. No one would get it for me. No one wanted to come near me. To this day, I don’t know if it was because I was a disabled person or a drunk person, because strangers don’t want anything to do with either. 

Later the cops told me that I had been screaming. That I had been in a fight inside the bar, chasing people around with a pool cue, and threatening to joust the bouncer if they didn’t give me another shot. The bouncers threw me out like in an old western saloon scene, which was probably why I was on the sidewalk and my disconnected leg flew out into the street without me. 

With no one to help me, I crawled slowly, staggeringly into the street to get my leg. The sad truth is, I wasn’t crawling to get my leg so I could go home. I was crawling to get my leg so I could go to another bar and keep drinking. 

Right after I retrieved my leg, two taxi cabs showed up to offer me a ride home. I kept saying I didn’t need a ride but they insisted. Turns out the cabs were cop cruisers taking me to the drunk tank. There were three cops in the police car they put me in. They didn’t handcuff me but the officer in the back stayed close in case I became belligerent again. I tried to get them to take me home and tuck me in, but they wouldn’t. Instead, they gave me two choices: drunk tank or my recent ex’s house. I chose the latter because in a sick way, I wanted to see her again. I thought that if she saw my pain, my suffering, that she’d take me back. She didn’t, and would never take me back. She let me sleep in her bed but neither of us slept.

In the morning, she told me she never wanted to see me again no matter what happened next time. Next time, choose jail instead of me, she said. Then, she got into a cab for work and left me standing in front of her house without my wallet, and no idea where I had left it. I didn’t see her again for nearly a year because a week later, I was committed for overdosing on pills. Almost dying that night ended up saving my life. 

They pumped my stomach, put me on a 72-hour mandatory psych hold, and medically detoxed me off alcohol. After the heart-pounding and sweaty hallucinations, I knew I was done drinking. I was lucky. I didn’t have to wait for a bottom, my bottom came up to meet me like a patient old friend. Being locked up made me realize I never had control. More importantly, being locked up made me realize I didn’t need to have control. 

I entered rehab almost immediately after the psych ward. Behind the locked doors of rehab, I finally felt safe. After the 30-day rehab program full of meetings, groups, and constant supervision, I was let out with a 30-day chip. As aftercare, I went to three meetings a day, everyday. That first year, I went to meetings as if my life depended on it—because it did. 

Slowly, I got better. Eight years later, I’m still slowly getting better. For years, I thought being an amputee made me unique. It was this “terminal uniqueness” that gave me an excuse to keep drinking for as long as I did. All those years, I thought the disability that separated me from other people was my amputation. Once I got sober, I discovered that the disability that had actually kept me separate from the world was my alcoholism. Unearthing that knowledge cleaned up a lot of the junk that kept me spiritually murky. The past eight years haven’t always been easy, but everyday has been easier with one less disability to bear.

Aleks Kang is a New York-based writer, editor, and content strategist. She has been published on the Huffington Post, Vice, xoJane, and elsewhere. She currently works in the Manhattan office of BrandYourself.

Please read our comment policy. - The Fix
Disqus comments
Disqus comments