I crumpled in the passenger seat as we sped down the highway, the sights blurring by much like my life. I clutched the best friend I knew with a white-knuckled grip. My left fingers surrounded the neck and my right hand engulfed the body. The vessels carrying my friend varied over time. This particular carriage was oily translucent, just enough to distort an image on the other side. My friend was never in short supply around the world and, on this particular night, clearly vile with devilish intent for me.
I gazed through tearful optics at what remained in my grasp. The bottle sloshed with a clear poison that I had considered my best friend. His night was nearly over; my misery was only beginning. The remnants rose and fell with the truck’s movements. Waves crested and the surface flirted with the parallel, black lines of a bar code. I noted the small bubbles that formed and burst, like distant adventures of my life. With a familiar, almost robotically deft movement of my thumb and forefinger, the red cap removed in a flash. The left-hand twist had become monotonous in my life. The bottle subsequently elevated to my mouth, one last gulp for the thousandth time.
Alcohol burned my tongue, throat, and belly. It was simultaneously the fuel, the answer, the problem, and the ticket to my mind. The plastic canister lowered again to my lap. A right-hand twist sealed it for the interim. My disheveled appearance displayed all the signs of the battle waged within me for the days and years prior. Shoulders slumped, headed tucked downwards, with my chin gracing my chest. The blood flooded my brain one last time, and with it rushed the memories I sought. My eyes drooped in a lasting fight to keep them open. The sways of the truck moving along the road mirrored in my body’s frame as I wavered back and forth. The lack of bodily control had arrived and I achieved my goal: only my mind remained.
A voice droned distantly, though he sat in the driver’s seat next to me. The ticking sound of the turn signals accentuated my hearing. The words and memories locked in my mind awaited their prison break. Syllables egressing in slurred speech would be misunderstood so they remain in the attic of my body. This is the thrill I love, the chaos I desire, and the source of my sins. My eyes closed, behind the lids lies the greatest and biggest screen in existence — my imagination. The memories float, flicker, and strobe across this screen repeatedly. An encore of my life’s sordid suffering reveals itself unrelentingly. I see them. I taste them. I smell them. I hear them. I touch them. I memorialize the vivid recollections with a grin and fire in my heart. Anesthetized when sober and freedom when intoxicated, this is the yo-yo of my war.
My career in policing began when the dew still licked the blades of grass on the day-line of my life. Now, as the midday sun rises, the boy has evaporated with the condensation giving rise to a troubled, knowing man. The world exposed itself to me for the way it was, not for what I had hoped it would be. There is a singular, raw theme in the undertones of society: pain. With pain follows blood, gore, carnage, and suffering. Thousands of pictures dominate my memory; my drug allows me to see again in a way that I lust for. I wish it were different.
Another mechanical movement: left-hand twist, elbow bends, palliation flows into me because a thousand was not enough. The truck makes a right-hand turn. Back to a place that my brothers and sisters know — pain, akin to violence — like me. We can help each other. There is a different way to satisfy my mind without deadly consequence. I received one more time to travel through the metal gate adorned by a familiar logo. Relapse is a part of my story … but so is hope.
One last right-hand turn delivered me physically, and I responded in kind. One final right-hand twist of the cap shall deliver me eternally.
Luke Mossburgh worked as a police officer in Aurora, Colorado from 2003 to 2017. He served as a field training officer. He received the Distinguished Service Cross twice, the Meritorious Service Ribbon three times, and the Life Saving Award. He was a first responder at the mass shooting at the Century 16 movie theater in July 2012 that killed 12 and wounded 70. He is in active recovery for alcohol addiction and post-traumatic stress disorder at Warrior’s Heart, a treatment center in Texas.