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Paul Garrigan

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Member Since: Dec, 2009

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Last Escape - Chapter 1
By Paul Garrigan
Saturday, December 19, 2009

Rated "PG13" by the Author.

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This is the first chapter of my book 'Last Escape.

Last Escape - by Paul Garrigan - Chapter 1

By :

Bangkok Book House

Rating : Disabled

Desperation brought me to the temple. I spent years searching for the answer and now had reached the final

option. Even if it didn’t work, my days of seeking a solution would end at Wat Thamkrabok. I accepted my fate

either way.

I gave myself permission to indulge in one last foray. A farewell to an old friend who, despite turning on me

years before, had been an important part of my life. If things progressed as I hoped, this would be our last

time together. If they didn’t, we probably wouldn’t be spending much longer together anyway.

My plan hit its first setback even before my morning shower. My liquid breakfast didn’t reach my stomach, but

instead spewed back into the toilet. A repeat performance of the night before. I begrudged the waste. The

bottle, which had been opened twelve hours previously, now tasted warm and flat. This didn’t bother me. It

still contained alcohol, and I saw no shame in drinking stale lager. I could ignore the taste but my body

repelled the liquid-like poison.

The bottle remained three-quarters full on the bedside cabinet. Its presence irritated me, so I hid it in the

bathroom, and decided to have another go at drinking after my stomach settled. The hotel room felt freezing

as I made my way across it. The air-conditioner had been blasting out cold air all night. I switched it off and

returned to bed. Within minutes the heat became unbearable. I gave up on the idea of further sleep and went

for a shower. I tried another sip of lager but retched again.

On the plus side, my failure to ingest alcohol meant that I could check out of the hotel early. My usual

inclination to empty the mini-bar before leaving was absent. Today’s journey involved crossing a great chunk

of Thailand, and would take me at least seven hours. A lot longer if I stopped for beer breaks. I needed to get


My first priority involved crossing the border and entering Burma. Only a few days remained left on my tourist

visa before it expired. Not enough to cover the duration of time I planned to stay at the temple. I needed to

leave the country and come back in order to obtain a new visa. These ‘border-runs’ were an accepted part of

life for many of us who lived in Thailand.

My motorbike made a few worrying noises during the ten kilometer journey from the hotel to the border. The

second-hand Honda Wave had suffered a lot of abuse during our few years together. Oa always complained

that the bike wasn’t built for the type of journeys I liked to make. I ignored her concerns. I couldn’t drive a car

but the motorbike gave me the freedom of the roads.

I felt relief upon arriving at the border checkpoint and not needing to queue. I was quickly processed through

the Thai side. They are always more concerned with people entering the country than leaving.

Thailand and Myanmar, or Burma as it was formerly known, is separated at Mae Rim by a river. I crossed this

now. The local touts, who would normally try and charm me out of money, left me alone. Once again I felt

thankful for arriving early as I remembered how draining this walk could be when the day warmed up.

As usual the border guards on the Burmese side gave me a warm welcome. They must be the friendliest

immigration officials in the world. They look poorer than their Thai counterparts, and wear cheaper-looking

uniforms. Many have stained teeth from chewing beetle nut. I only come for the Myanmar visa stamp but this


never seems to bother them. When they ask me if I want to enter their country I frequently give them a guilty

no. I explain that I don’t have time. On the Burmese side is a border town but there isn’t much to do there.

They don’t get offended. I leave happily with my proof of departure from Thailand in my passport.

Back on the Thai side things become more formal. Thai immigration refers to my passport as a ‘dirty

passport’ as it contains too many visa stamps for Thailand already. This makes them suspicious and

frequently leads to probing questions. As usual I approached them fearing they would refuse me entry. I hid

my shaking hands and answered their questions. They stamped me through, and I felt relieved to have this

chore out of the way for a few more months. I could now concentrate on the real business of the day. The

journey to the temple.

A quick glance at my watch showed the time to be eight o’clock. I wanted to get to Wat Thamkrabok before

the admissions office closed for the day. I didn’t know what time this happened. During my earlier

conversation with a volunteer at the temple I forgot to ask this and other important questions. Embarrassment

prevented me ringing back, but I guessed that it would likely shut around four o’clock. It wouldn’t leave much

time for beer breaks.

I planned for midday to be my cut-off point for alcohol. This would give me time to sober up. I didn’t want to

arrive drunk in case they decided to turn me away. My intention was aimed at giving a good first impression.

This automatic response developed over years of trying to hide my problem through people-pleasing. I never

even considered the fact that admitting myself for detox already revealed me as a hopeless drunk.

I enjoyed riding my motorbike in an alcohol induced semi-haze. This removed the boredom of long journeys

by seeming to speed up the passage of time. It also encouraged my mind to wander and invent impossible

fantasies. These ideas would seem ridiculous to my sober mind but they passed the time. I viewed them as

‘in-flight entertainment’.

I began to give up hope that my body would recover before noon to allow me my farewell drinks, and I felt

cheated. In my imagination was the image of me swallowing my last drop of alcohol ever and acknowledging

it as such. I wanted this moment to be significant. I remembered being told by an ex-drunk that if you can’t

remember your last drink you haven’t had it yet. I also wanted these drinks because despite the fact that my

body was rejecting alcohol, a large part of me was screaming out for the stuff.

I considered spending the night in Lampang. This city lay about an hour away from the temple. I began to

think that there were good reasons for delaying another day. Why the rush? It would be easier arriving in the

morning when the office was sure to be open. More importantly I could give my friend-turned-nemesis a

suitable goodbye.

In the end, sanity prevailed. There was no guarantee my willingness to enter a treatment facility would still be

there the next day. I needed to do this while the motivation was still present. Another reason was Oa. I am a

poor liar and would have needed to tell her that I was still at liberty. This would confirm her suspicions that

this trip was yet another drunken orgy.

It would be a lie to say that I wanted to get sober for my girlfriend. I adored her and felt shame at making her

life miserable but this wasn’t enough. An attempt to quit driven by this type of motivation always ended in

failure, as I knew from experience. Her disapproval certainly didn’t make things easy, but I just couldn’t stop

for somebody else. In the past when forced to decide between a relationship or the booze I would choose the

booze. People always came second to my addiction.

Despite my sober state, I don’t remember much of a journey that passed quickly. The Thai countryside was a

lush green, I remember that. People were busy in paddy fields as this was the rainy season, I remember that.

I flew past villages, towns and temples, but I only really noted the drinking establishments, and failed to

appreciate the beauty around me. I was too busy focusing on the battle in my brain between my desire for


more alcohol and my desire for a future.

Why did I want to quit? My body felt near to death and drinking had become a massive struggle. This wasn’t

the main reason. I could accept my mortality but what if that wasn’t the end of it? What if my failure to beat

this addiction meant the repetition of this wasted life again and again? I couldn’t prove that a next life existed

but I wasn’t prepared to take the chance. I needed to at least try to end this now. The chance of it working

seemed slim but the attempt needed to be made. I already knew that life could be enjoyed sober. This temple

seemed to be offering exactly what I had been searching for.

My health did cause me concern though. Sometimes it felt like my liver was screaming out to me. A blood test

performed a few years earlier warned me of compromised liver function. This test took place during a visit to

Ireland. I needed it as part of a medical for a job in Saudi Arabia. The results came back showing elevated

LFT’s. As a qualified nurse I knew the significance of this, and I felt devastated. The doctor wanted to send

me to see a liver specialist but I managed to convince her to wait. I blamed my high LFT’s on overindulgence

while partying in Thailand. The doctor felt that it was a sign of years of abuse but agreed to redo the test.

I left her office in a daze. My job had brought me in contact with patients suffering alcoholic liver disease. I

had also cared for people when their liver finally failed and knew it wasn’t a nice death. I left the doctor’s

surgery and hit a nearby bar. I saw nothing wrong with this. Alcohol accompanied all my successes and

failures. I had just received a possible death sentence and deserved a drink.

This put at risk the nursing job in Saudi. I saw the move there as a chance to get my life back on track. I

needed it. I could get work in Ireland but that wasn’t in my plans. Saudi meant good money and a chance to

save. I saw it as the ideal opportunity to quit alcohol, since it was banned there. I knew the new blood test

was likely to be just as bad as the first one. The heavy drinking had continued since returning to Ireland.

My prediction turned out to be correct. The next results showed even higher elevation. I managed to

eventually persuade the doctor to complete the medical paperwork. She noted down the LFT results in red on

the form and her recommendation that I see a liver specialist. I rang the agency and felt delighted to be told

that this would not be a problem. I was on my way to the Magic Kingdom. The night before my departure I

celebrated by getting drunk, knowing that my drinking problems would be over once I hit Saudi.

A further four years of damage had accumulated before the trip to Wat Thamkrabok. I avoided blood tests

and ignored the more or less constant pain in my abdomen. The fear of an early death wasn’t enough to

deter me from alcohol. The guilt of knowing that I was slowly killing myself just made things worse.

(End of Chapter 1.)

Paul Garrigan

© Paul Garrigan. All rights reserved by the author.

ISBN: 978-974-13-42426


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