The Circles of Sober Hell

fiction by Brady Tighe

1st Circle of Sober Hell
The Unmade Bed of Sleepless Hot Nights

It’s too hot to sleep, and so you toss and turn among the sheets and find no comfort. Every position gnaws at you; every side of the pillow is the wrong side. Lying awake, you go through all of you the mistakes you’ve made, and how they have all led to your current situation. When that train of thought derails, you think of all of the things that you could have done to grow as a person and get started on a better life. This works, until you come to the realization that you’ve done none of those things, and probably won’t because they are too much work. You follow this with a long lamenting stare at the ceiling, where with eyes open you dissect micro-moments of your life that you’ve given immense weight to. You feel disgusted with your body and all of the sweat pouring off of it. You think of things you could do if you got out of bed. You do none of those things and lie there and think more.

2nd Circle of Sober Hell
The Sad Fridge

This is a reminder that you still can’t fill the fridge. Despite all of your money, despite having a job, and despite being an adult most of the time, your fridge is still empty. You’re reminded of your own incompetence at keeping yourself healthy every time you open it. This hell continues until you actually fill the fucking fridge. Even then, be sure to beat yourself up for not having all kinds of healthy, fresh, and colourful items inside of it. There is no coconut or almond milk, no fruit, no expensive cheeses for expensive bagels, and no pro-biotic yogurt to help your guts. There are plenty of half-eaten slices of pizza though.

Think about how hungry you are, and then order pizza because you don’t want to do your dishes. Then feel bad about that choice. Think to yourself that green beer bottles would add some shade to the whole enterprise, and then realize that you again thought that beer was food, and that this is why you’re not drinking.

While thinking about what kind of food to buy, remind yourself that you don’t actually know how to cook anything, and that any food you buy that isn’t pickles isn’t going to magical turn itself into some orgasmic meal.

Remind yourself, as you stand in the soft, hospital like glow of the open fridge door, of all your previous failures at cooking, and picture a towering monolith of scorched pots.

The only mercy of the sad fridge, is that opening the door and staring into it, cools your down a little.

3rd Circle of Sober Hell
In the Fetal Position in the Shower

The refuge of a cold shower on a hot summer day is just another inconvenient nightmare as you rest your head against the acrylic wall you haven’t cleaned in who knows how long and think about how your life is over at 27. You shower longer than anyone should when taking a cold shower. You rinse, lather, and repeat more times than you could ever be dirty enough to need.

You slip to the floor of the shower, curl into the fetal position and close your eyes in an effort to see and think absolutely nothing, and just feel numb. Your thoughts are persistent though, and won’t wash off, and you end up thinking about all of the things you could accomplish in the future if you could only see past the futility of continuing on. All feelings of “If I did this, I would maybe be able to work on my dreams and my goals” are met with crippling, undeniable evidence that none of that effort is going to do any good.
As cold water sprays on you and runs down your skin, you feel as though you will be alone for the rest of your life, and that all attempts at dating will end in failure and sadness. You think about all the famous people who died at 27 and realize that you’re not famous enough to die. You realize that all actions when you leave the shower will be meaningless and that you will always end up back here, in the fetal position.

4th Circle of Sober Hell
Standing Outside The Liquor Store Waiting for it to Close

You are standing outside of a liquor store waiting for it to close. You’ve left your apartment and told yourself you’re going to go and buy a big bottle of something, and that all of this sobriety bullshit is finally going to be over and done with. Temptation grips every bit of you, and churns around your insides.

This hell burns like the fire in your lungs from of the 15 cigarettes that you’ve smoked back to back. It burns like the part of your lip you opened up when you pull one burned down to the filter out of your mouth with shaking hands. Your resolve crumbles like the ashes off the end of each of them. You’re waiting for the open sign to turn off, so that you will be free of this temptation, and able to return home for another sleepless night.

15 steps forward.

15 steps towards the door.

15 steps back.

Light another.

The answers are not forthcoming, you think to yourself as your fingers tighten on the filter of a Marlboro red, while your other hand clenches and unclenches in your jacket pocket.

You check your watch: it’s 15 minutes to closing time. Inside the liquor store, a whiskey symphony cues itself up with a few taps to the front label of a bottle. A beer bottle choir clears its voice in preparation for the sweetest siren song you’ve ever heard.

Light another.

5th Circle of Sober Hell
Sobriety in a Vicious Summer

A beer will cool you off, and calm your mind. That’s what your head says. A bigger lie you haven’t heard in some time, but the cooing voice that’s tapping on your skull sounds awful convincing.

To make matters worse, everyone but you is out enjoying themselves and celebrating life, drunk as skunks and making the streets scream with pleasure at night. You feel more alone than you ever have. Going out into the city becomes less and less of an option, because you will only be tempted more and more by hordes of young people just like you, who are having fun in a way that you no longer can. Every bit of you will slowly be eroded away: your willpower, your happiness, and your desire to maintain this façade of personal health that you call sobriety.

Good days will occur at random and give you some hope of going forward, but these are just the tricks of this particular circle; done to make things all the worse when the reality of the situation comes crashing back down on you. Hope is the curse they afflict upon you, showing you an island of salvation in a sea of whiskey thoughts, before crashing another wave down upon you.

Easy escape beckons, as easy as twist-off tops, but that door opens off the edge of a cliff. Sometimes though, falling off isn’t such a bad thing, you think, because you feel like you’re flying for a few seconds.

Brady Tighe is a writer living on the west coast. His fiction and poetry work has appeared in numerous local publications, and he has worked as a journalist for VIU’s student paper, The Navigator. He enjoys black coffee and vinyl records.