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I’m aware of what I’m doing, but it’s a detached awareness, like looking at myself from the outside, as if in a movie. I open the drawer of my nightstand and grab my .357. It’s nickel-plated and shiny. It’s got a wood grip. And, yes, it’s fully loaded.

Sticking it in my waistband, I walk outside. As I watch myself, I don’t even wonder what my intentions are because I know I have none. My actions are automatic, irrational, and uncontrollable.

I am in a state of psychosis.

I get two steps out the door when I hear it slam shut behind me. At that instant, reality swings around and cracks me across the skull like a two-by-four. I suddenly come to my senses and realize I’m standing in the middle of the Gaslamp Quarter, mostly naked, locked out of my complex, with a loaded .357 exposed and dozens of people around. A brief moment of panic ensues. Then I run to a garbage can, pull my gun, stick both hands in the trash, empty the cylinder into one hand, pocket the slugs, and dig around for a bag, a big piece of paper, anything to wrap the pistol in. People look, but I’m mostly invisible, just some deranged hobo looking for a snack. Finally, I come up on one of those Styrofoam to-go boxes with half a sandwich in it. I dump the sandwich, box up my gun and get out. Yeah. This bum found what he was looking for, and he wishes it was only food.

As I sit in front of my complex, I wonder if this is what they mean by “rock bottom”: when you’ve destroyed your life so thoroughly with your drug that sobriety actually makes you worse because you’ve taken away the one and only thing that allowed you to hang on to that last tiny strand of sanity. When people who once loved you reject you because you made them lose faith. When all the other wonderful experiences and potential of your time on this planet fail to make a dent in the massive void in your soul because nothing but your drug can fill it, and that that fulfillment is temporary and false. When you encounter the hard, irrefutable, conclusive, and final truth that there is no hope for you; not the remotest chance of atonement, redemption, or expiation. I have utterly failed at every good thing I have ever attempted in my life. I am as worthless as the garbage I just dug through.

There is no light that shines from me.

Mercifully, a neighbor staggers up. He doesn’t even notice me as he opens the door, and I walk in behind him. Back at my pad, everything’s the same yet so different — so surreal. In this very place, I lost my mind for a hot minute. It was only a few moments ago, but it feels like ages. I take my gun out of the Styrofoam box, set her on my dresser, and stare at her. Some voice tells me to look up and into the mirror. Look up and see yourself. Gaze into your own eyes and do some deep soul-searching!

But there’s no way. Not right now. Right now I just stare at my gun. I have full knowledge of what it is I have to do. Before I lose it for real. Before I make innocent people pay for my transgressions. This will be easy. This will be quick. And the world will be better off. This thing I’m about to do is the only thing I know, and I’m too stupid and weak to learn anything else.

I take my gun, put her back in her drawer, and head straight for my liquor cabinet. ■

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