These Woods

Nine o five.

I think I understand the motive for my Coca-Cola all nighter. If I played the devil’s advocate I’d say I should give myself what I really want: alcohol. But instead, I know I have to do the right things if I want to live much longer. I believe the unconscious probably does exist; sometimes I have an insight to its activity. Alcoholism is a treacherous disease. Addiction in general can shorten your lifespan and make your life miserable… I can see how I substitute compulsions like writing and reading books for the drinking behavior. But if I let myself drink then I’d do nothing else. It’s a mistake to “succumb” to alcoholism. I’m sure that I can’t be a functioning alcoholic. I have no control over it whatsoever. Cold turkey is the only way to go. It’s just me and the booze. There’s nobody else. It feels like fencing with demons, but at least the demons are mine. I will find nothing in these woods stranger than myself, to paraphrase Anne Sexton.

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The Last Word

Quarter after eleven at night.

The plain English is that I’m ambivalent on sobriety. This goes on at a deep and fundamental level, underneath all my thinking and deliberating. I compare it to the hunt for the white whale, and, having read my Melville, I acknowledge that Moby Dick may come out victorious, dragging down the whole ship and drowning the captain. It’s the ambiguity in the book that makes you wonder what the heck. Like trying to serve two masters, both a god and a devil. Or maybe it’s only humankind having to contend with the devil, as in the philosophy of Schopenhauer. The whole point is to obliterate the Will, and this and the whale are the same thing… Ishmael’s life is saved by the coffin that Queequeg built for himself before the final confrontation with the whale. So the coffin symbolizes death and life in the same image. Or maybe Q. gave his life so that Ishmael could live. Remember that his tomahawk also served as a peace pipe…

Midnight.

What I fear is that religion has no substance. In the chalice of faith there’s not a drop of wine. And on the other side of this reality there’s no ideal world, no sublime: no heaven. So then I begin to ask myself who I’m doing sobriety for. What does this word mean?

The last word is books instead of booze. When you buy a book, you invest in wisdom that will last a lifetime; whereas buying beer is a temporary party: you consume it and eliminate it all by the next morning. Then you wake up with a hangover and a cloud of regrets, guilt, and shame.

Optimism

Midnight.

I slept three hours. Dreamt about my little edition of Sandburg that’s gone through two or three copies because I give them away. This reminds me to finish reading the Whitman selection and make my comparison study of both poets. The birthday yesterday is finally over and the holidays completed. Each season feels different, perhaps a bit weirder than the last since I quit drinking… In the middle of the night there isn’t much to see, so I must use my imagination if I can. Short of that, I can putz with my journal and hope for a revelation of some kind: be the subject of my experiment like Dr Jekyll.

Two o’clock morning.

I had a little insight regarding my brother and the nature of his alcoholism, but it’s his business so I won’t go into it here. I’ll just say generally that everything people do is motivated by a sense of duty or what we believe is right. This is the meaning of “rationality.” We could never do wrong if we didn’t believe in a warped way that we were doing the right thing. Behind every behavior there’s a process of thought— for even the most self harming patterns. To correct the thinking hopefully fixes the behavior.

Humans are rational beings.

Sacrifice

Every Blessing but Bliss

This is what sobriety comes down to. Alcohol is a worthwhile sacrifice for the benefits you receive, though it’s never easy. The stuff I learned in treatment contains at least some truth, and it can’t be ruled out that God rewards those who recover. For that reason I’ll go back to church again this Sunday, mindful that alcohol and my old friends are indeed a sacrifice for a gain somewhere else. This seems to be the way of recovery. 

A No Winner

Near one PM.

There seems to be no social niche for a person who doesn’t drink or use substances and who can’t accept the beliefs of the Church. I’d be tempted to drink again only in order to make friends or reconnect with old friends; to belong somewhere, basically. The frequency I’m on is shared by no one else, so I feel like some kind of leper or other untouchable person. I guess if I don’t fit a niche, then I have to carve one for myself, as I’ve been doing already; but around here locally I’m just a friendless pariah due to my politics and my personal beliefs that don’t match with anyone else’s. If I could accept Christianity, then being sober would make sense and would give me a place I belong. But the fact is that I don’t; so I’m just up a creek until I figure something out to break this stalemate. 

Not Stupid

After midnight.

My case manager is coming to see me tomorrow for an appointment. Since thinking about it, I’ve decided I’m going to request a different person for the job. What had been elusive to me is now quite clear: C— treats me like a moron. I may be psychotic but I’m not an idiot. There’s nothing wrong with my IQ, so why does he condescend to me like some kind of fool? My guess is that he doesn’t have his own mental health issues, so he’s kind of clueless on how to relate to clients. Unfortunately it comes across quite offensive to me, even insulting. There’s a phrase in Ulysses that I remember: “Hooray for the goddamned idiot!” It stuck with me and I said to my professor, “I’m not stupid.” He looked surprised and said, “I don’t think you’re stupid at all!” It was before my diagnosis with the illness, yet it’s still true that, with the right medication, my mind is very clear and sharp. 

Groups

Ten fifty PM.

At least now I know that I’m not the only one who is both sober and friendless. When you succeed in staying abstinent, it does something weird to your social life. But I guess I’m happy with wandering off to be the lone philosopher as Aristotle suggests in the Nicomachean Ethics. You either drink or you don’t. Recovery groups are turning into something like the church: every week you come to confess and be forgiven. Then you go out and do the same thing again. It’s a waste of time if you’re serious about staying sober. There’s only you and the alcohol. Everything else is extraneous. The only reason you go to a group is to give your support to people who need it. If you do, you must keep your own sobriety in a lockbox. 

Addictive Puppetry

Quarter after eight.

I’ve had another awful day with my dual diagnosis and I don’t even know why. The way it happened was like being a puppet of fate, a character determined by a script written beforehand; like a scene out of an Iris Murdoch novel. I was a straw man in an allegory. After my meeting today I found myself walking to the market to get a Coke, though I believed I had sworn off sugar. Finally, I felt haunted by my workforce years. It must be a kind of delusion when the past swamps my present and directs my thoughts and deeds. I don’t have much control over this pantomime.

It’s probably more about the alcoholism than the schizophrenia. “The beer jumps in your hand.” Everyone with addictive personality understands this.

Not Doing Well

Backsliding

Finally this evening I realize the possibility that my mental health has been declining since last month. I don’t know how or why it’s happening; maybe the medication is less effective than it was for a few years. I also don’t know how it can be fixed. I believe I’m in for a bumpy ride ahead at least temporarily, so I hope readers will bear with me while adjustments are made to get me back on track.

Or could it be that I’m imagining all of this? 

The Beastie

Tonight I had a bout with caffeine poisoning, I think. It was very uncomfortable. But even while I was going through it, I could see a pattern to my behavior that started during the summer, when on Fridays I would splurge on a two liter of Coca-Cola and get tipsy on caffeine and sugar. It’s obvious what I really want to drink at a subconscious level but I don’t allow that to happen.
So I wonder what I can do to subvert this pattern. I need to find something else to do with my Friday afternoons, preferably something social. But I made a bit of progress today by volunteering in the morning for the food pantry. At the same time that I poisoned myself yesterday, I also fought against myself on the alcoholic impulse.
Who was it I was talking to recently about alcoholism? She said it really is a disease and very difficult to deal with. Oh yeah, it was Barb, from church, when we talked in her car outside my house. Why is it that Plato is always right about the lunatic impulses of the multifarious beast of the human psyche? I can reject his model all I want, but analysis in hindsight shows the same patterns every time.
The unpardonable sin is to “succumb” to alcoholism, in my opinion. In my case, this would surely be fatal. An alcoholic can rationalize that drinking beer is what he wants to do, therefore he’s going to permit himself to drink. This is the argument from authenticity— but it’s a very bad one. And when you do give in to the disease, every thought you have turns into further rationalization to get drunk.
It can be a terrible battle but it’s still worth fighting to free yourself from it.