One thirty AM.
I’m not sure why I got out of bed in the dead of night. Vaguely I remember drooling on my pillow when it was 75 degrees in the house and a bit out of my comfort zone. But by now I’ve forgotten the things on my mind as I’ve woken up and shaken off the slumber… My journal is nearly full of my drivel since the beginning of April. After reading it back, I gave it the title, Future, Past, & the Imperfect. The most noteworthy thing about it is the departure in style and content from the sermons I used to hear at the Lutheran church. A voice of my own begins to assert itself, though the observations are often regretful and remorseful for a big decision I made five and a half years ago. It’s almost like leaving the Old World to explore the New on this adventure of recovery. Something about my progress is one step up and two steps back, and I frequently look back on the familiar past and wish I could have it both ways. It’s a little like having a foot in both places at once before the old Atlantis finally sinks below the ocean waves forevermore. What happens next is totally up to me.
To some extent, my mental events are subconscious arithmetic, though very elementary and somewhat like numerology. I’m quite loopy for anniversaries, especially in multiples of ten years. I recall that I was in IOP treatment for alcoholism this month twenty years in the past. The main therapies used were based on intuitive psychology rather than evidence, as with cognitive therapy. It all boils down to the same dichotomy of reason versus romance, and which one would you stake your life on? I’ve seen a lot of bad logic go with the Twelve Steps, and a flawed method means inaccuracy. This in turn means a failure to accord with reality. But there may be something to be said for “the language of the heart.” I only know what works for me, and it’s not the “spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings.” I could never see the relevance of this to recovery. You either care about factual truth or you don’t. Followers of Jamesian pragmatism value results of a belief over what is actually true. People used to talk about the Flying Spaghetti Monster and other ridiculous stuff, but if the belief helped you, it was somehow valid. I don’t hear that kind of talk today. And people still recover from addiction or they don’t, irrespective of their thoughts. Maybe instead of abolishing the DSM, we should do away with the Big Book. Either way, you’re going to upset somebody. So I stay away from the whole field of recovery. Or perhaps they stay away from me?
Quarter after nine.
I’m watching Aesop since giving him the sedative prior to his appointment. I’m not very happy about our project for today, but at least Gloria will be with us. Yesterday I really wanted to drink beer but I settled for writing about it. There isn’t much else to say now.
We got the vet visit over with. Today, Aesop seems to be a little bit mad at me for his ordeal, though his appetite and everything are fine. Finally I can take it easy, just breathe and be at peace with life… I think of things that happened years ago, but the years themselves are a blur and mostly forgotten due to daily drunkenness. My biggest regret is losing my lady friend in 2017, just after I started going to church and got serious about recovery from alcoholism. Somehow I think she felt more comfortable with guys who drank. She’d been married to a moderate alcoholic, and his brother had died from alcoholism. To her, it was normal. My own brother used to say, Live by the sword, die by the sword: but I wasn’t ready to die. I was only fifty. So I went through a little personal revolution and stopped the suicide. It’s baloney to say that it’s your duty to drink like your friends or family. Use your own judgment and choose for yourself what’s best for you. The others may accuse you of narcissism or whatever, but it’s bogus reasoning. Life itself is given to you only once. There’s always an alternative to self destruction. We all have more options than we admit to ourselves, even drastic ones. But it isn’t wussy or cowardly to save yourself from certain death.
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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.