La Vida Es Dura

Six o’clock.

I’ve had a crap day today, but it’s not easy to determine why or how. I feel that I’m damned if I drink and damned if I don’t drink these days. My birthday of sobriety is only a few weeks away, so maybe that’s why I’m having such trouble until then. I don’t know what to think. Does anyone? So I try not to think at all. My life has been one big Pandora’s box of concealed evils loosed one by one into the world. Knowledge doesn’t make you happier, but it can make you more powerful… The sky is a dirty blue and the sun is amber yellow. There’s the suggestion of a breeze in the leaves. I feel so uncomfortable and so old and tired. Maybe I should give up writing, or take a hiatus for a while? Also I feel very profoundly alone and unloved. Well hell, perhaps I’m just a bisexual guy who doesn’t belong on WordPress? What would it cost me to confess it?

Seven o’clock. About ten days ago I dreamed I had sex with a former clerk at the convenience store. But I think it was what she symbolizes that I wanted: alcohol. She used to sell me beer every day for a long time, so she and the booze became fused together. She was to me like Arabella in Jude the Obscure… Some people say that once an alcoholic, always an alcoholic, and one day at a time. If you can’t beat em, join em, I guess.

Quarter of eight. At noon today I bought a container of chocolate ice cream just because. But it’s probably wiser to limit going there to early morning due to my temptations. Overall it was a very unsettled kind of day for me. Sort of volatile, as if anything could happen, yet it was all within myself. And I can really feel for Pandora and her guilt. 

Because It’s Worth It

Quarter of eight.

I had a nap for three hours. My last big day on the town was lousy, though it’s hard to describe what my feelings were in the doctor’s office. I guess I was depressed since it was so difficult to find a redeeming thing about the experience. On the way home I tried to remember the feel of my parents and happier days when I looked upon the great stadium where the Ducks play football. But inside I felt hollow and sad for this abyss where good times used to be. And the same for the backstreets of the Whitaker district: I used to have friends who lived there, when Eugene was a smaller place with a true heart and spirit, and we all drove our own cars to each other’s house to make music and have fun. Today, the homeless have more or less taken over Downtown, so Fifth Street is not the same wonderful place anymore. Everything in the city is getting bigger and more impersonal, with less of a human soul than two decades ago.

Be that as it may…

Nine o’clock. Sobriety is just another life lesson you either learn or you don’t. When you do learn it, there’s no real need for a spiritual “program” or whatever. Recovery is a certain language that people can bat around, but it’s meaningless if you can’t stay clean and sober. Brass tacks: if you don’t like yourself then you’ll probably keep drinking and using. What’s the secret for liking yourself? And how do you overcome fear and guilt? The answer is different for every individual. But for me, being hit over the head with indoctrination about selflessness and altruism didn’t work at all. If anything, life is only worth living if you care for yourself first. The world won’t come to an end if you love yourself, whatever the majority may say. Your first duty is to you. 

The Gollum Effect

Quarter of two.

It is significantly cooler today than yesterday, the sky a lot bluer and the sun yellower. I can hear kids playing in the street. I feel the temptation to walk back to the store for something sweet to eat or drink, and a treat for Aesop. I had a long phone conversation with my sister a little while ago. All good. During the heatwave I might’ve done some things I’ll regret later. It’s hard to make decisions when your brain is baking in the sun. It’ll be even more plain to me when the summer is over with: roughly one more month!

Three o’clock. I went back to the market and saw Deb, Brandi, and Cathy, and got a tub of ice cream and two dog snacks. Deb had a deep dark suntan and wore an orange scarf on her face. Sometimes going there in the afternoon gives me flashbacks to my drinking days many years ago. Things haven’t changed much since then: the same bunch of addicts come in all afternoon long and into the night. The scene isn’t very pretty when morning changes to noon. And now I think of my brother. He’s not the same person he was when he had a career as a college professor. I keep thinking of how Gollum was deformed by the power of the Ring. Alcohol and drugs are the same sort of thing, seductive and destructive… Four children were playing baseball in their front yard when I walked by on my street. The other morning, Kat waved hello from her living room couch next to the window. But through it all I get the feeling of something missing from my life. Today is not like the 1990’s with my parents and all my friends in the music trade. Being sober is to be stranded on a solitary island. It takes a long time to build new connections with other people— and with yourself. 

Passion

Quarter of five.

I made some beautiful notes tonight in my blank book having to do with passion in our lives, and how this is missing since the pandemic. But woven with this theme is also my regret that I’m not drinking anymore. If my deity used to be Dionysus, the god of wine, then I’m at a loss to name my higher power today. I remember reading the tragedy by Euripides about the capture of Dionysus and the vengeance wrought by his devotees. He was older than Jesus Christ, and Christianity borrowed images from the pagans: “I am the vine, you are the branches; without me you can do nothing” (John 15:5)… As I marched eastward on Armstrong Street under the azure, I spotted the moon high in the sky, a thumbnail sliver. The heavens were cloudless and deep. But on the earth, the scene was sterile and loveless. I observed that it resembled a nuclear wasteland in the wake of a grand passion that had spent itself. And probably this passion in my mind is my past alcoholism, a disease that apparently ran its course and left me devastated… The first light of dawn is visible outside. The forecast said sunny weather again today. I’ve got DDA on my plate for this afternoon. Just let go and go with it. Knowing how to act after quitting alcohol can be quite difficult. I’ll have four years of sober time three months from now, but I’m never complacent.

Six o’clock. Michelle will be opening the store just now. Suddenly I feel rather tired, but I suppose that’s okay. The morning Snapple tea should taste very good. 

Winds of Change

I had my appointment with Misty this afternoon and we decided to keep me pretty much on the same course as before regarding having a PCA. I think I’ll be okay with that. It was just hard for me to accept that I have schizophrenia and that I need the help from somebody. And you know, my blog is sort of a place where I present a persona to readers and say this is my not schizophrenic life. I think I’ve been in denial about my diagnosis and wanted to be known as a person, not a schizophrenic. The truth is that I am both… While I was at the agency I ran into Patty who lives on N. Park in my neighborhood. She also has schizophrenia. Today her ride home was very late and I offered her the use of my cell phone. So we called Ridesource and got it sorted out. They sent an Oregon Taxi cab shortly and I saw her get in. Patty doesn’t have a cell phone or a computer at home; just a landline phone. The only way she can go online is by using public computers at Laurel Hill or wherever. She said her husband has a cell phone. And she said she can’t afford a phone or a computer. I should tell her about the computer recycling place in town, and there’s also a program that gives free computers to people with disabilities. I’ll probably see her again out and about, at the market or someplace in the area… It’s really odd how attitudes change towards all kinds of things, including mental illness and behavioral health. And it’s even more complex because my own attitudes change too, so which is doing which? Right now, it’s going back from phenomenology to psychiatry, or from psychology to a biological perspective. I used to think maybe there was no such thing as schizophrenia as a diagnosable thing, but now it’s doing a 180 turnabout. In some ways this is a good thing because people can get services that they couldn’t under the other policy. A diagnosis can qualify you for a lot of helpful free stuff. I dunno: it’s making my head swim, it’s happening so fast. And I strongly suspect that the Democratic government has a lot to do with the change— though I can’t prove anything. All in all it’s very interesting to watch as it unfolds.

Well now the wind is blowing quite fiercely and it’s cloudy this afternoon. There’s a chance of rain over the weekend, probably light showers. I just got done playing my bass guitar, the homemade one, for over an hour and it felt great to me. A lot of fun, and on Sunday we’re going to have a band practice. Pastor Dan gave me a call this morning regarding my sister’s unfortunate attitudes about gay people. He understood about her fundamentalism and of course he didn’t agree with it. He is still in Michigan to visit his brother who just had heart surgery. Meanwhile I avoided calling Polly today just to avoid feeling upset 😢 by another abusive speech. So maybe I’ll go to church this weekend. And tomorrow I have nothing planned. Aesop will be glad 😃 if I stay home for a day.

Mission

Midnight hour. I confessed to my friend how confused I am lately, mostly with regard to our political milieu, the sociological scene. I guess all I want to do is play my bass, because my mouth is full of gravel. I have nothing important to say anymore. Life en masse is going more or less my way, so no complaints… What is the purpose of a personal blog, anyway? The Marxists used to say that all writing is intended to empower people, to exert influence on the reader. Whatever happened to those thinkers? But what they said contains a grain of truth. 

The only thing left to say concerns the situation of the mentally ill, and how I might raise consciousness for their benefit. Those other issues— politics, religion, racial justice, and etc— can go on the back burner, especially since I learned them from the church. My personal main business is the plight of mentally ill people in this country and in the world. The ignorance I encounter among people on WordPress regarding mental illness is rather staggering. They don’t even know what a hallucination is, or a delusion, or anything that people with schizophrenia experience… So my project now has been defined: to educate people about mental illness in order to improve their quality of life. 

Exile

Seven twenty five. Today ought to be lighter duty than yesterday. Only my phone appointment with Heidi this afternoon. I want my Snapples, so I’ll get to the market pretty soon. I rescheduled with Rebecca yesterday because I just wasn’t feeling up for talking about hiring a helper. Late last night I texted with Mike for an hour. Today I just want to be myself, and with Heidi I can do exactly that.

Eight twenty. It was quite early, so I met with very few people out of the house. It’s sunny now, contrary to the weather forecast. I’m already looking forward to music this Saturday. I really like to play, to jam, to lock with the drummer and make a groove pocket. It’s nice when the barrier of language is overcome and the music takes over. I hope I feel up to it after my vaccination on Thursday… Michelle wore her pink Tom and Jerry shirt today, and the distributors were just arriving. There was nothing out of the ordinary this morning. I felt the urge to pretend that the past was similar to today, to sort of dwell in nostalgia, but I resisted this and walked in the door. The past has certainty to recommend it, whereas the present is still in the making— and I’m part of the creative process of history. Everyone is. It’s a scary responsibility… The forecast missed the mark, for it’s still clear blue sky. Nobody knows what the future holds.

Nine twenty five. Most people want to repeat pleasant experiences. When we get burned, we avoid the hot stove. Alcoholism is a pleasure dome, a Xanadu away from reality. And when you leave Eldorado, there’s no way back to the same bliss. The Golden Age is far behind us. We were expelled from Eden. All of these names refer to the same utopia. 

Ruby Slippers

Six fifty five.

I guess I’m done sleeping for this morning. I’d be too tired to go to church, but the store opens in just a few minutes, so I can go get food for Aesop and me, and the obligatory Snapple tea.

Eight twenty five. I got some bad news in the mail. Someone used my identity to file income taxes this year. I’ll have to straighten it out tomorrow morning… The rain just missed me again today, and even at that, there isn’t much. I’ve been reading Sense and Sensibility since yesterday afternoon. Jane Austen’s writing calls to my mind my old friend Kate. In September of 2012 I reread Pride and Prejudice and discussed it with her. That was before I had Aesop, and my pug had just been euthanized in the summer. The alcohol addiction still controlled my life. As long as I had money, I spent it on beer. Evidently I had a reason to drink, or else I wouldn’t have done it. Does it make sense to say the addiction controlled me, or instead did I always have the freedom to quit drinking? Sort of like Dorothy’s ruby slippers: she always had the power to return home from Oz, from technicolor to black and white. She just didn’t know how to use the magic…

Nine twenty. The desire to stop drinking comes from within, and it must be strong. You must want sobriety more than anything else, and be willing to sacrifice some things for it. Perhaps what you give up returns to you later, and without the addiction… It gives me pleasure to read Jane Austen and be reminded of the qualities that go into mental wellness. The character Elinor, the rational one, is very evidence based. She doesn’t assume anything or jump to conclusions. She is realistic, the very opposite of fanciful and impulsive. In many ways she is the cognitive therapist’s ideal… I just noticed how quiet it is around here. I guess that’s why I don’t care much for Sundays. 

World in Recovery

Seven thirty.

I just dreamed about Vicki from the little store on Maxwell Road, except she doesn’t work there anymore. Now she’s a Covid sanitizer for the school district. She is a cog in the machine like everyone else, going where the money is. She used to believe she could express anything she wanted on the job… until her job changed. I guess money speaks louder than words. Could there be exceptions? What kind of chaos would a cashless society be?… Up to two o’clock this morning I listened to Moving Pictures, followed by certain tracks from Light Years by Chick Corea Elektric Band. The second CD called to mind my working stint around 2005 in the summertime.

Ten o five. It’s kind of inexplicable how alcoholism ruins lives, like a form of kryptonite to any would be superhero. The opposite process, recovery, is equally mysterious, but it seems to be a matter of time and letting nature do its job. I’ve been doing recovery for three years and seven months, and right now it feels like a spurt of health has been granted. Today the weather is beautiful yet again. I had a good conversation with my sister from eight until nine o’clock, then gave Aesop breakfast. I was pleased to see Michelle back to work this morning. She was wearing an orange sweatshirt with a black apron, which happen to be the colors for Oregon State University. I also saw a Black man in the store, and even an Asian guy looking at the newspapers. Meanwhile, Roger still drives the old Ford truck with Trump stuck to the rear window. My own BLM yard sign still stands as well. The neighbors on my street are peculiarly paranoid and unfriendly with each other; very selfish, stingy conservatives with hearts the size of the Grinch. I really deplore their attitude, but I own this house and am quite stuck with living here. But Mike’s house is only a stone’s throw away from me. Every Saturday I am privileged to make my little pilgrimage to our studio where the world doesn’t intrude too much; where the world is more like a stage. 

No Surprise

Nine forty.

I just looked at the forecast for next week: sunny every day. Aesop is nosing through his dry food, playing with it. He wants water, so I tell him 18 minutes and he understands me. Today is cloudy but it isn’t dark like the wintertime. I’ve bought my two Snapples and things to eat for the day. I had some trouble keeping my bandanna on my face; the knot in back kept coming undone and I feared the whole thing would hit the ground. I stood in the parking lot farting with it until it was safe. The store offered two kinds of potato salad, one from the deli next door and the other one packaged by a larger company. I went with the latter because I knew it had sweet pickles and pimento. Melissa said she was looking forward to a nap after work. 

As I approached the parking lot from the sidewalk I thought of my old Scottish friend, a person with excellent common sense with whom I shared an interest in cognitive therapy ten years ago. During that time I ordered a book from a local shop called Tsunami on Willamette in the south part of town; the book was Cognitive Therapy of Schizophrenia. The same day I went to pick it up I realized that my heat pump had quit working. The outdoor unit crashed and I was without air conditioning after that. I was always penniless due to my alcoholism and couldn’t afford the repairs. So today, when I ran my card in the slider at checkout, it was no surprise that I had money. I think good things happen to people who don’t abuse substances, for whatever reason. It could be magical or maybe it’s simply natural, but either way it’s good.