Inflation is very bad, so that I can hardly afford groceries every day. For a couple of reasons I’m cutting out the Snapple tea each day and just buying bare necessities. Right now it’s mostly sunny and nice, so how could anybody have a problem? I suppose I should read more than I write to be wiser. But the older you get, the more you become a fogy and resist new ideas. I often long for not just the past but for other countries; and of course I wish I could drink beer again and sample heaven as before. When you are sober, the world weighs on your shoulders as if you were Atlas. When you are drunk, the world rolls away and you don’t even care. I know I won’t do it anymore, but I still think we are too harsh on alcoholics in hospitals and other places. Carlos Williams made a little poem about a drunkard that was quite sympathetic with him. I don’t remember the ending to the one by Robinson, “Mr Flood’s Party,” or whether he had compassion or not. Does an alcoholic have to have a reason to drink? Whatever, I think it shows strength and courage to stay sober and deal with the challenges head on rather than try to make them go away.
Saturday morning. It’s very quiet in the house right now, which is kind of nice. I can’t think of a way to describe this month so far, except as a time of temptation for me to drink beer again. Last night I caught myself trying to rationalize doing this. I seemed to think that sobriety has a finish line, and after that you’re free to drink all you want. Now I have to figure out how to correct my thinking errors about this problem. It’s hard to accept that staying sober is a lifelong proposition; maybe it really is one day at a time, as AA says. Meanwhile, my life without alcohol can be pretty dull and anhedonic, and it seems like the One Thing I want to do is get drunk and forget the world. This feels like the authentic and genuine action for me to take. But even this is rationalization to do something essentially bad with my life. And as time goes by, I come to believe a little more in the existence of good and evil in human affairs. It started when I sampled some Baudelaire in French two months ago. Wickedness is just that, no matter what mental gymnastics I try to pull off. And goodness is the free and clear path, however boring it may be.
Quarter of eleven.
A lot of staying sober depends on your beliefs on determinism. If you accept the influence of genetics and the sort of psychological “beast” that Plato talks about, then you might have some trouble with your recovery. But lately I’ve had my own problems trying to maintain sobriety. When you look for the dark places in your experience, it’s easy to find them. The trick is not to give in to them, or your mind can turn into a rationalizing function for a lot of bad stuff. I guess Plato is actually helpful here, where he discusses the tyranny of the soul. You are okay as long as the rational part rules over the appetites and impulses. But when these overturn your reason, it becomes just a yes man to craziness. It’s kind of like a tale by Poe about a mental hospital where the patients have revolted against the doctors and taken over their roles.
My dog is becoming a creature of habit. He begged me to go to the store this morning so he could have his cookies like every morning. It is just over 40 degrees outside and clear blue skies. I went out and saw Michelle and Karen— and I bought Aesop’s cookies, plus his dog food, and some things for me. Right now I feel the Snapple calling.
Nine o’clock at night.
Everything consumes time. I’ve never been good at managing my time each day, or keeping a rigid structure. I could read my book right now, but it takes time that might be better spent writing my mind. I found it bizarre how Baudelaire is spiritual in a dark and wicked way. Is that healthy? To put down anything in words is to make it more real… But it isn’t just bizarreness: familiarity with “the devil” can happen in substance use, as it once happened to me during the years I had a job in an office. On Friday nights I’d get ripped and watch old Polanski movies, King Crimson concerts. I seemed much younger then, and I guess fifteen years does make a big difference. But the mystery to me is why I waited so long to take charge of my life, jerking the strings away from “Satan Trismegistus.” Now I know it’s really possible to do this. Stay away from the booze and everything is doable. The best way to keep sober is never to start drinking in the first place… The very last time I drank beer, I was sick and couldn’t keep it down. I’d have two beers and then throw them up. Finally, with a Miller High Life in my hand, I said that everything was different now. And I realized that nothing else mattered but life itself. I knew that a way would open up to me, though it would take some sacrifices. What you gain by it is integrity: purity, wholeness, and health.
Quarter after eight.
A few hours ago I read “The Delicate Prey” and didn’t like it very much. So much of Bowles deals with helplessness and victimization. Sometimes his characters are at the mercy of their own unwise impulses and bad decisions. If I were a member of AA, my Higher Power would be independence, which is really a contradiction with the meaning of the program. And if there’s an essence of independence, I wonder what it would be. I could never admit to absolute powerlessness, the first step of AA. It is just the opposite thing that is needed: empowerment… It must have rained all night long. Now it’s cloudy with a little sun at intervals. The anniversary of my mother’s death happens in two days, marking twenty years that I’ve been living on my own. It’s been far from perfect, but I managed to stay alive against very unfavorable odds. The forecast says more rain at noon. Maybe I’ll get home from church before the rain starts. On the other hand, it sounds like a shower right now… Yesterday, my brain was riddled with superstition, so I had to stop and assess what was wrong. But by now I seem to be feeling more or less okay again. Feelings of terror and helplessness are not constructive, so I consign all the past with AA and the other trash to the wastebasket.
Now I know more about what’s been bugging me lately. I don’t know why I started doing so much caffeine recently, but it’s having an impact on the way I think and feel and remember. I believe that everything we do boils down to brain chemistry, and ultimately everything is physical and material; it’s all constructed of atoms, basically. I could be wrong about that, but it’s my particular belief system. Nothing spiritual is necessary to explain natural events. Now the question is what made me buy the Coca-Cola in the first place. Today I got myself two Snapples, still too much caffeine, so tomorrow I’ll either skip it or just get one of them.
I guess I’m going to church this Sunday, though my feelings about it are mixed. I think I’d prefer not to sit through a sermon and take communion and all that stuff again. Maybe I’ll wait and see at the last minute whether I want to go.
Yesterday I flipped my blank book over and started writing going in the other direction on the left hand pages. Meanwhile I kind of wonder what interested me in Paul Bowles again; or even why I used to like his writing originally. I’ve changed since I first read him in February 98. And at the end of the same year I finished Moby Dick, the mood of which was very similar to the Bowles book: it was quite nihilistic and maybe sort of wicked like Macbeth. I don’t know how I feel about the unconscious from a Freudian point of view anymore, something dark with basic drives, but you can see it illustrated in the tales of Edgar Allan Poe, like in “The Cask of Amontillado” and many others. And that reminds me: have you decided on your next purchase from Amazon yet?
It’s been drizzling here since about noon today, but it’s supposed to stop pretty soon, only to redouble itself for another week or so. Rain, rain, rain! But I have no complaints about it, and I actually like it. It promotes a state of mind for thinking and reflecting about abstract things.
Aesop has been in a sympathetic mood yesterday and today, probably sensing that I was feeling rather crappy since Monday afternoon. He is a very smart dog, and I think I care more about him than the dog I had before him, a little pug named Henry. The pug was more gregarious than Aesop, and everybody loved him. Henry was very sweet and cute as could be, and sometimes I miss having him around. But like a lot of things and people I used to know, he belongs to a past that can’t be revived. I may regret it all I want but in the end I will accept that the past is buried and irrecoverable.
But once in a while something happens to remind me…
At some level I wish I could get drunk and enjoy my life like I used to years ago. I thought I had my whole life ahead of me when I’d get a mile high. The future consequences don’t occur to you when you get wasted on alcohol or other drugs. And then you get a wake up call and realize that life is very short and you are not immortal. And you know then that alcoholism really is fatal.
Quarter of eleven at night.
It finally occurs to me that the Vraylar I take is very powerful and acts on me like a sedative, rendering me a lot less sensitive to some of the essential experiences of human life, such as spirituality, sexuality, and other things. Vraylar raises the threshold for the stuff that makes you feel alive in perhaps a primitive way, which I find to be regrettable to an extent. It was having a large Coca-Cola today that gave me this self awareness regarding the antipsychotic. Directly or indirectly the drug is costing me my membership in the church; but on the other hand it helps me avoid alcohol for the purpose of minimizing my delusions and hallucinations. It makes me wonder just what is the nature of schizophrenia: could it be just a matter of extreme sensitivity of the nervous system? In that case, maybe the psychosis is truer to reality than anyone had believed. Or perhaps the excitability of the nerves is like a tale by Edgar Allan Poe, an experience of darkness and terror and phantasmagoria not without its own peculiar kind of beauty… The best part about the Vraylar is how it saves me from alcohol abuse by abolishing psychosis; but the pitfall is mostly the way it deprives me of some of the quintessential feelings of human experience, the sheer primitive energy that makes us alive and gives us happiness as well as pain. It banishes the emotional roller coaster of life— which is why it is prescribed for bipolar disorder in addition to schizophrenia. In sum, it pushes down everything for better and for worse.
Quarter of seven.
I’m just getting ready to go to the store for a Snapple tea and some food. The light outside is gradually coming on, showing the gray sky in my window. It may be warm enough to go without a jacket, and no rain is forecast for today. Later I should read a good book to try to goad my brain out of its lethargy. What I really miss is playing music with friends. However, I’m not a Dionysian person anymore since I quit drinking. It’s still hard to figure my life out.
Quarter of eight. Aesop looks more alive than he did last night… To say that I used to be a bacchant is a romantic way of saying I was an alcoholic. There are different ways to intellectualize alcoholism and make a culture of it, but a skunk is still a skunk. And yet for me, sobriety is the undiscovered country, the last frontier of experience. After four years, I still don’t know what to expect with my life without beer. If I’m not exactly happy, then I’m at least alive and fairly healthy. Different kinds and qualities of pleasure are available to people. I guess the life of the mind is good enough for me. It is said, Live by the sword, die by the sword, but I’ve put the sword away, and the dragon I once fought has shrunk down to a baby alligator. Don’t feed it and don’t piss it off and it will stay little and cute… I’m looking at a lonely day ahead, but it beats a day of frenzy and uncertainty— sometimes. Both offer a chance to learn new things.
Quarter of eleven.
Feeling a little tired now, or just frustrated with something. It’s not too late to take a trip to the bookstore, but I already have a thousand books. I suddenly remember my mom, just her presence and her role in my life, and how for a long time I needed a replacement for her. And then I quit the booze and everything sort of melted away as far as my emotional core, as if I’d never had parents. I think I’m tired of judging my mother. I want something to fill the abyss inside of me, though it gives me some pain to go there.
A song by Thomas Dolby deals with a feeling of emptiness in one’s love life. It’s called “Weightless.”
Same old insecurity
Strap him into his car seat
And the sump started leaking
All over New Jersey
Gas stations everywhere
Not one drop to fill me
Interesting how alcohol is a crutch for some people. I saw a cartoon on someone’s wall once. A man is shown clinging to a giant beer bottle with a woman’s face and mothering breasts. It sounds bizarre, but the picture is worth a thousand words.
Quarter of eight.
I had been divided against myself on the subject of sobriety, but now I’m back to feeling whole and healthy. I decided that I love language and the pursuit of truth more than getting drunk and being euphoric temporarily. It’s not possible to read and write or to think clearly when I am drunk.
When I stepped outdoors, the first thing I noticed was the gibbous moon in the blue morning sky. It seemed a long distance off, unlike the moonrise during the summer, when you could probably peg it with a hurled rock. And then as I got to Fremont Avenue I observed a different Dodge truck next to Kat’s house. Rather than red, it was navy blue. Wafting from the front door I smelled their breakfast and moved on. I felt pretty cheerful when I entered the store and saw Michelle. The old aches and pains that had got me down I didn’t acknowledge at all. My energies were concentrated in a unit again. So I bought a peanut butter cookie for Aesop and my usual foodstuffs, plus my Snapple tea. One other customer purchased biscuits and gravy and a tall Mountain Dew, all of which she balanced carefully in both hands… On Fremont again, I took a last look at the moon before turning up my street. But in fact, the moon followed me all the way to my driveway.