On Labor Day

Midnight.

For the sake of old times and also as a birthday gift to myself, I just ordered three little volumes of poetry from the Library of America. Vitally, one of them is of Walt Whitman, who wrote the bible of American poetry with Leaves of Grass in 1855. I also picked Poe plus an anthology of Civil War poetry.

I had a gruesome dream tonight about my poverty, having no car and shuffling around the neighborhood like some kind of hobo. I dreamed that a couple of guys were going to beat the shit out of me just for sport. It’s like what happened to Robin Williams in The Fisher King. He winds up in the hospital, but then Jeff Bridges goes and steals his “Holy Grail” from a rich residence and puts it in his hands.

It was a movie I watched on the recommendation of a friend two decades ago. We’ve lost touch long since, yet I still remember him and something that happened on Labor Day weekend that year. Namely, I started drinking again, but I may never know exactly why. If I knew, then would it guarantee that I’d never relapse again?

Advertisement

Daring

Seven thirty.

One by one, Randy has been hauling away the cars from his lot on the corner of N Park and Maxwell Road. I don’t know for sure when Will’s Auto Repair is moving in. Whatever, it must be a situation that benefits both parties… My mind has been on my fifth birthday of sobriety and how I dared to show up 12 Steppers. I actually feel kind of remorseful for doing this, and I’m not complacent by any means. What if the AA’s are right and I’ve been wrong the whole time? I’m afraid I’m going to slip or have a full blown relapse to active alcoholism simply because those people said it would happen. According to them, if you don’t surrender control over to your Higher Power and keep it yourself, “you’ll drink it.” I’ve struggled with AA doctrine ever since my introduction to it in 1991. So now, with five years sober, I’m sort of quaking in my boots after all the warnings I’ve heard from them. Again I remind myself that there has to be more than one way to do things. The date of the anniversary is actually the 12th. It’s not a matter of luck, it’s a matter of myself.

Exile

Quarter after nine at night.

Even in sleep, it’s the same old ambivalent feelings on things old and new. I had three good friends I gave up when I decided to quit drinking— friends a little on the shady side: they bent the rules whenever it served them to do so. I know a guy today who reminds me of the same thing. I run into him occasionally at the little market. His face is a bit red, presumably from drinking alcohol, yet I really like the guy. He summons my brother to my mind and the good times we used to share on our trips to the coast. I feel as if I had to make a choice like that of Prince Henry when he said to Falstaff, “I know you not.” …I don’t think there’s anything great or distinguished about being sober, especially when it’s such a struggle for me to maintain. Often I feel like saying screw it and getting drunk just to be my natural self again. Suddenly I remember a day a decade ago at Grocery Outlet when I bought some English breakfast tea and later told my friend in Scotland about it. I miss those kinds of things. I miss my old friends. 

A Series of Todays

Noon.

Well I’m just stuck. Church wasn’t much fun; my heart wasn’t in it. It’s hard to be enthusiastic for something you don’t believe. I thought it would be nice to mingle with some real people but it didn’t make that much difference. I don’t know what I want… The mail carrier just put a package in my mailbox: a couple of books that I ordered Friday… I believe I’m cranky because I crave beer or something for a sugar fix, so I might go buy a sweet treat at the store. The sugar is bad for you but it beats doing alcohol. My dad acquired a sweet tooth after he quit smoking; he kept a bowl of lemon drops in the family room and he’d take a handful once in a while in the evening. Who am I to be better than my dad? The truth is that sobriety is very difficult. The first few years were pretty easy but it’s getting worse with time.

Dr Pepper sounds good right now. Fully leaded, with all the sugar, caffeine, and fizz. I won’t be happy until I get one.

Or if it’s a test, maybe can stick it out for today… and do the same thing tomorrow… 

Recovery

Quarter of nine at night.

There’s still twilight outside that I can see from my position. This afternoon I caught myself doing too much second guessing of other people’s thoughts on everything. The fact is that no one is clairvoyant enough to do that: telepathy doesn’t exist in real human experience. So I began to ponder what ever happened to cognitive therapy, since it was pretty big four years ago and very effective because it was realistic and based on evidence. People are less depressed when they are disabused of their distorted thinking. And, mind reading is an example of a cognitive distortion. First you catch yourself doing it, then you counter the distorted thought with a more rational one, one that is more realistic.

I hate to see a good method abandoned in favor of much older and less effective ones; yet this is the debate of reason versus romance that has gone on for more than three centuries. I’ve never seen a homeopathic remedy be very useful, especially against a disorder like schizophrenia: it makes no sense to fight delusions with more delusions. I guess it depends on the place of imagination, its meaning and its utility. I struggle when I pick up an author like Samuel Taylor Coleridge: I get vertigo from being lost in a misty fantasy of unnecessary abstraction, so I’m better off to avoid this stuff. The romance tends to sneak its way into even what we call science. It keeps us human and organic to use our imaginations, so probably the solution is a state of balance.

Schizophrenia is an extreme wherein imagination exceeds the boundaries of reality. But I don’t see much of that around me anymore. I remember when the streets at night were like rivers in hell, shrouded in fog that stank of brimstone. With age and with drug therapy, those things have sort of vanished in thin air. I’ve also grown callous to them over time.

Hardy Har Har!

I had a close call with alcohol this afternoon but talked myself out of it again. It’s a mistake to believe I have any control over my drinking. If I start to do it, then I really am “powerless” over alcohol. The way I see it is, I only have freedom and power as long as I don’t drink: my freedom consists in sobriety itself. To drink is bondage.

The best demonstration of this is the novels of Thomas Hardy. So I dug out Tess of the D’Urbervilles, intending to read it for the first time. His belief in fate hinges entirely on alcoholism if you read his books carefully. I love The Mayor of Casterbridge as a perfect example. And I’ve read Jude the Obscure three times. Jude’s undoing is alcohol and his first wife Arabella, a curvy little bitch who works as a barmaid. But the role of alcohol is clearer in his earlier books. Tess was his penultimate novel to be published, and might be better than Jude. So anyway, by reading Hardy I’ve figured out an antidote to the idea of fatalism, which is simply to avoid alcohol— or maybe not so simple.

Only You

Quarter after one.

When I was a poor drunkard in 2009, there was a clerk at the store who told me he chose not to drink, and the matter was as simple as choosing to drink or not drink. At the time, I think I disagreed with him, saying that alcoholism is a genetic disease and not a matter of choice at all. Now I don’t know. Opinions on it vary. There was a huge controversy over alcoholism when I had my problems. A few quacks wrote books on the subject just for the money. A counselor told me that if I could solve the riddle of why some people recover and others don’t, I’d be a rich man, but I’m skeptical of that today. There will always be quacks to ride the gravy train, cash in on something big, but I’m not one of them. If there’s a secret to staying sober, then it is obscure even to me: even I don’t know how I’m doing it. I am definitely cynical of treatment facilities and other things where the research is phony and they only want to make a lot of money, and control patients into the bargain. If you are an intelligent person, I expect that you’ll discover a way to stop drinking without the gimmicks and false information that you see everywhere. Looking back, I see nothing but a huge racket made of addiction and recovery. If you’re smart, you will care enough for yourself to make the best decisions, not for anyone else, but for you alone. 

Waterloos

Six forty.

It’s supposed to be cooler today than the last two days: mid eighties. But I’m really enjoying some of these summer moments, appreciating what I have and what’s happened to me. It may be wrong to credit the invisible powers that be for this good fortune. Most people don’t see what I see, that is, a kind of providence intervening to take care of people, particularly the poor and underprivileged like me. Maybe there’s an element of cleverness in my situation today, of erring on the side of caution. I don’t know what it is but I’ve survived a lot of stuff and lived to write about it. My biggest Waterloo was alcohol addiction. Occasionally I still need a dose of social support to help maintain sobriety, and luckily the church has been there for me. Without it I might be sunk. And in turn, without sobriety, everything is lost… I learned from something I read how guilt can be a person’s Achilles’ Heel. Actually, it was an astrology report for myself, done online twelve years ago. It was very true. I wonder how many people can relate to guilt being a problem in their lives? How many would like to remedy this condition?

Demoralized

Nine forty at night.

It was a very strange day, inspired by the breath of the summertime which felt like something rather profane. In this nameless spirit I felt impelled to buy an Ozzy Osbourne CD on Amazon, but thankfully I didn’t buy alcohol at the corner store. When I was there I got some baby carrots with a Coke, and chicken jerky for my dog. The worst enemy you’ll ever fight is the phantom fear within yourself. During my nap just hours ago I had a dream of my old psychiatrist, the details of which are censored now, though I know it was not a good dream. I do remember in reality how he used to make me feel skewered during a visit, while I sat there helplessly, demoralized and denied any rights whatsoever, just a subhuman statistical plaything. The inhumanity of it all gives me the impression that maybe my psychiatrist really was Ozzy Osbourne.

Ethic for the Fourth

Eleven o’clock.

Some fireworks are going off in the neighborhood. Conceivably I could make a run to the market for something sweet to eat or drink, but at night it’s inadvisable. The vampires and the loonies come out at night; basically just people on drugs including alcohol. Vampires don’t exist without alcohol. And the moon is only romantic in madness. I think I’ve experienced enough of lunacy for one person, and it’s unrewarding in the end. I don’t know if there’s anything magical about staying sober, but when you walk a straight line, good things tend to result. It’s a poor friend who calls you a wuss for your sobriety… I believe that if you want to stay sober then you will do so. This desire for sanity will guide everything you do. You will leave bad situations for good ones with better and better judgment. I can remember when I was accused of selfishness, but egoism and altruism are a false dichotomy. There’s only the good choice of action, and this is the meaning of prudence.