By the Roots

One thirty. I feel myself flashing back to ninth grade, still the happiest year of my life. I think it was happy because of Rush, such a joy and inspiration to me for many years to follow. I had a minor crush on Gail W— in ninth grade pre algebra. Junior high school was weird, the beginning of a strange odyssey to college. It began and ended with egoism, the very antithesis to the churchgoing mentality I’ve since learned. Then why did I say that ninth grade was a happy time? The egoism led me inevitably to alcohol abuse three years later. Wasn’t my formal education instead a mistake? The soundtrack to the whole mad pursuit was Rush. And the basic text for Rush?: Ayn Rand. So now it’s nearly Christmas, 39 years after ninth grade egomania. Have I learned anything? No, but I’ve gained perspective enough to make an important distinction between school indoctrination and that of the Church. Perhaps Rush as a “soundtrack” is disposable. Then again, maybe it isn’t.

Quarter of three. It may be better to keep a critical distance from Ayn Rand, but then, the seeds of egoism were sown in me forty years ago. Better to acquaint myself with the enemy in order to weed it out by the roots. In my experience, alcoholism naturally follows from “reason, egoism, and capitalism.” Thus, the precepts of Alcoholics Anonymous are not far from the mark. 

“Fixing a Hole”

Five o’clock.

At midnight I listened to Sgt Pepper, which was a gift from Kate about seven years ago. I’d forgotten all about the song “Fixing a Hole.” It was one that Paul wrote, and hearing it again was rather breathtaking. The whole album reminded me of when I had too much fun drinking. I don’t feel necessarily triggered, but it makes me wonder how I made the decision to start doing a 12 pack of beer every day. The logic that led me to this action is alien to me now. Today I can take the survey of my entire life, not just since my mother’s death, and make more sense of it. The lotus land of alcoholism was merely a stop on my personal odyssey. And as I ponder it, I imagine that I did drink to deal with the illness. It really was misery to live with delusions of the devil and other superstitious things. The only option I had was to self medicate.

Six thirty. On one hand you have morals. On the other hand there’s necessity, reality. Schizophrenia is a biological disease, not a sin or defect of character. Everything that happens, happens by cause and effect. Things happen because they must; and because they do. They are inalterable even by the will. So David Hume was probably right about determinism. It only makes sense. 

For Tiffany

Three forty in the morning.

I went to bed and thought about an old song by John McLaughlin on Birds of Fire, “Miles Beyond.” A good friend lent me his cassette tape of the album in the fall of 1987, when we were forming a rock band with one other person. I had been very depressed over a failed relationship, but beginning in November, things turned around for me. I was pondering why I drank with my parents in my youth, and I still don’t know why. It enhanced my sense of self esteem, even out of proportion to reality. This is the narcissism component of alcoholism. It feels great to be in love with yourself, but ultimately it’s a delusion of grandeur. For all those years of alcohol abuse, I could have been someone quite different. At the time, it helped me compensate for feeling like a loser in high school. There was nothing else to empower me, so I fell for an illusion of power. I didn’t realize what a force writing could be until four years ago. An acquaintance wrote to me in January 2007, “Words hold definite power,” and now I believe her. 

Sunday Afternoon

Quarter of four.

I finally restrung my white bass with the new flats. The old ones were given to me by Kate nine years ago. I think it’s time to throw them away, along with my memories of our relationship. All during our friendship I drank too much, and that altered my mind and judgment. I’ll have to form new associations with my Dell computer, though that takes time. The last couple of weeks have been very confusing to me, just because it’s an election year and the seat of government is up for grabs again. I have a Hegelian streak in my thinking, which may or may not be delusional. Also, I listened to Big Generator by Yes a while back, one of their more political albums. “Moving to the left / Moving to the right / Big generator / Lives out of sight.” This really takes me back to 1987, when my friends still believed in my big dreams. Today, my dreams are smaller and more modest. I’m not even sure what my dreams are. The vision has sort of left me, so now I’m just getting satisfaction where I can. It hasn’t been a very good week for me.

Quarter of five. I feel very tired. Time for something to eat and then a nap. I hope my sleep isn’t plagued by nightmares. I don’t take any drugs anymore that provide the reassurance that everything is all right. Things are what they are, without modification of perception. It takes more courage to live this way.

Hard Times

Quarter of noon. The good news is that I don’t have any psychosis or superstition at all. Time should take care of my woes. I want to enjoy my life.

One twenty. I don’t know what’s wrong with me. My chemistry is all fucked up. It could be the Vraylar. Not enough is known about this drug, so I’m just a guinea pig, or maybe a body bag. I want to find a homeostasis, a state of stability, but instead I just feel worse and worse. I’m tempted to drink beer, but out of masochism I won’t do it. If I were to give myself what I really want, I would probably get drunk and shoot the whole thing to hell. Still I won’t drink. The epic novel of current events is too fascinating to obscure from myself. I might as well read it as far as I can follow it. Some people are talking the end of the world. I’m not going to hurry it up. Hang on and hope for the best.

Cowbird Analogy

Ten twenty five. I found out that the party is not until noon today. So I went ahead to the store and got a root beer and some food. Cathy was cashiering and Supertramp was on the radio. After ten o’clock, business picks up really well for the market. I saw quite a few people there. The weather is cooler today, much more temperate and agreeable. My root beer tastes fab…

It’s nice to see that life goes on, much the same as before. Part of me craves beer, the taste and the feel of a cool Foster’s Lager. But I know that one beer multiplies to a 12 pack before I even know what happened. It’s a perfect day for a bacchanal, a drunken spree, but I have to forget about that. I can’t judge by what other people do. Some can afford to drink, but I remember how my account used to be overdrawn from spending on beer. And I didn’t care at the time; I could only think about having more to drink. It was a kind of mania with me, occluding my perception of everything else. Alcoholism takes over your whole life if you allow it to. Thus I won’t go back to drinking in any capacity. If I could make a political cartoon of alcoholism, it would look like this:

A bird’s nest full of eggs. A cowbird comes along and lays an egg in the middle of the nest, except this egg resembles a 750 ml can of Foster’s Lager. Before the other eggs can be hatched, the can of beer nudges them all out of the nest, becoming the sole occupant while the legitimate lives ultimately perish. The mother bird feeds the Foster’s bird until it grows to the size of a dodo…

Baby Steps

Quarter after three. I don’t know why I need parent figures here and there in my life. Someone to depend on. And my alcoholism was a kind of dependency as well: chemical. Well, Vicki has been rather parental for me, but not in a healthy way. I attach myself to people and places that feel safe to me. If I stop going to Community Market and shop elsewhere, then I will feel a little insecure for a bit. But I wish I didn’t need parents anymore. The thing with Vicki has been indeed an emotional attachment, as strange as it was. I really don’t know her at all. She was the person who used to sell me beer in the morning, when the addiction was out of hand. My dependence on alcohol was itself an emotional investment. The beer was soothing to me like a mother. And indirectly, Vicki came to signify motherhood to me also. I wonder why the maternity thing is important to me? I’d like to get over it and be independent. At least I can weed out the unhealthy parents and cultivate better relationships with people. Alcoholism is a very odd behavior, because you depend on something that isn’t even human. Alcohol is only a drug, nothing to have a relationship with. When I drank, I felt like I was in the mother’s womb, safe and protected from all harm… And what if I do go to a different store every day now? How will it feel?

Humiliation

Three o’clock. I gazed through the collected poems of Mallarme and remembered how Kate and I analyzed a couple of them together one night. It would be about eight years ago. I was stinking drunk as always, so this poetry was perfect for the occasion. Life was so lustful when I was just a bit younger, aided by alcohol. Without it now, life is the undiscovered country. I may never know myself this way, nor where I’m going. Part of me longs to regress to the old drunkenness, but I don’t because it has no future. I couldn’t function as an alcoholic; that’s simply me.

A doctor told me I had looked like I wouldn’t live much longer on booze. I used to get edema in my lower legs because my liver was malfunctioning. The phlebotomy nurse pointed it out to me. She tried to give me the benefit of the doubt and say it was the summer heat, but she knew better. Joann was very sympathetic, but I ran into many professionals who were not. The worst worked at the hospital. Some were downright sadistic toward alcoholic people. For that reason I wouldn’t want to drink again. I saw how they treated another drunkard one night. They humiliated him and made an example of him. My own bad experience happened on Labor Day of 2017, at the RiverBend emergency room. Now it seems like something that happened to another person. Anyhow, I lost all desire to drink after that ordeal. No more hospital trips for me.

A Sad Fact

Quarter after nine. Polly never valued education, and that’s her fault. Her resentment of the educated is not my problem, so I can forget about feeling guilty. She put herself in the position she’s in today, and is stuck with being a great-grandmother. Jeff always protected Polly, hid from her the truth of how stupid we know she is. They grew up together and like each other better than either of them likes me. Or they did until Polly figured out that Jeff is a liar. Polly is less intelligent than average, and that’s a sad fact. Should I beat myself up for that any longer or absolve myself? No one else is going to pardon me. It has to be myself. The past of when I used to drink is a little clearer right now. I wonder if I couldn’t quit because of the guilt and remorse I felt over the situation with my sister?… I never had to deal with Polly until Mom was gone. The exasperating thing about her is that she doesn’t stop talking, and she’s so stupid! Who cares about the opinions of an idiot? I resolve to love myself after this. Polly and Jeff will have to work it out with each other, and forget I was ever born. The problem is insoluble as long as I’m in the picture. I tend to blurt and blab the observations I make… I’ll be all right if the family leaves me alone. It was all a bad dream…

The Bottle

One o’clock. I think I want to drink beer, and that’s my battle with myself. A lot of evidence points to it. In this case, I probably need to heap on the religious discipline. It hurts, but it keeps me alive. I don’t know what to do. If I want to drink, then it’ll probably happen that way. My body would hate it, especially stomach and liver. I can’t afford the financial cost of drinking. Before I knew it I’d be overdrawn. I’d lose my friends. Aesop would be neglected. I could end up in the hospital. People would accuse me of being selfish and irresponsible. My conscience would kill me. I would be worthless as a person… It’s beginning to rain. Damien is not here… I know that I cannot drink alcohol. If I can just drive that home to my inmost self, I might achieve some peace. What can I do for a diversion? Playing an instrument usually helps.