After the Minotaur

Quarter of nine.

With church being over for me, I should find other people to see locally. Wait for the dust to settle, then look for a social activity; probably music. My new copy of Karamazov is coming today. Too little, too late. I’ve crossed that bridge, and now I’m unwelcome in church. It’s been a strange and hectic month. People say it is a time of division. I suppose there’s nothing magical about this during an election year. People in groups behave in specific ways, though I don’t understand the ways of sociology. There are predictable patterns of social behavior, as if the group were a conscious entity in its own right, a massive organism composed of individual humans.

Quarter of ten. I don’t know where I belong now, but I’m still along for the ride with everyone else. To be conscious is to be involved with the world. Maybe I’m just watching the wheels. A major part of me would love to go to Ireland or Scotland and have a few beers in a real British pub. This will never happen, but I can daydream about it. Careful about dreaming; it tends to leave you stranded… One needs to be his own guide through life. But sometimes it seems that there’s nowhere to go. No place for a new adventure. At the same time, there’s no turning back, so you’re stuck in limbo for a while. It’s important to be fearless with your thinking, to follow where it leads. Like being in a maze, you sometimes reach a dead end and have to start again. Life is one big maze, a labyrinth possibly with a Minotaur wandering through it. Alcohol was my Minotaur, but the labyrinth goes on and on. 

Thursday Morning

Nine o’clock.

Debris from the wind yesterday is everywhere on the street. Aside from that, fall is in the ambience outside, replete with memories of previous seasons. Mostly cloudy skies right now. I’ll probably stay home from the church event this morning. The squirrels are still busy in the backyard, making no attempt to be furtive. Aesop is bored with them. I’m trying to ignore the discomfort of my body today and get on with what makes me happy. I could do some music this afternoon, go for a bit of jazz on my bass. The healing properties of music might override the pain. I can’t believe that the tradition of social music is gone away forever. Not for a silly thing like the coronavirus.

The present I ordered for my birthday is coming tomorrow by UPS: two volumes of sci-fi writing from the Library of America. I don’t know much about the genre as such except for its classical roots in Edgar Poe and a little Jules Verne. Doubtless it came a long way from there.

Like yesterday, I bought two Snapples rather than a Coke and saved 75 cents. For some reason, soda doesn’t appeal to me lately. I’ve had quite a few bad experiences with Coke. I think the carbonation disagrees with me. And maybe I just got tired of pop. It’s a rather big step for me quitting the soda. In the parking lot outside the store I passed by two people smoking cigarettes. I asked myself why people do things like that, but then my addiction to alcohol was likewise inexplicable. I still think about it every day, but I believe I’m safe in the absence of toxic and slippery people. The person I worked for was like the devil on the subject of alcohol.

The sun is splashing down on my backyard, orange and mellow. The notion of freedom and control comes to mind. Possibly my willpower keeps me sober, but what’s wrong with that? I wouldn’t entrust my sobriety to the wheel of blind Fortune or the four winds. If I’m not in charge of staying sober, then nothing is. It’s nothing to be fatalistic about, but instead, free and responsible… I can remember deferring credit for my bass playing to the inspiration of the “muse.” It was my little romantic superstition, influenced by Homer and Plato, and by Emerson and Jung. I believed in it for a decade, from 1999 to around 2009. The problem with this belief was that my muse quickly assumed the form of a demon, if not the devil himself. This happened because of the Satanism of the local rock music scene— however ridiculous that sounds. Eugene is a rather backward community for rock and roll, and in the outlying boonies it’s even more unintelligent. Perhaps it wouldn’t break my heart to have to give up my music. Life is changing radically with each new year, and no one is immune from mutability.

Wildfires

Two thirty. I wonder if I should fire up my P Bass and rock out for a little while?

Three fifty five. I kicked out the jams on my white bass. Sounded pretty cool. This is something I couldn’t have done four years ago, when I was drunk all the time and had no time and no money for my hobby. I’d like to buy some Rotosound stainless steel strings for my other P Bass and just rock the house. Someday I’d like to run into my old friend Dave and tell him what he can do. He was so ungrateful to me after I helped him on his way. Or perhaps I just felt ashamed of my own alcoholism as it took over my life. I couldn’t stop drinking yet I didn’t know why. I believed that I was defying someone, but really I was only destroying myself. Alcohol gave me a false sense of power, a feeling that I could do anything. It made me feel evil, but also I felt safe and comfortable. Actually, I think I was in a lot of emotional pain from losing my mother. I had no other way to cope. It took me at least ten years to get over her death. But Mom was not a well adjusted person. She had huge problems and never sought help with them. As I look back, maybe my college years weren’t so happy after all. I received a thoroughly secular education that makes little sense to me now. Was there any truth to what I learned at the university? And by now, the old canon has collapsed anyway. 

Mentally, I seem to be having a bad day. The squirrels skitter across my rooftop and gather acorns in the backyard. Aesop is resting on the floor at my feet. And I am doing just one thing: staying sober. Sometimes that’s all I can manage to do, get through the day without drinking. My mind can do whatever it wants, but the point is not to drink, no matter what. I guess Polly won’t be calling me today. Maybe tomorrow. The smoke outside is still bad, and firefighters are still working night and day to control the wildfires. In a similar way, I work to put out the wildfires of my mind. But it’s really just a matter of waiting and watching as the thoughts pass by like clouds of smoke. And they do pass. 

Time Capsule

Nine forty.

It’s another sunny morning, and the high temperature is supposed to be 93 degrees. When I work up the courage, I may try uploading more music tracks of my own to SoundCloud using my laptop. But I don’t know if it’s worth the time and grief. Earlier this morning I dreamed about home recording, and it was very exciting to hear new music from myself. Much easier dreamed than done, unfortunately. The new digital technologies are very difficult for me to master. I loved the old days of four track cassette recorders and intuitively obvious drum machines. Those were the days when the technology was still dumber than human beings. Today, all these gadgets are a cryptogram for old school musicians. So, once in a while I have a dream about recording, but it might not be realistic… Tomorrow morning I have an appointment in Springfield for a blood draw. My clinic has its own lab unaffiliated with Q— Diagnostics. This makes things a little easier. Last winter, my healthcare service dropped my insurance company and left many people scrambling to find new providers. I had a couple of options, but I stayed with the same insurance and eliminated P—Health. I made this decision based on the experiences I’d had with both organizations.

Eleven forty. Now I’m curious about hooking up my external hard drive to my laptop and delving into some old files. The project could be rather painful emotionally, but there may be some little gems worth preserving.

One thirty. Most of the old poems I looked at were quite smutty, like Henry Miller attempting to write poetry. Not so good. Some of them weren’t even very clever. The mood was definitely rebellious and frustrated with a culture I perceived as repressed. But probably my overindulgence in alcohol increased the desire for love, and moreover, I’d had such lousy role models in my parents. I don’t know. It also seems that I blew my chance to fulfill my secular dreams with Kate. Maybe the secularism wasn’t working for me, or at least I couldn’t stop drinking and ruining my health until I tried something different. While I was surfing my old files, I listened to “Clockwork Angels” by Rush. This pitched me into remorse about losing my opportunity with Kate. However, thinking about it, if I had continued with the same “secular” friends and lifestyle, very likely I would be dead by now. Vicki told me about an acquaintance who had recently died of alcoholism at 52 years of age. The thing about Kate that really makes me kick myself is how smart she was, how worldly wise and a little bit defiant and daring. But no, I couldn’t keep it up. It wasn’t so much that I “blew it.” Rather, I wanted to live beyond my fifties. 

A Labor Day Letter

This holiday is a particular milestone for me every year, starting with 2003, when the musician named JP called me on the phone out of the blue. Months earlier, he had seen my newspaper ad for sober musicians and kept it. His friend Dave was already there at his house, so I packed up my 83 Fender bass and headed over to W Second Avenue off of Chambers Street. I remember that it was a beautiful day, and I was still an outpatient at Serenity Lane. I’d had nearly five months without alcohol… The next Labor Day weekend, 2004, I relapsed into active alcoholism while employed at Laurel Hill as a document scanner. Thirteen years later, I went to the emergency room on Labor Day and was given a brutal “rectal exam” by a Black woman doctor. And 2017 was also the year I finally decided that drinking wasn’t feasible. In five more days it’ll be three years. Now, it doesn’t sound like a significant amount of time, but I can remember when I couldn’t stay sober more than 11 days. I would always rationalize myself back to drinking again. The only person better at rationalization than myself is my brother. I truly wish that he could find life without alcohol worth living. Polly might forgive him if he quits drinking and lying. But maybe his destiny is different from mine. Mainly, I just hate to think of him living alone in misery.


To a great extent, my recovery has been a self evolution by means of language. I broke away from my family and the mother tongue and developed a language of my own with the help of blogging and journaling. I sort of wrote myself into existence. The language center of my brain has always been very articulate. Not even a severe episode of psychosis could wipe it out, which is atypical of people with schizophrenia. Many lower functioning schizophrenic people have difficulty with communication. I reckon that my verbal gifts are a blessing to me, because whatever happens, my logos doesn’t fail me. This reminds me of a character from Lloyd Alexander’s Prydain series for children, a big, furry, simian creature named Gurgi. Gurgi was forever hungry and begging people for “crunchings and munchings” all the time. At the end of the second book, a kind and powerful king rewards Gurgi with a magic food pouch that is inexhaustible. You can eat and eat and eat and the pouch never runs out. The food pouch came to be used by all the characters associated with Gurgi on their adventures. Anyhow, I remembered this because my word generator seems similarly endless.


That was a great series, btw, but I think geared more toward boys than girls. My favorite installment is the fourth book, Taran Wanderer, where the young hero goes out on his own to learn the truth about his parentage. Besides many other people, he meets a blacksmith who helps him forge his own sword. The end product is not particularly pretty to look at; it’s a bit misshapen and imperfect in a word. However, the steel is extremely strong, and it symbolizes the identity of Taran himself.

Foot and Mouth

Eight forty.

Walking west on Maxwell Road, I saw a man in a white Comcast truck peel out of a parking lot and scream up towards the bridge, swerving out of his lane as he went. I was thinking about the dumb things I used to say when I abused alcohol and kicking myself. When I got to the store, a few older guys with white hair came in and bought Budweiser and Keystone Light, with some incidental biscuits and gravy. Michelle held down the fort by herself. We talked a little about driving drunk and traffic violations. I had a few stupid accidents in my alcoholism. But the worst mistakes were verbal. I cringe to remember some of the things I’ve said to people, both in speech and in writing. So now, when I behold other alcoholics still doing their thing, I’m not sure how I feel. I doubt that I’d want to lapse back to drinking again. Curiously, I still catch myself putting my foot in my mouth sometimes. It makes me think again and repent for being a jerk. They say that alcoholism is more than just the drinking behavior. It’s a personality type. I don’t know if I agree with this, but then nobody asked my opinion… The sky is overcast this morning and it’s quite cool. That’s a fact that no one will dispute. Facts can be comforting, yet even they can be driven to support someone’s argument. The search for truth is a useless passion. Today I will try to simply go with the flow, though for me it’s very difficult. It’s nice to have a reprieve from the heat. 

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…

Buzzed and Confused

Three o’clock 🕒. I can see why some people use gabapentin for recreation: I’ve got a good buzz going. No joke, I have to get off of this drug. It looks as if my brain has become normal enough to respond to pleasure once again. This is dangerous to my sobriety, and maybe I can’t call myself sober anymore anyway. I want to be able to write soberly and seriously. Writing ought to be my way to mental wellness. Use it as a vehicle to transcendence. This idea makes me want to go over my Keats and Mallarmé again… I just don’t want to relapse to alcoholism. It nearly killed me three years ago. And I was useless as long as I was drinking. The withdrawals were awful and scary. What hooks a person on alcohol is the euphoria, which resembles a foretaste of heaven. But when you abandon your life to alcoholism, you give up your responsibility to society. You lose everything you had due to an obsession with a buzz. It is like the Lotus Eaters in The Odyssey, the most depressing episode in the poem.

Quarter of five. I just emailed Pastor about my discovery regarding gabapentin. How worried should I be?

Gabapentin

Quarter of three. I appear to be physically dependent on gabapentin. I looked up the withdrawals on the internet and not only do they exist, but I could identify with several of them. So I started taking it again just to get rid of the withdrawals. Then I left a message for Darcy at Laurel Hill. I hadn’t realized that gabapentin is potentially addictive. People had said such good things about it. But by now it is well documented on the web that the withdrawals are similar to alcohol and benzodiazepines, which for me is deja vu all over again. I bet my old psychiatrist would have known the risks of prescribing gabapentin. Worst of all, while experiencing the anxiety symptom, I wanted to drink alcohol to make it stop… Therefore I would warn people about this drug before agreeing to have it prescribed for you. In some ways it’s as bad as alcohol and Xanax.

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?