The Beastie

Tonight I had a bout with caffeine poisoning, I think. It was very uncomfortable. But even while I was going through it, I could see a pattern to my behavior that started during the summer, when on Fridays I would splurge on a two liter of Coca-Cola and get tipsy on caffeine and sugar. It’s obvious what I really want to drink at a subconscious level but I don’t allow that to happen.
So I wonder what I can do to subvert this pattern. I need to find something else to do with my Friday afternoons, preferably something social. But I made a bit of progress today by volunteering in the morning for the food pantry. At the same time that I poisoned myself yesterday, I also fought against myself on the alcoholic impulse.
Who was it I was talking to recently about alcoholism? She said it really is a disease and very difficult to deal with. Oh yeah, it was Barb, from church, when we talked in her car outside my house. Why is it that Plato is always right about the lunatic impulses of the multifarious beast of the human psyche? I can reject his model all I want, but analysis in hindsight shows the same patterns every time.
The unpardonable sin is to “succumb” to alcoholism, in my opinion. In my case, this would surely be fatal. An alcoholic can rationalize that drinking beer is what he wants to do, therefore he’s going to permit himself to drink. This is the argument from authenticity— but it’s a very bad one. And when you do give in to the disease, every thought you have turns into further rationalization to get drunk.
It can be a terrible battle but it’s still worth fighting to free yourself from it.

The Rough Spots

Four o’clock.

The change to fall is very difficult for me this year. I wasn’t ready for summer to end, and now I’m up a creek without a paddle. The days will only get darker and drearier as time passes onward to winter. I wonder what the problem is? I’m a smart guy; I should be able to figure it out. Probably I simply want to drink beer and get loose with somebody and have a good time. That’s why I’m not very happy with my life today. I grew up like an epicurean, and all of my friends were like me. Now I’m sort of lost in the twilight world in between daylight and the nightlife, or culture and counterculture. It’s interesting that even Thomas Jefferson declared himself an epicurean; and I knew someone who had respect for Jefferson, referring to him often. Another friend of mine told me she liked pleasure and having fun. Wouldn’t a person be stupid to avoid a good time? It’s turning from a philosophical problem to a practical one. I’ll just have to talk myself through it. Maybe it’ll be like this every day for a while until I’ve ironed out the rough spots. And perhaps it’ll take a reevaluation of the place where I got an education a very long time ago…

I Need Advice!

Quarter of nine.

The early days of my recovery have returned to my memory due to the fifth anniversary of the same. I even remember being on a different medication before Vraylar, a sublingual that didn’t work very well for me… I confess that I’m all confused and I don’t make much sense lately. I need to stay sober, but I also have to maintain sanity and proportion. I hear it raining now, at last. The sound of it is soothing, a simple thing for tranquility and peace of mind. I’ve been so scared of relapse because the five year milestone seems so big and important. But no one else has control over it: it’s only me with that power. For this reason, should I be afraid of what might happen? I think I should trust myself to do what’s good for me.

Nine fifty five.

The recovery rates reported by AA are astonishingly low, and they go down as more time goes by…

Quarter of eleven.

I feel bloated after an early lunch and the second Snapple tea. I left a message for my sister on her voicemail. Now there’s an opening in the cloud cover for the sun to peek through. I don’t see the point in much of anything. Writing keeps my mind and my hands occupied so I won’t be tempted to drink. Yesterday I played my bass but I wasn’t satisfied with my sound or the way it went. When you don’t have a car, how can you hope to play in a band? The world has moved on and left me behind. Even my sobriety doesn’t seem like such a big deal. Supposedly all these good things will drop in your lap when you don’t drink, as if a god took care of you. Still I persist at my life and wait for something good to come my way. And that’s probably what I’m doing wrong. I think what I need is some good advice from a person who is shrewd and realistic, kind of like how my old psychiatrist was, because my life is going nowhere! 

Ancestor Worship / Pleasure

Quarter of six.

My dog Aesop went back down the hallway to jump in bed again. He didn’t use to be so independent, so this is a new habit for him. His birthday was earlier this month: ten years old now. I was done sleeping at three o’clock, after dreaming about my dad, and then I wrote a description and analysis of it in my journal. Dad’s birthday would be this Thursday if he had lived. I think it’s good that I have his genetics to put strength into my recovery. The Japanese have been known to worship their ancestors, so I think maybe my dad is something like a Higher Power to me. My first recovery, twenty years ago, involved him to some extent as well. Yet I don’t know exactly what pushed me to relapse, unless it was simply trying to work a job with the stress that attends it. I found myself in a situation where my choices were inauthentic and it seemed I had no way out, so the only escape was to drink great quantities of beer. Several people bullied and shamed me to do things I really didn’t want to do. And again, it shouldn’t matter what anyone else thinks because it’s down to just you and your life alone. My family can judge away if they disapprove of me: it won’t make any difference because after all I am sober and taking care of myself the best I can. I used to be a people pleaser but I don’t play that game anymore; it’s not worth the grief.

Seven thirty.

Rain is expected at eight o’clock this morning. Even now it looks pretty dark outdoors. I wore my rain jacket with a hood when I made my trip to market. I got Aesop some chicken strips, reasoning that he deserves a little pleasure from life, like everybody. In fact, I’ve denied myself fun and pleasure for a very long time. Meanwhile, the church is losing its grip on people, possibly for the same reason I just mentioned. In my journal I suggested that maybe the Bible is a work of epic poetry and written for the aesthetic pleasure of it. This would be the most skeptical thing I ever said of scripture. As a religion, it has lost its force for many people. Now the forecast says cloudy, so the rain either came and went or it never happened. Pastor’s daily email was very short today. I wonder what’s up with that.

Downer Post

Four twenty five.

I’m eating my heart out to the tune of “Knowing When to Leave” by Burt Bacharach. The music destroys me, particularly the interlude following the main theme, where the strings are deep and rich and the women’s voices have replaced the trumpet… My self analyses have been hit and miss lately, but as autumn deepens, so does my perception of the truth… She didn’t want to be around longer when my dog died ten years ago and she cried for two days. But she hung on as a friend in spite of herself several more years… Why did it have to be so complicated? And yet, in 2013 when I was abandoned by my family, she was the only friend I had other than the booze. She must’ve seen this quite clearly. I was probably never lower than in January 2016, when I began to realize what was really going on. She was doing all of this against her inclination. I had been utterly deserted. And then the booze turned against me.

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?

Mundanity

Quarter of eight.

As I neared N Park from Fremont Avenue I could hear a mourning dove somewhere close to me. When I looked for him, his cooing stopped. Usually on my walks in the morning I’ll see a passenger jet above me, glittering in the sun, either taking off or about to land. Today there was a crow perched on the power line on the approach to the store, cawing loudly. The sky is a gray overcast. Lisa was giving free psychological advice to a young guy in a Roto Rooter shirt about his drinking. He appeared to be receptive, but a lot of times, an alcoholic will pay lip service and then do something the opposite. I used to do that when my psychiatrist gave me advice. He would observe that my actions didn’t match my words. I bought Aesop a big rib bone, but they didn’t have the Snapple teas I wanted; I had to settle for sugarless, and one of them is for Gloria. The dove must have followed me home, since I still hear him beyond my window. It’s considerably cooler today than two days ago. A squirrel in my backyard posed under the oak, nibbling an acorn before I let the dog out. Breakfast is done.

Eight thirty five.

This is kind of a so-what post. Nothing extraordinary is going on, but uneventful can be good. It beats pandemonium and things being out of control. I think I like it okay.

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.

Tuesday Morning

Eight o’clock.

I dug out a copy of Machiavelli and perused the introduction; afterwards I suffered for my sanity a little bit, but I’ll be all right. It’s enough to say that Christian theology demonizes the idea of power and control over your life. AA says something about “self-will run riot” in alcoholic people, and this is very bad. I don’t know anymore, so I’m leaving this topic for a while… I’ve been to the store already and didn’t get very much stuff because Gloria and I are going to breakfast at Carl’s Jr. this morning. The blue sky was peppered with little white pasta shells of clouds over my head. At the intersection of N Park, Roger came up in his Dodge van and let me cross the street in front of him. He was probably going to WinCo foods in West Eugene to stock up. It’s a gigantic store that makes me feel agoraphobic if I have to step inside. I prefer much smaller places. The last time I was there was likely with my brother, when he bought me a lot of spaghetti sauce and some pasta around Christmas time. He got very impatient with the customer ahead of us in line for checkout: she was in a wheelchair and paying with food stamps and small change, dropping coins on the floor. My brother was fuming. Classic alcoholic behavior, if you believe in AA ideology, which tends to be oversimplified and circular in its logic… So, Roger passed me in his blue van and I went on. There isn’t much else to report about my excursion. I saw some workers for Huey and Sons, a roofing company, I think. 

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.