Quarter of eight.
The song in my head: “Message of Love” by The Pretenders. The turn of the eighties makes me think of cherry Bubble Yum and Pop Rocks and Lemon Pepsi. Trashy Edgar Rice Burroughs books. The occasional rendezvouses with my nephews where they lived on Morningside Drive, with the church right next door. We played Space Invaders and Pac-Man and frisbee golf. I always bought a book when I had any money. It was such a pleasure to find The Warlord of Mars at the Waldenbooks in the Valley River Center. At the same time, these memories bring me pain.
Quarter after nine. At the end of my street I met with a crow in a treetop of Colin’s house. “Quoth the raven, ‘Nevermore!’” Then on N. Park a young man was walking his pointer dog, heading south. I followed behind him past Randy’s lot of ruined cars. I didn’t notice much of anything else, feeling a nebulous ache in my body and mind. Maybe I don’t want to go to church tonight. The thought flits across my awareness here and there. Out of a black sky beams a ray of sunshine, outwardly and inwardly. Except for my music, my life is going nowhere. Where would somewhere be? A life of satisfaction and pleasure, along the lines of my parents. I suppose I’m feeling like a dry drunk, a person irritable without his alcohol. And again I remember the consolation of freedom and responsibility, of philosophy in general. It is good just knowing that I am empowered in word and deed. Certain social ties I wish I could cut, and I believe I’m free to do that, but also responsible for the outcome. I could brush up my French and reread Les Jeux Sont Faits. There’s a lot of things I could do with my time, with the end purpose of a little pleasure. Any task is like eating a Tootsie Pop: you lick the sucker to get to the chocolate center. Everything is candy.
Eleven thirty. It’s nice when I get likes from European readers. There aren’t enough of them. Kate, as I recall, was very literal and realistic, and she disliked extremism in any form. She was not religious or even Romantic. She thought I was crazy when I joined the church and the American way, which I can understand now. I really miss her and her sophistication, so different from my own country. It was this foreignness that attracted me to her. It seemed like a healthy way out of my illness. The problem was that I couldn’t stop drinking all during that time. Today I’m just kind of in suspense to see what happens next. Everybody is. The light of the sun is bright again like yesterday. Is psychology an overrated science? Sometimes I could do without it. I think it’s an American concern, more so than across the Atlantic, from what I’ve experienced.
Quarter after two. The sunshine goes on, with the sky mingled blue and wisps of white. There’s a tree frog screeching in my front yard, but otherwise it’s quiet as a deserted church. Only one other sound: an air conditioning unit next door or somewhere close by. Seems odd for January. Now a prop plane overhead. I just finished playing my Dean bass for today. Saturday afternoon I’m taking my blue Fender to practice again. It’s my favorite instrument and my main axe. It feels unreal that I don’t drink anymore. Certainly if I did, I couldn’t do music with other people, and my life would be useless even to me. Drinking beer is extremely expensive and it takes a huge toll on your quality of life. I still have dreams about alcohol at night sometimes, usually connected with my mother and my brother. My brother is still alive, yet I doubt if I’ll ever see him again. He seems to think that you can’t have a good time without alcohol. Even if he called me one day, I’d probably have to keep him at arm’s length. We’re not in the same situation together, and we have nothing in common anymore. I used to crave his approval so desperately, but now I don’t see why. I used to need my sister’s approval too, but since being sober for three years, family is expendable. I’ve discovered that I can think for myself and solve my own problems without depending on other people. I’m not anybody’s perfect poster boy, but still I hold my own… Sunlight filters through the kitchen window and shadows glow a little green. Except for a bit of a hum outside, the room is silent. I like myself.
Quarter of eleven.
It was about eight thirty when I made my trip to the store today. I don’t remember seeing much of anything; things were just sort of blah. Michelle was busy putting bags of ice in the freezer. Right now I’m trying to relax and breathe and be okay with myself. Before the dawn I read a bit of Les Miserables. Hugo’s narrative voice is pompous, but that’s what I love about it. Brash, heroic, overstated, and larger than life. It’s just the opposite of a poet like Carlos Williams, whose maxim is to be inconspicuous… I feel as if there were something missing from my life. The garbage man just came by and took my trash in the blue, gray, and yellow truck. My mind flashes back to band practice on Saturday, when we figured out the chords to the Nirvana song. It sounds cool on Ron’s keyboard. We’ve had three sessions since Covid, and the third one was the best. I believe that this project can really go somewhere when the venues reopen around here… There’s a mourning dove cooing nearby, and a touch of sunlight temporarily. Supposed to rain again this evening and into the next couple of days.
Noon hour. Once in a while I feel the compulsion to drink and enjoy myself thoughtlessly, but then I would lose my grip on reality and nothing would get done. My music is more important to me than getting wasted on alcohol. I am the engineer of this train, and I won’t let it be derailed again. I’ve drunk away the majority of my life. Because of this, I missed some great opportunities to be successful and happy. In my experience, alcohol has been an evil thing. Even when the news is tragic on television, it’s still better to be aware of the world and take responsibility for my part in it. I no longer have a need to drink myself to oblivion. Sobriety is to be empowered, and on this point I disagree with AA. Powerlessness over alcohol is no answer.
Eleven o’clock. I see a glimmer of sunlight on the magnolia. My dreams at night are usually about family, particularly with respect to their alcoholism. Mom and my brother refused to consider ever quitting drinking. I wonder what they were afraid of? They were my favorite relatives growing up. My brother could do anything in the world— except stay sober… Consciously I am almost at peace with the situation. I can live without a biological family.
Noon hour. Tomorrow is the anniversary of my mother’s death. Every year it gets easier. My mind is trying to purify itself of her. Being born is to be thrown into a situation you didn’t choose, unless you believe the Tibetan Book of the Dead. As soon as you’re conscious, you look around and find yourself dependent on a family that may be dysfunctional, and then you bury your identity until the time is right for self assertion. It can take many years to disengage the hooks that family sinks into you. It’s kind of like the process of spiritual liberation, or moksha, where you burn off all the matter that is not self in order to be self realized. Addiction is an extreme form of attachment to earthly things, to material stuff. Hinduism teaches that the world is an illusion called maya, and only the spirit world is true. But I think these religious ideas are metaphors for a general psychological truth that every individual can feel who has overcome addiction… I still haven’t completely done this, for I’ve traded alcohol for caffeine, yet I’m getting closer to “moksha” a little more all the time. What is it like when every attachment suddenly drops away? Is it like the zen satori? Are you then truly free? Or is your mind still conditioned by cause and effect? It would be interesting if the notion of maya were absolutely true, and the soul is totally autonomous and pure.
Three twenty five. During my friendship with Kate, I drank a lot of alcohol. The fact is that I never met her in person, so it was kind of like a dream, something that didn’t happen in reality. Somehow I have to ground myself again. Put my feet back on the earth. Every day seven years ago I was higher than a kite and couldn’t use good judgment. It’s extremely painful to remember those times now. I very easily could have died of my addiction. Dr Fitzharris said I looked like I wouldn’t live much longer. I had edema in my ankles because my liver was malfunctioning. I had iron overload for the same reason. I had gastritis a number of times. And then I had DTs and neuropathy and other neurological issues. What was fun about that?… I can’t figure out how I fell into such a cycle of addiction. If I could, then I would write a book about it to help other people who still struggle. My sister saw it happening to me from the outside and felt helpless to intervene. The edema started in the summer of 2013, I think. Joann the nurse caught it, but I never did anything about it… I’m three years sober and now I wonder how I ever got so addicted. Was it because I wanted my brother to approve of me? He always said I should drink even more. I finally cut the cord with him almost two years ago. Now I don’t think of him very much. When I joined the church in 2017, my brother made fun of me, but I should have the last laugh. I know now that religion is simply another perspective on human life, and not necessarily the opposite of science. I did the things I did for good reasons, and Kate was another person I left behind… Today, there is still this terrible ambivalence between religion and skepticism. I don’t know how it will resolve itself. But, I know that my sister is honest and ethical while my brother just isn’t. And then there are my friends on WordPress…
Midnight. I feel really good right now. It’s one of those moods when you believe no one can tell you that you’re doing wrong. The same Little River Band song runs in my brain, still mysteriously. It probably signals that my mind is on a memory of playing in the disco band long ago.
I’m intensely curious about what happened to my old friend Chris. We had music in common, but our personalities were quite opposite to each other. While he was driven to be popular, I was more content to be just myself, take it or leave it. I was not much of a showman, and couldn’t pretend to be something I wasn’t. I cared only about the music, and not the way I looked onstage. I thought Chris and the band were mostly pretty shallow. One telltale sign was that neither he nor his wife could look me directly in the eye. If I was a candid person, then he was protean and slippery. In retrospect, I was involved with the wrong bunch, but music brings together people from all walks of life, and never permanently. It’s a very Emersonian phenomenon, in which Nature uses people as it sees fit for her own ends. As if this entity called Nature were intelligent and purposeful and could handpick a hero for a project for a limited time. When she’s done with you, she moves on to somebody else, inspiring individuals almost randomly and then chucking them aside. Satin Love Orchestra was like that for me and the others Nature threw together for a wild and chaotic ride…
I’ve run into Chris’s dad a few times at Bi Mart. He had amnesia pretty bad and couldn’t find the words to express himself. But he still recognized me from the old days. Perhaps those times should remain in the past. Today I can’t conceive of bombarding my liver with so much alcohol. Did God intervene in my disease, or maybe I was fated to stop drinking from the beginning of time? Whatever, I have no desire to go back to it.
Few of us are having much fun anymore. Or maybe I’m just beginning to learn what responsibility feels like. No one can make a move without an impact on other people. You can cloister yourself away and drink yourself to death, but even dying costs money. I don’t know if the “collective unconscious” is for real, but living in society involves having a kind of radar for what people do. And don’t do. I grew up with clueless parents. The curtains were always closed to keep the outside world from looking in… My dog Aesop lets me know when he is hungry. He gets breakfast at nine o’clock. I wouldn’t dream of not feeding him.
Nine fifty. It feels very cold outside. I ran into some icy patches on my walk to the store. The sun was out. Bonnie Rose passed me in her truck again. I had to stop and step aside to let her by because of a pile of leaves. Melissa is now working at the store. Years ago she worked in the deli next door, so it’s rather nice to see someone familiar be hired. I saw a senior citizen buy a case of Rolling Rock first thing in the morning. Some people can be functioning alcoholics, but I found out that I can’t get away with it. It’s a fair enough trade off to have more money when I don’t drink… I stopped at the salon where Karen complained to me about the jewelry store in the Gateway Mall. And then Kim walked in with mild complaints about her bipolar husband. I declined on the donut and came home.
I don’t see many people spreading spontaneous happiness, so I’m thinking maybe I should be the one to start.
Michelle was sweet this morning, as usual. Yesterday she wore her Snoopy sweatshirt and I said I liked it. She said it was the last clean shirt on the rack. I left for the store a bit earlier because Aesop needed canned food for his breakfast at nine o’clock. The fog was dense and I met no one on my way there. Coming back, I ran into the old man with his walking stick who lives on the next street down from mine. He was dressed in blue denim with a baseball cap. I was hearing “Sanctuary” by John McLaughlin in my head, a slow dirge in 3/4, definitely dissonant. Right now the sun is burning through the remains of the fog…
I feel a nebulous sense of past things and people from when Obama was president. Eight years was a long stretch. I used to walk Aesop around the neighborhood when he was a puppy. I made myself tea in the morning, then in the afternoon I’d go get a 12 pack of cheap beer. On a soaring drunk I would put The Beatles on the pc speakers and lose touch with reality.
Quarter after eleven. Today I wonder why I drank so heavily. Was there something about my life that I couldn’t accept? I had a psychiatrist who always nagged me for not “doing something.” He had an extreme work ethic and tried to instill this in his clients. He used electro convulsive therapy as a means to “motivate” his severely depressed patients. Interestingly, it was the month after I fired him that I began my sobriety, and this time I succeeded. I’d never made this connection before.
Noon hour. I remember when I received the letter that terminated his services. It was dated August 1, 2017. At last, after twenty five years of torture, I was free. Toward the end of my sessions with him, I dreaded going to every appointment— and I told him so in a phone conversation. He couldn’t say much to that.
Quarter of two. I believe that subconsciously I still rebel against the old psychiatrist. Whatever thing he wished of me, I gave him the opposite. This went on for years. I perceived him as a kind of slave driver. Nothing I did was good enough for him. He became like an authoritarian parent to me. After a length of time I’d had enough of being unfairly bossed around. He used verbal abuse on me as well, and that was the end of the rope. I learned by an accident that I had rights as a client, so I got brave and did what I had to do.
Ten o’clock. Colin was out walking Lolo with his baby daughter Tessa strapped to his front when I returned from the store. He told me how pretty he’d thought my maple tree was before it dropped all its leaves. And it really was beautiful. Tessa made “stink faces” at me, but they didn’t mean anything. She also waved. Colin speculated on the future of the coronavirus, but neither of us knows anything. We agreed that a vaccine will be a great thing. Lolo sniffed my shopping bag, which was full of stuff.
The store was fairly busy. One customer bought biscuits and gravy. I saw another person head for the beer cooler. I got a couple of Snapple teas and easy food. I found out that I don’t tolerate soda very well anymore, perhaps because of the phosphoric acid, or the carbonation. I tried to do a two liter of Pepsi Friday and felt a little sick. Gradually I’m moving away from things that are unhealthy for me. To some extent, alcoholism is deliberate suicide by a slow means. I’m more hopeful now than I used to be, and a bit more defiant towards people who don’t understand me. My sister and brother used to bully me until I finally broke away and took my chances on my own. I found that most strangers were nicer to me than family, though that sounds counterintuitive. And it’s still a battle with them, especially my brother, who refuses to understand what my life is like.
The Stewart Copeland songs are still in my brain, so maybe I should listen to something else. People always ask me if I hear good music or bad, but it’s really a matter of what I’ve been listening to. Is it a hallucination or instead just having a phonographic memory? I’ve had it all my life and come to live with it… The rain has stopped this morning, but should resume tonight. It rained all night long. At least it’s a little brighter outside than the last few days.
Eight thirty. I know that nine years ago was a long time, but I have a hard time letting it go. I loved Kate, simply enough. Yet the simplicity was complicated by other circumstances, including my alcoholism when I knew her. I guess what I need is to be patient with the process of recovery. In some ways I feel quite lost, while in others I’m very confident. For a while, I have to content myself with smaller pleasures before I’m ready for a relationship. But I have no regrets for what happened in the fall nine years ago, and hold those memories sacred.
Nine thirty five. I wore my new Duck mask on my trip to the store. Michelle was very nice, as always. Sometimes my thinking is clearer when I’m walking around. I realized that what I really miss is not my Scottish friend but rather the alcohol! Booze is a great facilitator of daydreams, and truly I lived in a fantasy years ago. I had a wonderful time when I drank, yet nothing short of heaven is permanent bliss. And then I speculated on the necessity for fantasy in all our lives. Dreams keep us going. If the frigate can’t be alcohol, then give me a good book. Today I’ll probably read more in Victor Hugo. The sky is overcast, though not as dark as yesterday morning. I think I love November. Music by Stewart Copeland runs in my mind, a souvenir of old times when I believed I was happy. Is all happiness just an illusion? Whatever your bliss, nothing in life is forever. Sobriety is to experience the roller coaster of real life. And these ups and downs are what I have to accept.