Advice or Abuse?

Wee hours.

Band practice yesterday afternoon went very well. Mike bought us an ambient microphone for smartphone so now we can record our sessions. It works great. Listening again to our opening jam in D minor, I thought to myself that the bass alone wouldn’t sound like much, but in the context of the drums and keyboards it makes sense… At three thirty I left the house with my kit bass in my grip. It was 48 degrees outside so I didn’t wear a jacket. I tried to clear my mental windscreen and just go and play music with the fellas. I encountered a few neighbors on the street, but kept on walking. When I got to B— Lane, Mike passed me in his truck and offered me a lift, but it was only a few minutes to his house so I declined…

Most of the clutter in my mind stems from guilt received from my case manager at Laurel Hill. It does me a lot more harm than good to feel so burdened by health professionals who do nothing but criticize me. It takes all the joy out of life to be browbeaten. I think I’ll start looking for an alternative to the agency because quite frankly I despise it. I only need someone to prescribe my medication— that’s all. They can keep their stupid advice.

Integrity

Four o’clock.

I got as much sleep as I could, then finally resigned myself to getting up for a while. I read a depressed post by a fellow blogger and tried to leave a comment. Now it spurs me to think: what are the most inspiring words anyone ever said to me? Off the top of my head I would cite “Free Will” by Rush. Second to this I would say Don Quixote, and “Existentialism Is a Humanism” by Sartre; and maybe Oration on the Dignity of Man by Pico della Mirandola. Anything that lifts humanity from the primordial slime, both collectively and individually, is a great thing. I can’t agree with those who recommend groveling before an angry God. To kneel in humility to a so-called superior defiles the nobility of the human spirit. We are meant to walk upright, not on our hands and knees like a beast… One more inspirational work: The Crucible by Arthur Miller. To be a martyr for the truth like John Proctor is the acme of man’s pride and power. The essence is integrity, and standing up for what you know to be true. When the rest of the world has ingested wormwood and gone insane, and if you’re the last sensible person on earth, you have only yourself to steer by. Against the odds, the individual still owes it to himself to be honest. And he will come out victorious, free, and happy who adheres to his truth.

Five thirty five. But there’s a flaw in my logic above. John Proctor ends up dead! He gets hanged for his truth. The example I should have used was Howard Roark in the book by Ayn Rand. Never trust the poet. Trust the tale. 

Up to Me

Quarter after nine.

I finally got my benefits squared away with DHS this morning, so that’s a worry off my mind. The weather is only a little above freezing. There’s an advisory for snow possible this afternoon. I’m okay with that as long as we still have electricity. Some hours ago I canceled my order of those books by Clark Ashton Smith. I felt uncomfortable concerning my sobriety, thinking that his writing might trigger cravings. If I want to read something horrific I can pick up Paul Bowles, but even that seems pointless. I’ve got a nice big anthology of Bertrand Russell I could thumb through. Probably it’s above my head, but it wouldn’t hurt to take a peek. My brother has been on my mind a couple of days. I doubt if he thinks of me, however. Write him off as a toxic person. It concerns me somewhat that I’m the only sober person in my rock band. The music itself is not a problem. It’s the state of mind each of us is in when we play together. I guess don’t borrow trouble at this juncture and let events play out as they will. But I may be the one who has to bail out… The trip to the market was nondescript and uneventful. Just another day.

Ten thirty five. I remind myself that I’m the one in charge of my life, and every decision I make is up to me. Sobriety is my Number One priority. It makes a big difference in my relationships with people, even just three guys playing music in a room. Perhaps in that situation this difference glares the most. Time will tell. And again it’s up to me. 

Self reliant

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. 

On the Rails

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. 

Out of the Swim

Four twenty five in the morning.

Pastor’s sociological sermons go against my grain to the extent that I feel it must be sinful to assert my existential beliefs. Either my ideas have to go, or the church has to go. And it’s a foregone conclusion which it will be. I think there’s a difference between existentialism and your garden variety “narcissism.” The latter is thoughtless and unsophisticated, just unqualified self seeking. There’s also a difference between empowerment and power madness, an example of which I needn’t give. We all see the political cartoons… Around here, I frequently run into people who slander the idea of “control.” But when I ask them what’s the alternative, they don’t have an answer. The truth is that nothing else guides your life if you surrender your responsibility. I guess this is a confession of atheism. And as such, so be it. It’s okay for you to be passive in a school of fish, blindly turning this way and that with the others. Where would you be without the other fishes? In that case you would be stuck with yourself, and that might frighten you. Inside of you is a wilderness of thoughts and feelings you conveniently never had to face. The school of fish is okay for you, but I’m done with it. 

Friday Morning Melancholy

Ten twenty five.

Before going to the store, my mind was assailed with dark self doubts. What if my life is similar to that of Ezra Pound? His madness caused him to commit treason, and he spent a lot of time incarcerated. Is my brother right that I should keep my mouth shut? I don’t know… Tonight I’ll probably stay home from recording the service at church. Only seven people are allowed to meet, under the new squeeze rules. But I got good news in the mail today. My SSI payments are going up eight dollars, and my healthcare package has been renewed… Many years ago I saw a film with Jessica Lange about some kind of mental illness. Her character might have been bipolar. She had emotional outbursts that she couldn’t control, and at the end, her parents had her lobotomized, making her a vegetable. I felt horrified and outraged by what I saw. I still think my response was appropriate. No one deserves to be a victim, a casualty of brutality. I feel that I’m whistling in a windstorm, but the rights of the individual must be heard out eventually. I’ve never been a one size fits all person. And that’s going to have to be okay. 

Out of the Fog

Ten o’clock.

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. 

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. 

Light in the Dark

Quarter of eight. The sun pierces the cloud cover momentarily to hit me right in the face. Rain is forecast for the rest of the week. I’ve been to the store already. I saw three guys who worked for the distributors of beer and soda inside the market. Vicki’s attention was on what they were doing. I felt like I didn’t exist. Generally it’s a dark November day so far… It has begun raining steadily, persistently, as the gloom deepens. It occurs to me that I feel lonely, and the present moment seems isolated and devoid of future. My internal radio plays Thomas Dolby a bit ominously. His music reminds me of the night my mother died. However, that time in the past has become an even profounder gulf, a sort of black hole with nothing in it. No memories. Just emotional quicksand to smother the here and now.

Nine o’clock. The kind of drinking I used to do was self destructive. It was born of a death wish. I won’t go back to that. There’s nothing good about drinking yourself to death. Now I can stare the blackness in the face and not succumb to the undertow. My mother’s death left a vacuum behind her. A pit. At first I fell into it and nearly drowned myself… Pale sunlight touches the magnolia leaves. “What doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger.” It is quite a test for me to read Ursula K. Le Guin. Some of her writing teeters on the edge of the abyss. But I think the darkness is surmountable and maybe even necessary for one to grow… Overnight, my sign for Black Lives Matter had been knocked down, probably by the wind. Just now I looked out the window and a good elf had stood it back up again. My guess is that it was Bonnie Rose across the street. She passed me in her pickup truck on my way to the store earlier…