Salud

Nine o’clock at night.

Everything consumes time. I’ve never been good at managing my time each day, or keeping a rigid structure. I could read my book right now, but it takes time that might be better spent writing my mind. I found it bizarre how Baudelaire is spiritual in a dark and wicked way. Is that healthy? To put down anything in words is to make it more real… But it isn’t just bizarreness: familiarity with “the devil” can happen in substance use, as it once happened to me during the years I had a job in an office. On Friday nights I’d get ripped and watch old Polanski movies, King Crimson concerts. I seemed much younger then, and I guess fifteen years does make a big difference. But the mystery to me is why I waited so long to take charge of my life, jerking the strings away from “Satan Trismegistus.” Now I know it’s really possible to do this. Stay away from the booze and everything is doable. The best way to keep sober is never to start drinking in the first place… The very last time I drank beer, I was sick and couldn’t keep it down. I’d have two beers and then throw them up. Finally, with a Miller High Life in my hand, I said that everything was different now. And I realized that nothing else mattered but life itself. I knew that a way would open up to me, though it would take some sacrifices. What you gain by it is integrity: purity, wholeness, and health. 

Throwbacks

Eight fifty.

It’s a fact that stress makes the experience of psychosis worse. This afternoon I resorted to taking a gabapentin for my anxiety and it worked very well. I didn’t get around to reading the next story of Paul Bowles. When I look at his writing, it pulls up memories of being a client in Serenity Lane, whose approach to recovery was not a rational one but rather psychological like the old school, drawing on Freud and Jung mostly, and throwing in mega doses of the Bible, justifying it all with the Pragmatism of William James. My attraction to Bowles’ stuff harmonized with the other ideas I was exposed to over fifteen years ago, but that irrationalism just felt kind of wrong for me. It was everywhere at the time in my hometown and across the nation as well, and Alcoholics Anonymous enjoyed huge popularity.

So anyway, about a week ago I was browsing the Library of America website and found this Paul Bowles book sale priced and I couldn’t resist the temptation. I had really forgotten what his writing was about. I guess I’m still figuring that out, along with all the ideas I learned up to twenty years ago. Funny but many people I knew back then are either dead or changed beyond recognition. I wonder if I might be one of them? A face among a lot of ghosts in an old photograph no one ever saw… which is dug up, restored, and presented to the daylight of the post millennial public? 

Used to Be a Bacchant

Quarter of seven.

I’m just getting ready to go to the store for a Snapple tea and some food. The light outside is gradually coming on, showing the gray sky in my window. It may be warm enough to go without a jacket, and no rain is forecast for today. Later I should read a good book to try to goad my brain out of its lethargy. What I really miss is playing music with friends. However, I’m not a Dionysian person anymore since I quit drinking. It’s still hard to figure my life out.

Quarter of eight. Aesop looks more alive than he did last night… To say that I used to be a bacchant is a romantic way of saying I was an alcoholic. There are different ways to intellectualize alcoholism and make a culture of it, but a skunk is still a skunk. And yet for me, sobriety is the undiscovered country, the last frontier of experience. After four years, I still don’t know what to expect with my life without beer. If I’m not exactly happy, then I’m at least alive and fairly healthy. Different kinds and qualities of pleasure are available to people. I guess the life of the mind is good enough for me. It is said, Live by the sword, die by the sword, but I’ve put the sword away, and the dragon I once fought has shrunk down to a baby alligator. Don’t feed it and don’t piss it off and it will stay little and cute… I’m looking at a lonely day ahead, but it beats a day of frenzy and uncertainty— sometimes. Both offer a chance to learn new things. 

On Labor Day

Near seven o’clock.

I had a nightmare last night about being discovered a homosexual by a few mean doctors or scientists; but maybe I was thinking of a time when I went to the emergency room on Labor Day four years ago, where I was given a “rectal exam” by the sadistic woman doctor. She stuck her whole fist up my butthole and felt around. I screamed with the pain, although you know, soon afterwards I quit drinking and I haven’t done it again since. Was it aversion therapy?

Cathy manned the store this morning when I got there and bought the usual stuff for Aesop and me. I saw only two other customers, both of them guys. The first one was tall and wore cowboy boots. He carried a knife at his side, which I wondered at. I guess it’s like packing a handgun anywhere you want to go. The second guy’s face was brown with dirt and he brought in a bunch of empty cans and bottles for redemption. I thought about hanging around until he was gone for Cathy’s benefit, but then the guy would have been suspicious of me. So I simply left and came home. It is Labor Day weekend, so not much is going on. I guzzled down my Snapple tea to pick myself up. Aesop gets his breakfast at eight thirty. Overall, it doesn’t feel like God’s in his heaven and all’s right with the world, even though there is church at ten o’clock today. Outside there’s not a breath of air, and it hasn’t rained since June. I can hear the sound of crows in the neighborhood. But mentally I feel pretty good: no delusions or hallucinations that I can notice. Why is it that the world is on the downswing while I’m doing better? It just feels like a sort of irony. 

Passion

Quarter of five.

I made some beautiful notes tonight in my blank book having to do with passion in our lives, and how this is missing since the pandemic. But woven with this theme is also my regret that I’m not drinking anymore. If my deity used to be Dionysus, the god of wine, then I’m at a loss to name my higher power today. I remember reading the tragedy by Euripides about the capture of Dionysus and the vengeance wrought by his devotees. He was older than Jesus Christ, and Christianity borrowed images from the pagans: “I am the vine, you are the branches; without me you can do nothing” (John 15:5)… As I marched eastward on Armstrong Street under the azure, I spotted the moon high in the sky, a thumbnail sliver. The heavens were cloudless and deep. But on the earth, the scene was sterile and loveless. I observed that it resembled a nuclear wasteland in the wake of a grand passion that had spent itself. And probably this passion in my mind is my past alcoholism, a disease that apparently ran its course and left me devastated… The first light of dawn is visible outside. The forecast said sunny weather again today. I’ve got DDA on my plate for this afternoon. Just let go and go with it. Knowing how to act after quitting alcohol can be quite difficult. I’ll have four years of sober time three months from now, but I’m never complacent.

Six o’clock. Michelle will be opening the store just now. Suddenly I feel rather tired, but I suppose that’s okay. The morning Snapple tea should taste very good. 

Thursday Thoughts

Quarter of seven.

At midnight last night I spun the disc of Rubber Soul and really enjoyed it. The vocal harmony on “Nowhere Man” sounds awesome remastered. I love the following lines:

Nowhere Man, don’t worry

Take your time, don’t hurry

Leave it all till somebody else lends you a hand

The pastor of the Lutheran church is a huge Beatles fan. I wonder if I should go see him this Sunday morning? But you know, my life keeps changing, and I don’t feel very religious anymore. Today I have DDA group again, and this program is hardly religious at all. They must’ve figured out that homeopathy doesn’t work for schizophrenia. If you have religious delusions, why fight them with more religion? I remember when psychiatric rehabilitation was a very uncomfortable thing… The sun is coming out, and pretty soon I’ll take off to the store. One of my core beliefs, from the time I was in junior high school, is free will, due to the song by Rush. Thomas Hardy held just the opposite opinion, which is fatalism, but this depends on the universe being designed by an intelligence. I think it’s desirable to believe in your own responsibility and be an active agent. Passivity doesn’t conduce to personal happiness. We have to legislate the world ourselves by what we do… and this is what democracy is all about. 

Simplicity

Eleven twenty five.

I got a lot done this morning. Now Aesop has his flea medication; all I have to do is give it to him. It was overcast a while ago, but just now the sun is coming out and the sky is mostly clear. Nice to see the blue sky. In the old days I would drink it up and savor its beauty. Sometimes I wonder what Thomas Hardy would do with a problem like recovery. He was such a fatalist, but presented the idea brilliantly. I especially liked his writing because he challenged my position on free will so convincingly. It made me want to prove him wrong. I don’t know if that’s what I did or not. Recovery itself could be fated from a first cause, so Hardy would still be right. The Mayor of Casterbridge is one of the best books I ever read… It’s almost like magic how sobriety increases your fortunes. It used to be that I never had any money. My checking account was often overdrawn due to my alcoholism.

Three ten in the morning.

There isn’t much to say right now, but I happen to be up. I took my daily medications, thinking about my separation from the church. It seems to me that Pastor’s sermons messed with my mental health, and this went on for a long time. Finally I think I can just be myself. No ideologies are really needed to live by. I used to believe that Freud was my belief system, but now it’s not even that. I was right about Pastor being excessively political and sociological. This complicates the experience of life unnecessarily. I think I’m just a realist at this point. It’s like what happened to philosophy after the 19th Century: the decline and fall of the Absolute and the rise of the age of analysis. But even this is too cerebral. In the case of schizophrenia, all that is required is to take the medication. The rest is simply getting on with your life, and for me, music is all I want to do. 

Exile

Seven twenty five. Today ought to be lighter duty than yesterday. Only my phone appointment with Heidi this afternoon. I want my Snapples, so I’ll get to the market pretty soon. I rescheduled with Rebecca yesterday because I just wasn’t feeling up for talking about hiring a helper. Late last night I texted with Mike for an hour. Today I just want to be myself, and with Heidi I can do exactly that.

Eight twenty. It was quite early, so I met with very few people out of the house. It’s sunny now, contrary to the weather forecast. I’m already looking forward to music this Saturday. I really like to play, to jam, to lock with the drummer and make a groove pocket. It’s nice when the barrier of language is overcome and the music takes over. I hope I feel up to it after my vaccination on Thursday… Michelle wore her pink Tom and Jerry shirt today, and the distributors were just arriving. There was nothing out of the ordinary this morning. I felt the urge to pretend that the past was similar to today, to sort of dwell in nostalgia, but I resisted this and walked in the door. The past has certainty to recommend it, whereas the present is still in the making— and I’m part of the creative process of history. Everyone is. It’s a scary responsibility… The forecast missed the mark, for it’s still clear blue sky. Nobody knows what the future holds.

Nine twenty five. Most people want to repeat pleasant experiences. When we get burned, we avoid the hot stove. Alcoholism is a pleasure dome, a Xanadu away from reality. And when you leave Eldorado, there’s no way back to the same bliss. The Golden Age is far behind us. We were expelled from Eden. All of these names refer to the same utopia. 

Ruby Slippers

Six fifty five.

I guess I’m done sleeping for this morning. I’d be too tired to go to church, but the store opens in just a few minutes, so I can go get food for Aesop and me, and the obligatory Snapple tea.

Eight twenty five. I got some bad news in the mail. Someone used my identity to file income taxes this year. I’ll have to straighten it out tomorrow morning… The rain just missed me again today, and even at that, there isn’t much. I’ve been reading Sense and Sensibility since yesterday afternoon. Jane Austen’s writing calls to my mind my old friend Kate. In September of 2012 I reread Pride and Prejudice and discussed it with her. That was before I had Aesop, and my pug had just been euthanized in the summer. The alcohol addiction still controlled my life. As long as I had money, I spent it on beer. Evidently I had a reason to drink, or else I wouldn’t have done it. Does it make sense to say the addiction controlled me, or instead did I always have the freedom to quit drinking? Sort of like Dorothy’s ruby slippers: she always had the power to return home from Oz, from technicolor to black and white. She just didn’t know how to use the magic…

Nine twenty. The desire to stop drinking comes from within, and it must be strong. You must want sobriety more than anything else, and be willing to sacrifice some things for it. Perhaps what you give up returns to you later, and without the addiction… It gives me pleasure to read Jane Austen and be reminded of the qualities that go into mental wellness. The character Elinor, the rational one, is very evidence based. She doesn’t assume anything or jump to conclusions. She is realistic, the very opposite of fanciful and impulsive. In many ways she is the cognitive therapist’s ideal… I just noticed how quiet it is around here. I guess that’s why I don’t care much for Sundays. 

Arrivals

Noon hour. My bass came UPS a little before eleven o’clock and then I opened it up and played it for 45 minutes or so. It has a three way selector switch for different pickup modes. It sounds the best in series, I think. And the bucking pickup happens to be very loud and boomy. They put wimpy strings on the bass, but I change them anyway. Overall it sounds pretty cool! I like the finish color: Irish Ale, just a clear dark red over swamp ash.

It’s still perfect weather, sunny and not too warm. I already had my lunch, and I’m still hungry. This day with this weather reminds me of something I can’t put my finger on. Somehow it’s like the 1990’s again, and I feel quite content this way. Of course I miss my parents and my old friends, but it’s enough to think of them. Finally it looks like life is settling down and it’s safer for people to go out and socialize. We’re in much better hands than we were for the last four years. I feel like a Pepsi or something. I could go get a liter of soda for the joy of it.

Four o’clock. So I went out and got a Pepsi and saw Michelle, Cathy, and on the way back, Karen. This last made me an appointment for a haircut on Monday morning. When I got home I had about half of my Pepsi two liter and then played my Kiloton bass again: it definitely sounds awesome in series mode. I noodled around and picked out the Hungarian Rhapsody, plus a song by Chick Corea from Light Years. This bass is the best one I’ve got now, so it’ll be my main axe for a while.

The color of the sunshine in the late afternoon seems rather mellow, and more summery than springlike. It’s 75 degrees out. It just doesn’t feel like April to me. But I didn’t use to be sober years ago during the spring, so I have no point of reference for comparison. Beginning at three o’clock, I would start drinking like a fish and put on The Beatles; have a big bacchanalian party for one person and his dog. It was really no way to live because I didn’t know what was going on in the world, or I was numb to what was happening. My mind was ruled by crazy rationales and paranoia, even delusions of telepathy or thought broadcasting. I was miserable and out of touch with reality. But today, it feels so much better to be free from more than one kind of oppression and injustice in my life. I am my own ship’s master and commander, steering myself toward what’s right for me.