Beyond Denial

Six o’clock in the morning.

I didn’t sleep very well last night. I thought about how my mentality changed after my first girlfriend, when I loaded up my plate with philosophy courses in school to build up a rational defense from my feelings. But I’m getting tired of this analysis.

Seven ten.

My trip to the market was uneventful and nondescript. The sun is coming up very slowly, or perhaps I made my excursion way earlier than usual. I heard a lot of birds and spotted a pair of Canada geese on the wing. I don’t miss the church much, though I still think of it sometimes. It seems to me like a ship of fools, and Pastor is power hungry with his parish. The outbreak of Covid gave him an opportunity to seize control of everybody, even telling them to get vaccinated and boosted. His sermons are mere brainwashing, like a mass hypnosis for the unwary… I grew to resent all of that and finally shook the crap off of me. There are many roads to recovery. It might be one that you devise for yourself.

Eight o’clock. I remember when V— used to do mornings at the store. She was rather uncivil to some customers, citing her right to free speech. She spared me this abuse for some reason. V— was a sassy little blond and a hard nut to crack, but she opened up to me a few times. She would say she’d get married again if she wanted to be lied to, and she valued honesty from people. 

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One Thing

Eight o’clock.

Saturday morning. It’s very quiet in the house right now, which is kind of nice. I can’t think of a way to describe this month so far, except as a time of temptation for me to drink beer again. Last night I caught myself trying to rationalize doing this. I seemed to think that sobriety has a finish line, and after that you’re free to drink all you want. Now I have to figure out how to correct my thinking errors about this problem. It’s hard to accept that staying sober is a lifelong proposition; maybe it really is one day at a time, as AA says. Meanwhile, my life without alcohol can be pretty dull and anhedonic, and it seems like the One Thing I want to do is get drunk and forget the world. This feels like the authentic and genuine action for me to take. But even this is rationalization to do something essentially bad with my life. And as time goes by, I come to believe a little more in the existence of good and evil in human affairs. It started when I sampled some Baudelaire in French two months ago. Wickedness is just that, no matter what mental gymnastics I try to pull off. And goodness is the free and clear path, however boring it may be. 

Metamorphosis

Quarter of midnight.

Although the weather was beautiful today, sunny with big white clouds like cotton balls, my mood took a dive from too much caffeine. That got me thinking about physiology, whether I like the idea of determinism or not. In turn, I vaguely remembered the Italian play by Luigi Pirandello, Six Characters in Search of an Author, and how it touches on the problem of freedom and determinism. I should read it again… Life appears to be in transition for me, with the future a big unknown, but hopefully taking meaningful shape soon. I feel like I’m changing, being transformed into something new and different. I’ve outgrown my church and really need to move on, but where am I supposed to go from here? I need a counselor to point me in the right direction. In the real world, it seems that there aren’t many options for smart people who happen to be poor and down on their luck. The recovery game I had to figure out for myself and do my own way. I found that humility and surrender to something invisible could never work for me; instead it was the opposite, freedom and responsibility, that helped me pull it off. A philosophy without gimmicks was the best solution in my case… I still have to suss out what happens next… 

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.