I’m expecting Gloria at ten this morning, and we’ll probably go to Bi Mart because Aesop needs canned food. The lemon sky and something about the atmosphere suggest to me an early spring, not to mention the sparrows behind my house. There are times when I admit to myself that I’d love to get drunk on a tasty beer and pretend it’s the Pleasure Dome. But at this point, the consequences of alcohol are very dire. I have everything to lose by getting plastered, so I just daydream what I can’t actually do. There is music in my mind by Ravel from Daphnis et Chloe. I have the disc of the ballet and could listen to it, but I remember how it sounds well enough. Also, I’m feeling rather tired of being versed in the Western tradition in the arts and philosophy. There must be a way to escape it all. For today, it’ll have to be sufficient to make a trip to Bi Mart.
Quarter after eleven at night.
The plain English is that I’m ambivalent on sobriety. This goes on at a deep and fundamental level, underneath all my thinking and deliberating. I compare it to the hunt for the white whale, and, having read my Melville, I acknowledge that Moby Dick may come out victorious, dragging down the whole ship and drowning the captain. It’s the ambiguity in the book that makes you wonder what the heck. Like trying to serve two masters, both a god and a devil. Or maybe it’s only humankind having to contend with the devil, as in the philosophy of Schopenhauer. The whole point is to obliterate the Will, and this and the whale are the same thing… Ishmael’s life is saved by the coffin that Queequeg built for himself before the final confrontation with the whale. So the coffin symbolizes death and life in the same image. Or maybe Q. gave his life so that Ishmael could live. Remember that his tomahawk also served as a peace pipe…
What I fear is that religion has no substance. In the chalice of faith there’s not a drop of wine. And on the other side of this reality there’s no ideal world, no sublime: no heaven. So then I begin to ask myself who I’m doing sobriety for. What does this word mean?
The last word is books instead of booze. When you buy a book, you invest in wisdom that will last a lifetime; whereas buying beer is a temporary party: you consume it and eliminate it all by the next morning. Then you wake up with a hangover and a cloud of regrets, guilt, and shame.
Every Blessing but Bliss
This is what sobriety comes down to. Alcohol is a worthwhile sacrifice for the benefits you receive, though it’s never easy. The stuff I learned in treatment contains at least some truth, and it can’t be ruled out that God rewards those who recover. For that reason I’ll go back to church again this Sunday, mindful that alcohol and my old friends are indeed a sacrifice for a gain somewhere else. This seems to be the way of recovery.
Quarter after nine at night.
I see again that I am screwed by my poverty, which precludes me from playing in a rock band. It’s not feasible without a car of my own. So, I’m not going to drown my sorrows, but just work with my circumstances and do what I can.
The ceramic Christmas tree’s delivery is delayed due to severe weather on the way. There’s a possibility that it’ll never make it here. I think I’ll try buying one from Bi Mart tomorrow, when I have Gloria for transportation. But the world won’t crash and burn if I don’t have a Christmas tree.
It may seem like cause and effect the way life turns sour after staying sober, though I think it’s really just becoming aware of the world around me and my situation within it. A phrase from “The Dove Descending,” words by Eliot, occurs to me for some obscure reason: “the intolerable shirt of flame.”
Near one PM.
There seems to be no social niche for a person who doesn’t drink or use substances and who can’t accept the beliefs of the Church. I’d be tempted to drink again only in order to make friends or reconnect with old friends; to belong somewhere, basically. The frequency I’m on is shared by no one else, so I feel like some kind of leper or other untouchable person. I guess if I don’t fit a niche, then I have to carve one for myself, as I’ve been doing already; but around here locally I’m just a friendless pariah due to my politics and my personal beliefs that don’t match with anyone else’s. If I could accept Christianity, then being sober would make sense and would give me a place I belong. But the fact is that I don’t; so I’m just up a creek until I figure something out to break this stalemate.
I did just a little reading in philosophy for the afternoon and, among other things, I encountered the word “sobriety” associated with Enlightenment attitudes. I had also found “sober” in the book by Morton White. Naturally I came to ponder the definition of sobriety in a literal and figurative sense, and now I compare it to the beliefs and practices of certain organizations for alcoholism. How sober is it to think that a god will personally intervene and take over your life?
I once had a delusion during a psychotic drive to the coast. I actually stopped the car on my way to Florence, in the stretch with the railroad on the left, before you get to the Siuslaw River. I got out and went around to the passenger side, got in and sat down, and asked god to drive the rest of the way to the coast. So I sat there for a few minutes expectantly. But nothing happened, and the car remained where it stood. There was also a moment when I stood at the roadside and stared directly at the sun, waiting for it to turn to blood like the moon in Revelation. Again nothing happened. These are the things of madness. But it’s funny how, in describing them, I seem to be building a stronger case for the religious imagination. Where do the delusions come from and why do they so stubbornly persist? What is real and what is imaginary, and can they overlap?
Sanity and sobriety are the stuff of realism and rationality, but it’s unrealistic for a human being to be other than human.
Thursday came and went. I’m trying to relearn how to relax and enjoy my life; to eliminate worry and guilt and take off the pressure I usually apply to myself. The dawn came on peachy, for a day that would be sunny but cold, with clouds moving in around two o’clock. I spent the day lazily, writing observations in my Peter Pauper journal, on desultory stuff, mostly personal insights regarding my past addiction. I still think it’s often a trade off when you stay sober: you’re either healthy and alone or addicted with friends. Something about it is like Zarathustra living in his cave, or like Merlin retreating to the crystal cave of his teacher Galapas, having his prophetic visions of the future King of Britain. I think I like Zarathustra better… My book by the Free Press arrived in the afternoon, a survey of 18th Century philosophy, which means the Age of the Enlightenment, mostly. It seems that any philosopher is a materialist or an idealist, or some combination of both. Idealism is hard to prove, yet many people accept it without question or examination. We don’t wonder how a spiritual dimension is possible, but make a logical jump to faith in its existence: or rather it’s very illogical and absurd. We arrive at it by feeling or intuition, more like Merlin than Zarathustra, and much less like Socrates and a whole tradition of his kind.
Quarter after one AM.
I wasn’t going for anything exciting or sensational above. Philosophy can be pretty dry and uninteresting. But I’m doing it more for myself than for others. It’s my domain after all.
It’s the beginning of the month, so there’s a lot of juggling of business this week, but luckily enough time to get everything done. I was thinking about Thanksgiving a while ago and what my plans will be for it. Holidays are family times, but I’ve had bitter experiences with my own family, so probably I’ll treat Thanksgiving like an ordinary day. At my age, I permit myself a little license with such traditions. I need to do some research: did the First Thanksgiving really take place, and who wrote it down for posterity? When I think of white relations with Native Americans, I think of trails of tears and so many broken treaties; of passengers on trains shooting buffaloes that Natives depended on; or perhaps of that silly song by Iron Maiden, likely inaccurate, and a mockery of history. The truth is the conquest of the Americas by Columbus and Cortez, forcing the Natives into slave labor and always demanding to see the gold.
Speaking of Natives, it was long ago that I read Island of the Blue Dolphins, a ya book by Scott O’Dell. Like Robinson Crusoe, it’s a story of survival alone, but about a young girl named Karana. Of all the ya writing I was exposed to in school, I liked this the best. The style is simple and realistic, nothing superstitious or fantastic. A very sober read, though often frightening and exciting… I get so tired of the chimerical nonsense of religion, the smoke and mirrors and the man behind the curtain. Real sobriety is quite different from ideas of the supernatural or substituting one high for another. I think I’ve had it with idealism and dumb notions of heaven. I’d rather negotiate the world the way it is.
Ten fifty PM.
At least now I know that I’m not the only one who is both sober and friendless. When you succeed in staying abstinent, it does something weird to your social life. But I guess I’m happy with wandering off to be the lone philosopher as Aristotle suggests in the Nicomachean Ethics. You either drink or you don’t. Recovery groups are turning into something like the church: every week you come to confess and be forgiven. Then you go out and do the same thing again. It’s a waste of time if you’re serious about staying sober. There’s only you and the alcohol. Everything else is extraneous. The only reason you go to a group is to give your support to people who need it. If you do, you must keep your own sobriety in a lockbox.
Well it looks like I’m going to make it for my birthday tomorrow: five years of sobriety, and nothing really mysterious about it.
I actually sent an email to my former friend about the anniversary. I only did that to make myself feel better; it has nothing to do with him at all. I doubt if he’ll reply, and that’s just as well.
Tomorrow will come and go like every day, but the word of the day is “relief.” It’ll be a huge burden rolling off my shoulders, and then I can get on with my life.
I know it happened three years ago, but the house fire 🔥 is on my mind today. Amazing to me that I lived through a fire and what that means symbolically and psychologically, even in an occult way. For me, it means my transformation to an independent person, which is like the zodiac sign Aries and my life path number of 1. Sometimes I get into this kind of stuff. Maybe it’s stupid and bogus; or then again maybe it’s not. I think I’ll look up fire in the dictionary of symbols.
I feel pretty puffed up with myself just now. I feel really good about my recovery ❤️🩹 and how far I’ve come. I’m a much stronger and braver person now than before I quit drinking and took control of my life.
Woo hoo! It’s a very big deal!
I should order myself a pizza 🍕 tomorrow afternoon and pig out! Call it a birthday for Aesop and me.